David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 41
October 7, 2001 to October 13, 2001 

  Sunday, October 7, 2001
  Making wine is a lot of physical work. Some of you don't know that. I am exhausted now because along with punching down 16 fermenters of petite sirah and cabernet ( taking 30 min twice a day), I went off to the Oakland Raider game which took 10 hrs. Punching down takes a great deal of brute strength and Brendan is young and better suited to this necessary task. BUT he has a day off and today and last night I had to step up a total of three times.

Tomorrow we will start harvesting again. We will get a ton of cabernet grapes from The Wilson Winery and also some of our new carignan. Tomorrow will be a very long and involved day requiring many decisions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2001

I am still trying to recover from yesterday. Actually today has been stressful also. We did receive all our ripe fruit in yesterday. We do have some second crop left as well as carignan vines in our new section that has either lost a great deal of leaves or has red virus leaves. The sugar is about 19 brix and thus we don't think they will reach optimum sugar. We will probably harvest the 1 plus tons next week and see what the quality is.

Yesterday we received about two tons of our new carignan and over 5 tons of our cab for the Estate Cuvee. We also received a little over one ton of cabernet grapes from the Sydney Vineyard owned by the Wilson Winery. I tasted 1999 wine made from this vineyard earlier this year and was real impressed with the tannins. As some of you know, I like tannin so I am curious to see what I can do with this fruit. I had to pay over $3000 equating to about $4 a bottle. If we do decide to keep the wine separate, I will have to charge a little more than usual for the wine. All the sugar readings from yesterday turned out to be over 24 brix which is great for the carignan and cab for the Estate Cuvee. Last year our sugar readings for these areas came in at 23.

It took us awhile to figure out where to put all this fruit since we already had 13 tons fermenting. Fortunately 5 of our new stainless fermenters were already finished. Less than two weeks ago I got three bids on new stainless steel fermenters since we have had so much trouble with our plastic ones this year. I sure didn't expect that the stainless ones would be ready so soon, but one fabricator was just starting a business and had some time for us. I also didn't think I could justify putting out so much money at this time, but he made me an offer I could not refuse. The going price for one of these would be about $2300  for each one. I like to buy in quantity (remember I love Costco) so I asked for a bid on 10. Dan Camacho said he could do all 10 for under $17,000. Now I know that sounds like a lot of money, but just think we will make over 4000 cases this year so that would amount to only $4.25 a case and remember that stainless steel will last forever. 

Last week we harvested about 7 tons of petite sirah and about 4 tons of varietals for our Aca Modot. We also harvested barbera and some zin. To figure out which barrels to use for these wines and in what order to press them has been very time consuming. We are using new barrels as well as many one year, two year and older. In the next week we will fill 70 barrels (1750 cases); 40 will be filled in the next two days. Right now we are filling with water all the barrels to be used in the next two days. Each barrel can be filled in less than 3 min, because we installed  a water system that will pump up to 40 gals a min.

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

7:00 AM: Today started with the arrangement of barrels. Yesterday we chose what barrels to use and filled them with water to seal-up. Now today we have to find where they are and put them in the order of use. Also I have been moving the 8 petite sirah, 2 barbera and 1 zin fermenters into order. We only have so much room here so these fermenters have to be  placed in a line that is in the right order.

8:00 AM: Steve showed up with our last 5 stainless fermenters. We won't need them this year, as I said yesterday, the price for 10 was something I could not refuse. To unload the bins took about 20 min and by that time my toes where freezing. I only wear sandals and it seems that it may be down to 40 degrees right now.

8:45 AM: I took a quick break for breakfast. My morning snack is always leftovers from the night before. I eat nuts in the afternoon.

9:00 AM: Brendan starts to press our barbera. The wine is very high in acid and probably only 12 alcohol so we are going to place it all in one year old barrels to see if a little oak will help smooth out the wine.

10:45 AM: We now have 5 barrels of barbera filled. As I have said before, we go directly into barrels. Most wineries will go into a tank to settle out the lees (sediment). We like to keep this sediment, because we believe it will give added character to our wines. Remember that is how we are able to make our ZP2C wine.

Our new press can be programed to do what ever we want. There is a cycle in memory that came with the press for red wine. This cycle will press wine in a little less than one hour. The yield is good, as much as 175 gals per ton with lees. We have found that if we modify this program and thus make up a new one that runs for two hrs longer, we can get another 5 to 8 gals out of a ton. That amounts to 2 to 3 cases more wine per ton. From now on I will call the short one hour cycle "short" and the long 3 hr cycle "long".

11:45 AM: We pressed the barbera with our short cycle and now we have finished our new wire zin also using our short cycle. The barbera was 1.7 tons which yielded 5 barrels and the zin was less than a ton and thus yielded 2 and one half barrels. We emptied the press of the barbera before filling with the zin, because we did not need the extra 10 gals of acidic wine. We will leave the zin skins in the press, that will yield a few more gallons later, when we run the long cycle. Next we will press our petite sirah.

12:00 AM: Dan Camacho showed up to drill some holes in our new stainless fermenters he had just finished fabricating. NO he was not putting holes in the bottom. (:- He put two holes on the top so we could hang index cards with all the info on the fermentation. He of course was also here to collect the rest of his $17,000. I was distracted while talking to him so at 12:30 Brendan and I had a loss of communication. 

12:30 PM: Communication and planning are very important in this work!! Brendan and I just had a lack of communication and understanding. I could not understand why he was taking so long with the zinfandel press. I just found out he emptied the zinfandel after the short press cycle. That means we just lost close to two cases of zinfandel wine. I wanted to leave the zin in to be pressed with the long cycle later in the day. Brendan thought I wanted to keep all the petite sirah separate. I did not communicate enough to him that we make blends so what difference does it make that we have a few gallons mixed into the last barrel of wine pressed today. I could have just marked the last barrel with 5 gallons of zin. I have to accept responsibility for the mistake. But I would have never done it.

12:45 PM Finally the Brendan has started to put the petite sirah into the press. We will take just freerun into barrels at this time.

3:00 PM: Everybody is happy again, including Brendan. I can't get upset with him! He works too hard.

We have been pressing and filling barrels for over two hours. The fermenters we have been using are blends of different clones of petite sirah. We have many different soils and that can also produce different wines. But since we have different clones also it is fun to see what wine is produced from these fermenters. I have tried to mark the barrels the best I can, but in the end, since it is all petite sirah, I could use any of these barrels for our petite sirah or to blend into our other wines. What fun.

4:15 PM: We have finished putting all 11 fermenters in the press. 2 were barbera, 1 was zin and the rest were petite sirah. We now have 27 barrels filled and thus we started the long cycle which will take about 3 hours. That gives Brendan time to clean up and get ready for our Aca Modot pressing for tomorrow.

5:15 PM: Brendan ran off to his girl friend leaving me to fill the last two barrels. Right now it looks like I may have too much wine from the press. If that is the case I must figure out what to do with the extra wine.

5:40 Pm: Good news: I just filled the last barrel. Sure we still have another hour or so on the long cycle, but that might mean only another 10 gallons or so. I have an ace in the hole. One of the 5 barbera barrels is not completely full and may take another 10 gallons. If not I can always put the last few gallons into one of the carignan fermenters, filled with fruit picked Monday, that is just starting to ferment. 

5:45 PM: I think I'll go up stairs and take a shower and start cooking dinner. AND OF COURSE, HAVE A BOTTLE OF COFFARO WINE.

8:10 PM: I have had food I have had wine. Actually I opened our 1999 Petite Sirah and our 2000 Petite Sirah. I had to put in a ringer since I always taste wine blind. This time I picked the 2000 Block 4 since last time I preferred the 2000 Zp2C. Sure I did not have the Zp2C in the mix, but the Block 4 won out. I loved the 2000 PS for it's concentration, and the 1999 for it's potential, but the complexity in the Block 4 was really something. Cinnamon and nutmeg and other spices along with balance. Remember that was my mood tonight that made this wine good. Tomorrow I could like the petite sirahs over this wine. The Block 4 is lighter and more subtle. I must now go out and tend to my last 10 gallons of pressed wine and then go up to see the season premiere of Dawson's Creek and Felicity!!!!! 

If you want to see the spreadsheet file I used for for the barrel selection today check this out.


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