David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 41
October 10, 1999 to October 16, 1999 

Sunday, October 10, 1999

Low 52,  High 96

In the last few days, Brendan and I have filled 29 barrels of almost exclusively Zinfandel. This week we will fill another 28 barrels. With the Sauvignon Blanc and the Syrah and Barbera, over half of the total barrels of wine we plan to produce this year will be filled. 

This past Friday, Brendan and I stemmed the Cabernet Franc and let it soak overnight. Yesterday in the morning we moved those five bins outside to make room to stack the full barrels. After an hr or so the sweet must started to attract a swarm of 100's of bees. After stacking and after Brendan left I moved the bins out of the sun to the crush pad just outside the winery. I got brave enough to bucket out some must  in order to equal out the amount in each bin. The bees didn't seem to matter --they were obviously more interested in the sugar. I then added the yeast to start fermentation by pouring it on top of the juice, but not mixing up yet---I like to let the cells multiply first. In the evening after dinner, I went out to move the bins inside. The bees had gone home to bed. I carried out my usual ritual of mixing up the top of the must in order to incorporate the yeast a little more. And probably you have guessed! I received a greeting from a bee or many bees who had not listened to their friends. I got stung and it hurt! I have been stung before so I wasn't too worried until I started itching and swelling up. Well the family wanted to call 911, but I braved it out and resisted. By this time my hand had swollen up by one third. I could still close it so I went to bed. I was relieved when I got up about 3pm and my hand looked the same. I figured I would most likely live, so I went back to sleep. This evening I kneaded pizza dough and during the day I punched down the caps on the fermenting wine--I even had many opportunities to bang my hand on the table during the Raiders game. I was happy to see that all these exercises helped relieve the pain and swelling. My life must go on!! 

Monday, October 11, 1999

46 low this morning; 89 high today

We've been holding the Pinot Noir at 45 degrees for 5 days now and for some reason, it has started to ferment. We have not added any yeast and I didn't believe that it would be fermenting at this low of a temperature. It is obviously feeding on its own natural yeast which must be pretty hearty! Thus, we've decided to encourage it to ferment by transferring the stemmed grapes into a one-ton fermenter tomorrow morning. 

Tomorrow we will receive our Aca Modot Cabernet and all of our Petite Sirah. This will fill out some of the puzzle to determine what wines we will produce this year. We've made a definite decision to purchase some Petite Sirah grapes and also some Cabernet from our neighbors. This year because of the small crop from our estate vineyard, I feel it will be necessary to drop the estate classification on some of our wines. We will also be producing a Cabernet Franc, predominantly from the JoAnn and Phil Jones' vineyard next door. After we harvest the Cabernet from our sandy loam next week, we will have the final piece of the puzzle and will offer our 1999 futures once again. 

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

Low 41; high 98

It's taken all year but today set the record for the biggest point range between high and low temperatures - 57 degrees! As I've said before, this is obviously the reason why there are only a few areas in the world that can produce grapes for high quality wine. The vines and of course the fruit need to rest during the night so that the juice can hold the acid that is needed to produce premium wines. 

This was one of those very busy days and in a way Brendan and I are somewhat nostalgic in that there will be only one more extremely busy day for us during this harvest season and that is tomorrow. Today we harvested our Cabernet from the Aca Modot area, a ton of Teldeschi Cabernet, and our Cabernet Franc from the Aca Modot area. All three areas came in at between 24 and 25 brix, perfect sugar for a change. Again, my revised estimates that were already down from normal, were still higher than what was actually brought in. In other words, we harvested less crop than we ever expected. We have always had a low yielding crop from the Aca Modot area. The highest I can remember was around 3-3/4 tons to the acre. This year, we harvested less than 2 tons to the acre. 

Tomorrow, we will harvest our Malbec and then our two clones of Petite Sirah. We are also thinking about harvesting our Cabernet from the sandy loam but will need another sugar test to confirm that it is ready. We've also contracted for a ton and a half of Cabernet from the Phil Jones' vineyard. The predicted harvest date for that area is next week. That will leave us with only a half a ton to a ton of Carignan from the new area which we budded over last year. Also, I must not forget that we may still take in some late harvest Sauvignon Blanc as well. 

Wednesday and Thursday October 13 and 14th, 1999

Low yesterday 46; high yesterday 96 Low today 50

Brendan and I have spent the busiest two days of the harvest. Tomorrow In will feel better, but tonight I can hardly maintain. The family has other responsibilities so I am on my own. 

All the fruit is in except for maybe a ton of carignan and 1.5 tons of neighbors' cab. It is going to take a day or two to evaluate the status on the petite sirah and cabernet grapes from our estate vineyard. The tonnage was low as expected. I am hoping to post the 99 futures offering in the next few days. We will offer these futures at the winery this weekend. I have made a tentative revision on the varietal percentages and case possibilities and will post those also. We are probably produce about 3000 cases for 1999. 

Our latest problem today was a fermentation that had slowed down far enough that we felt that we had to mix it with a ton of cabernet that John Teldeschi was so nice enough to sell to me. The problem vineyard of zinfandel has been the same for three years now---:: The Lane zinfandel. Here is a note I posted about it last year: 

Thursday, October 29, 1998

After the start of the picking, Brendan and I checked all the sugar readings on the 5 tons of fermenting grapes we were hoping to press today. As Ive mentioned before, the Lane Zinfandel had a lot of rot and strange smells. Even though I added 100 parts per million SO2 to kill some of the bacteria, it apparently still wasnt enough. The sugar reading on one of the one-ton fermenters was 5% yesterday morning and 5% again this morning (A STUCK FERMENTATION). Weve decided not to press the 3 one-ton fermenters of Lane Zinfandel today. The two tons of floral, spicy Petite Sirah that was harvested last week is still active at 1 or 2 percent and we will press that today. There are several methods that winemakers use to re-start a stuck fermentation. Most wineries do not use the only fool-proof method; that is, to start fermenting fresh grapes, make sure the fermentation is very active, and then slowly add over a period of 24 hours, the stuck wine. Since varietals are harvested at different times of the season, this method usually involves mixing two varietals together. Since we make many blends, including Zinfandel at the legal limit of 75 percent, this method is perfect for us. BUT Brendan is still going to school to learn. He suggested, with some reluctance from me, to try to re-start the Lane Zin today and hopefully press tomorrow morning (Brendan is hoping to leave tomorrow for Lake Tahoe). Since I definitely want to keep some of the Lane Zin separate to see what the quality is like, I agreed to a different method. This second method involves making a starter of twice the normal yeast recommended and slowly adding the stuck fermentation to the yeast. We decided to start a 30-gallon container with five gallons water and five gallons of wine and 3 lbs. of nutrients. Then we added the yeast to this 2-1/2% sugar (5% of the stuck wine and water, making 2-1/2%). Since I think it was better to add some of our Cabernet harvested yesterday, we also added about 5 gallons of Cabernet juice at 22% sugar to the approximately 500 gallons of Lane Zin. As I am writing this at 9:00 a.m., we have now added approximately 7 gallons more of the stuck Lane Zin. The sugar reading now is around 4%. In the next 2 to 3 hours, we will continue to add some more until our 30-gallon container is almost full. Then we will add the 30 gallons back to the 500 gallons of the stuck Lane Zinfandel. Now the 500 gallons of course may continue to stay stuck because were only adding 30 gallons to it. Again, the only fool proof method is to have a 1000 gallon fermentation going of new, fresh grapes and add 500 gallons of the stuck fermentation to it.  But, of course, this would take another week and I would not have pure Lane Zin anymore.

Our method this year was to add the stuck fermentation to only half as much cab. I hope it will work. 



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