David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 44 - 45
November 9, 2003 to November 22, 2003 

  Tuesday November 11, 2003

Not much has happened in the last several days. I guess I have been trying to get over the fact that I won't be making wine again for 10 more months. I will miss the challenge. BUT I have more challenges ahead. Right now my biggest problem is the 2003 Bernier's Zinfandel which still has about 1/2 percent sugar left to ferment. I am keeping the building warm at 70 degrees, which will help. Over a week ago we did add more yeast to the barrels, but I am concerned that our tests confirm that the sugar levels are about the same. Now we have checked the sugar on all 16 barrels and will recheck the sugar on Saturday. If we see little change, I must take more drastic steps. I want no sugar. My next step would be to empty all 16 barrels into our tank and add more yeast. This refermentation has to be done in steps and would require a great deal of work. If this does occur, we will start the process next week. I will go into more detail then.

All our other wines have finished the primary fermentation. Most of our zinfandel barrels have not completed the second malo/lactic conversion, but we are not too concerned at this time. We will check some of these barrels Saturday to see if there is a change. I am now trying to figure out how I will come up with enough money to pay for all the grapes we bought. I just figured and see I have purchased $67,000 worth of fruit this year. This is enough fruit to make almost 1500 cases. It appears that we will be making about 5000 cases again this year. In the last two years, we have sold about 4000 cases per year. That amount was without too much help from brokers in state or distributors out of state. Now, if Brendan can find a place for our wine to distributors, we may be able to sell 5000 cases a year. You can see my problem: why should I be paying so much money to purchase grapes when I can't sell the wine? 

Tuesday November 18, 2003

The 2003 Bernier's Zinfandel has continued to ferment very slowly. The results from a sample sent to the Lab revealed a sugar of 0.42%. Even though this is less than one half percent, it will be very detectable when tasting a wine and can leave the wine very unstable when bottled. We would have to sterile filter and hope the wine does not referment in the bottle. I have decided to put all the wine into a tank and try to ferment the wine to dryness. 

There is a new process to use for stuck or sluggish fermenting wines. I will talk about the old method first: You start with 25 gallons of the stuck wine. Then you add 25 gallons of water and 3 lbs of nutrients. Then you add enough sugar to bring this solution to 5%. That is about 10 lbs of sugar. I hate this method and have only had to use it once. It worked well because, at that time in 1996, the stuck wine was at 5 % and the sugar added did not effect it much. If I used this method now, I believe it would be a detriment to the wine quality.

The new process is quite different. It is called ProRestart. This product consists of yeast cells which are mixed with alginate (natural polysaccharide extracted from seaweed) and then acclimated to alcohol or other harsh conditions. These cells are put into a capsule and are sold as beads. This product costs over $100 for 6 barrels. That seems like a lot of money, but it only amounts to about 5 cents a bottle. I love it, because you use no sugar and it can be put directly into barrels and not into a tank. 

Here is what we had to do in the last two days: Yesterday we pulled out the 18 barrels of Bernier's zin from our neatly stacked barrels. It took some time to locate and carefully separate them from wine barrels that were through fermenting. Steve and I had to move around several barrels and restack them. We left the 18 barrels in the middle of the floor so we could get to them today. Steve went out to purchase some nylon bags, marbles, nylon ties and the ProRestart. Today we emptied the wine into a tank and added some nutrients. The capsulated beads were put into, two foot long, nylon bags to be soaked in a light sugar solution for 4 hours to rehydrate. The beads were distributed evenly through out the bags, separated by the nylon tie strips. The bags, full of beads, are removed from the water and put into the barrels. The bags, since they are two feet long and have marbles in the bottom, hang down to the bottom of the barrel to be evenly distributed. Every day we must stir these bags in order to dissipate some CO2. As they were soaking in the sugar solution, I could see a great deal of bubbles rising to the surface. I can see this action will help in the fermentation of the stuck wine. The whole process should be finished in two weeks.

Friday November 21, 2003

9:20 Pm: Susie just failed me. She went upstairs to veg-out. Right now, I could be looking at a movie with Pat, but SUSIE convinced me that I should see the Matrix Reloaded with her. Pat would not agree so Pat went up to READ a book. I don't read books. It takes me too much time. I read 10 pages an hour whether it is a text book or a novel. I READ EVERY WORD! It is sad but I never learned how to read fast. I must clarify! I can skim very effectively as long as I suspect the prose is unimportant. BUT I feel a novel or a serious text book should be comprehended completely; and for me I have to read slowly. At my time of life, I have no time for that. At night I usually like to escape to another world and the fastest way I can do that is through MOVIES!

But, now that I am down on the computer I will talk about more life matters. I have only failed a few times in my life. I failed three courses at Cal Berkeley when I was 17. I guess I also have let some friends down (Family included) by not being respectful, understanding and patient. BUT I don't think I have failed once in winemaking. I may be close to one small winemaking failure now. 

I don't see any action in the newly re-inoculated 2003 Bernier's Zinfandel. The other day we added $400 of the latest yeast to promote the zinfandel to full dryness. See my diary Tuesday. I don't mind the $400, that amounts to less than 10 cents a bottle, but it does bother me that I could fail. Sure some of you say the grapes are the most contributing factor, but I don't think so. These grapes were fine. They were over-ripe and low in acid, but in the past, I have seen many lots of grapes that appeared a lot worse than these. AND, as far as I know, Mazzacco Winery, who processed the grapes before me, had no problems. I have already dumped two barrels of the Bernier's sediment out in the vineyard. Remember, we usually use these lees (sediment) to start our ZP2C, but I did not want to take a chance on this batch. I hope I won't have to dump the rest out. I will not sell a Red wine with residual sugar; even if it contains only 1/2 of one percent. 

Wow it is only 10:15, so maybe I will catch a little Sports Night on ESPN.


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