David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 45
November 3, 2002 to November 9, 2002 

  Monday November 4, 2002

I have got myself into another problem in winemaking. Now seriously, have you ever heard or read where a winemaker, let alone an owner would admit to a problem in the winery? 

I make a Late Harvest Sauv Blanc wine every year. Every year it is a challenge. Every year I make a Late Harvest Sauv Blanc, the conditions are different and unpredictable. The results are always different. My techniques are similar. After making this wine for 7 years as an amateur and now 9 years  commercially, this year is no more unpredictable and thus different. 

 As I said earlier, I have a problem and now you have guessed it is with my Late Harvest Sauv Blanc. This year as in some past I decided to leave the fermentation at winery temperature which was 70 degrees. As usual I used PDM which is the fast active yeast we use for all wines. This yeast can ferment to high alcohol and can stand high sugar grapes. Some yeasts will easily stop fermenting when the grapes contain high amounts of sugar. But last year as some years in the past my Late Harvest stopped fermenting at low alcohols and high sugar even though I used PDM. This year I used PDM again and I got another unpredictable result. After two weeks, not a long time with Late Harvest wines with high sugar (38 Brix), I have an alcohol of 15.7 and a residual sugar of 9.6. Last year at this time with similar starting sugar, the fermentation stopped on it's own at 9% alcohol and 20% sugar. 

For the first time this year, I have to admit I was worried . I feel a wine with 16 alcohol and only 10% sugar is unbalanced. I discovered this problem Saturday and it took until this morning to figure out what to do. Today I sent Caterino out to pick all the sauv blanc grapes we have left. It may rain in a few days and I have seen in the past that sometimes this rain will cause sugars to rise and other years the grapes will fall off the vines. Caterino and I have already seen the bees come in and eat a great deal of the crop so I felt it was time to end the season. 

My plan (after consulting Julia at Lambert Bridge and Shirley at Vinquiry, the wine lab) is to add a less vigorous yeast to these newly harvested grapes and stop the fermentation when I feel that the best sugar to alcohol balance is achieved. I won't know more until tomorrow when we press the new juice. The brix will tell a lot. 

Thursday November 7, 2002

4:00 PM Kate, my oldest daughter at 17, is very nervous as I write. In about 4 hours she will perform in her first lead in Healdsburg High School's production of "The Wizard of OZ". Yes, she will be playing Dorothy. I know she will be great so Pat and I are very proud of her. 

I have another crisis. I will explain in awhile BUT first of all I have an update on the first crisis of the week that I reported on Monday. We ended up with 1345 lbs which is a little less than half of what we have already harvested of this Late Harvest Sauv Blanc. Since the sugar is about 28 Brix I am suspecting that we have about the same amount of fermentable juice as in the first harvest. Since this first harvested wine is finished fermenting and is now at 10% sugar and 16.77 alcohol, if I ferment this equal amount of new juice to 4% alcohol, I think after I blend the two together, I will have about 10.5% alcohol and 15% residual sugar. I may go for a little higher alcohol, but I will see how it tastes. 

11:00 PM The new problem I have is much more complicated. It involves strange readings I am getting from the wine lab and my Alcolizer. I must explain it in detail tomorrow. 

By the way, Kate was great. 


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