David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 4
January 24, 1999 to January 30, 1999 
January 26, 1999

Last Thursday Pat and I made our Costco run and actually bought more at Trader Joe's than at Costco. You see, we were gearing up for Winter Wineland for which we were open on both Saturday and Sunday. We weren't officially participating in the event, but did put out our shingle "Open for Sales and Tasting Today"  for the first time in a year. While down in Santa Rosa, I bought several combinations of rough and sterile filter pads, with the intention of further filtering the 1998 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. So on Friday about mid-day I was prepared to start the filtering, but Pat reminded me of the time left in the day. You see we still had to clean up the winery to prepare for Saturday's event, and even though I thought I might be able to filter the wine within two hours, I reluctantly realized that she was right and that there was not enough time to start the filtering that day. We had a very successful and busy Saturday and Sunday, and all during the weekend, I continued to look over at the fermenting dessert wine. As the hours went on, I noticed that it continued to increase in velocity. I knew as a professional winemaker, I should have been tending to this fermenting wine rather than serving up barrel samples of the red wines, and even my nights had been very restless thinking about the lack of attention I have given to this task of filtering. 

So on Monday I had great intentions of finally getting to the filtering, but I had a visit in the morning from a customer who is anxious to get into the wine business, and I felt obligated to spend some time to alert him of the perils involved in such a decision. Then by the time I paid my bills and did some other office tasks, it was again too late to work on the filtering of the wine. Now its Tuesday (today) and I started the morning with a visit from John and Susan from Virginia, who were staying in the area in conjunction with their attendance at the ZAP event in San Francisco this coming Saturday. Without going into the particulars of their private lives, I spent a good deal of time trying to encourage them to start a family. Even though they couldn't be convinced about that, they were very willing to listen to me talk about wine and were inquisitive about the whole winemaking experience. Also, John was very interested in my music system, so after two hours of touring the winery and vineyard and tasting wine, I cranked up the system. By the time they were leaving for a tour of Rafanelli, I noticed it was 1:00 p.m. - three hours after they had arrived! During the time they were here, I also received a call from Phil from New Mexico who was in the Bay Area, and wanted to come up for a visit. To relate all the experiences I have had with Phil over the past 25 years would take more time than I have to write tonight and certainly more than you'd want to read.  Suffice it to say that most of my great initial Bordeaux and California wine experiences were shared with Phil in the 1970's. Obviously, I wanted to see Phil and invited him to drop by also. By the time he and two friends headed back to San Francisco,  it was 4:00 p.m. Again, I went over and looked at the fermenting Sauvignon Blanc and felt very guilty.............. 

To briefly get back to the Winter Wineland weekend, we had approximately 200 people visit on Saturday and maybe as many as 120 on Sunday. Since we weren't open officially for the event, we were enthused that so many people stopped by.  On Friday afternoon, I drew off four bottles of each of the six wines we still have for sale in order to be able to pour barrel samples from bottles which had been allowed to reach room temperature rather than from the cold barrels themselves. I finally managed to taste each one of them toward the end of the day on Saturday and was very encouraged by how the estate Zin was showing. The other wines were tasting pretty much as I expected they should be, with still my preference for the Estate Cuvee. I tried to fool Everett and Doug with a blind tasting of the Neighbors' Zin, the Estate Zin and a blend of the two. Out of those 3 bottles, (double blind -  they did not actually know what the wines were), they both chose (1) the estate Zin, (2) the blend of the estate Zin and neighbors' Zin, and (3) the neighbors' Zin. I am still very happy with the neighbors' Zin and the fruit that it is showing right now. The blend of the two Zins makes a very nice wine also, but I can understand that they prefer the estate Zinfandel for its intense spiciness. All six wines sold well, with a slight edge for the Estate Cuvee. In all, we sold approximately 30 cases for the weekend, which was as much as we could have hoped for. 

January 27, 1999

After having tasted with visitors from Draeger's Marketplace and two futures customers today, at 3:00 p.m. I *finally* started filtering the 1998 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. I really don't want to expound much on it, but the filtering did not go well. It seems every time I filter, I lose at least 1/4 of the wine and on top of that, the wine is starting to turn brown. As some of you know, the more you handle white wine, the more it oxidizes and turns a darker color. Most wineries feel this is a detriment to sales. Even though I do feel that taste is the most important factor, I also respect this point of view. I will have another note tomorrow on whether the filtering of only half the wine was successful in removing the yeast cells and stopping the fermentation. 

January 28, 1999

I may be overly concerned about the discoloration of the late harvest wine. My mentor Julia (of Lambert Bridge) has always been concerned about this problem in the past, but even she has no doubt that we will be able to eliminate any discoloration in the final fining of the wine. Today I actually was successful with at least one of the carboys (5 gallon containers). The browning I am seeing is probably just the bentonite or yeast cells still contained in the wine. The one successful filtering was done twice and brilliantly clear, less harsh and apparently stable. The other three carboys still appear to have some sediment in them (either bentonite or yeast cells), and I collected a sample of each one to take to Julia tomorrow. Last year Julia suggested adding some dry Sauvignon Blanc to the 1997 late harvest and also dropping some acid out of it. We also did the same in 1995. Those are still my two favorite late harvest wines which I have made. 

I started with approximately 25 gallons of 1998 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc juice, but after the fermentation and fining with bentonite and of course the heavy filtering I've had to do, I am down to only 18-1/2 gallons. I transferred the 18-1/2 gallons into my old 1950's commercial stand-up refrigerator which I bought 20 years ago. This refrigerator will chill up to 60 gallons in 12 carboys down to 28 degrees. It is very economical to run in spite of its old age. In 1994, I made my first commercial late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and I felt that if I was successful one out of three years, I would be fortunate. I have been just amazed that I have been able to successfully make it in '94, '95, '96, and '97. I feel that with only 18-1/2 gallons of '98 at this point and the high cost of continued filtering, fining, analysis, etc., still ahead, I am pretty much unsuccessful with this vintage. I will most likely end up with less than 15 gallons, or only 13 cases of half bottles. Instead of bottling this separately, I plan on blending it in with the somewhat unstable 1997 late harvest wine. Because of the cost and time involved, we are considering giving full refunds for all the 1997 late harvest we have previously sold and the 15-1/2 cases of the 1998 pre-sold on futures. We will re-sell the wine as a combination 97-98 vintage. We will have approximately 40 cases to sell. 

January 29, 1999

I checked the carboys of Sauvignon Blanc this morning and they were down to 23 degrees, so I raised the refrigerator temperature to just below 30. I will check again tomorrow. I dropped two samples off to Julia today and she came back with lower acids than we thought, but as high a VA as we expected. VA can be perceived as an acid also, so at this point I feel the wine is in balance. Julia agrees with me that we should look at this wine next week with the most likely possiblity of blending it with the 1997 late harvest sauvignon blanc. I will talk more about this next week. 

Some of you may be wondering how my diet is progressing. Although I have been trying my best to stick to my diet for the last two weeks, I've had too many distractions--visitors and  many family obligations. I did check my weight today and I am down 7 lbs. after 3-1/2 weeks, but then I was down 7 lbs. after only 2 weeks. Now some of you are taking the Coffaro diet seriously but I hope no one is trying to follow it literally. Although I try to consume one bottle of wine a night, I am a "big boy" and Pat helps me out once in a while, too. The Super Bowl is coming up, and after Sunday, I'm planning to go on a more serious, long-term diet. In other words, I am going to try to change my eating habits. 


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