David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 50 - 52
December 12, 2004 to January 1, 2005 

  Monday December 13, 2004

We, (I say we, because I will only give the orders) will start blending Tuesday and we will finish by midday Friday. Steve has to barbecue Friday afternoon for another business, so he won't be around for the late afternoon Friday AND I need Steve unless I want to fill barrels. OFCOURSE that was my main job just two years ago. I have been very happy that he has relieved me of that tedious job. At a fast pace we could fill a barrel in 2 minutes. That is fast! That is 60 gallons, at a rate of ONE HALF A GALLON A SECOND. If one is organized and cool, you could walk away for at least one minute. I think you get the idea. The barrel could overflow if you don't pay attention to the last several seconds. Take my word for it (It has happened to me before) you don't want wine bursting you in the face at one gallon every two seconds. This job takes patience and dedication. 

At first the wine level in the barrel appears to be going no where. We use a very bright light to see to the bottom of the barrel. The light reflects off the top of the wine level so by the time the wine is at 45 gals or 3/4 full, a swirling action can be seen. We have a control on the pump so the speed of flow can be turned down to a few ounces a minute if wanted. At first of course we go fast and at the end we go slow. A barrel is filled in about 3 minutes. That is about 20 barrels an hour. 

Right now we have 192 barrels to empty and fill back up. Emptying a barrel into a tank is a little quicker, taking a little less than 3 minutes. So at 6 minutes total to empty and fill back up, that adds up to about 20 hours. Of course I haven't mention the unstacking and restacking of the barrels and the cleaning of the barrels after emptying. Brendan is coming at 7:00 Am tomorrow. I figure on Friday we may be filling our last barrels and then cleaning up. 

I've decided to make two new wines for this 2004 vintage. We harvested some Sangiovese this year from a small vineyard in Healdsburg. Originally I had planned to use all of the wine in a 2004 Neighbors' Cuvee, but this Sangiovese has such great balance and character I've decided to keep some separate and produce 100 cases. I know earlier this year I mentioned the possibility of making a new wine called Escuro which means "Dark" in Portuguese. I had hoped it would be a very dark wine, but the Portuguese varietals I received from the Lodi area, turned out to be less color than I had expected. Reluctantly I have decided to produce the wine this year anyway. Eventually the wine will consist of Cabernet, Tannat, and Petite Sirah, all from our vineyard. We are growing other promising varietals and if they turn out to be of dark color, they will be used in the blend also. This year the Escuro blend will be about 175 cases and will consist of 67% Alvarelhao, 22% Touriga National and 11% Petite Sirah. We will be making a Neighbors Cuvee again, but Brendan may take most of it for his restaurant. 

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Brad (the webguy) here.  Dave asked me to write up something reflecting the wine direct shipping issue currently pending before the Supreme Court.  Here it is:

21st Amendentment to the United States Constitution

Section 1.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.

The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

* * * *

With these words, added to the Constitution in 1933, prohibition was brought to an end.

As with most things legal, the words plainly written have been subjected to interpretation. Lawyers can mightily strain at gnats to produce results different from what otherwise appears crystal clear. For those who are on the winery's side in these debates, you should be rooting for those lawyers! Otherwise, if you were just reading the text of the Amendment, direct shipping would be doomed.

After the 21st amendment was ratified there were a number of court cases where the court agreed that states were competent to create laws against the importation of "foreign" alcohol in favor of in-state products. The court held that this did not violate the Commerce Clause of Article I of the Constitution or the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th amendment. It made sense. The 21st Amendment clearly banned what previously would have been legal.

Remember the gnats! Those cases were decided within the context of the times. Prohibition was a recent memory favored by enough people that the courts must have found it necessary to tread lightly. But times change, so how can the court get around the plain language of the amendment and their very own clear rulings?

"Stare decisis" is Latin for "to stand by that which is decided." This is the principal that precedent decisions are to be followed by the courts. The Supreme Court follows that tradition--when it wants to.

Where should you stand on "stare decisis?"  If you believe that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned because it has established law in the nation then with equal force you should agree that direct sales of wine are not going to be permitted since there are previous court ruling which prohibit them.

The current Court doesn't really seem to care at all about precedent. It is perfectly willing to overturn prior cases when it suits its own legal/philosophical purpose. Thus we have a situation which brings together on one side the "states rights" justices who are generally also quite conservative, and whom one might imagine would otherwise not support the direct shipment of wine, and the "liberal leaning" folks who in their libertine ways want access to the fruits of the vine.

How do we get there?  By ignoring stare decisis.  And the Court has done so in the past in alcohol cases. Pundits claim that the 2004 election of George W. Bush was based on "morals" which derive from the conservative right. Many of these people are against alcohol for their own religious or  philosophical reasons. Hence the fears concerning Roe v. Wade and the possible future removal of abortion rights previously granted. So the Court might very well overrule prior cases.

But will they?

We don't yet know the "moral" position of these Justices with regards to wine or the other big states rights issue of medical marijuana. They are quite capable however, with all inconsistency, of ruling differently in each case when the underlying law should have them ruling similarly.

Take for example a case where the Court approved laws against nude dancing in bars. Defendants argued their 1st Amendent right to free speech.  The Court found that it was a situation "more of gross sexuality than of communication," thus within the purview of the State's interest in maintaining order and decency. Order and decency, what many would consider based on moral and/or religious grounds. In that case they also noted that the 21st Amendment gave an "added presumption in favor of the validity" to their proposition. The states could also use their rights under that Amendment to regulate areas in which alcohol is served.

It is generally accepted that this is not SO much a morals issue as a business fight. Even MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has said they have no problem with direct shipments of wine. Rather, this is a conflict between well-entrenched distributors who have had a virtual monopoly over wine sales since the 30's and small business who now, through the Internet, have the ability to sell directly as never before.

On December 7, 2004 at oral argument before the Supreme Court in the direct shipping case, the winery's rallying cry was heard: "The state is engaged not in legitimate regulation, but in economic protectionism." The case was brought, among others, by Juanita Swedenburg, owner of a small family winery on a 130-acre cattle farm in Middlesburg, Virginia. The court looked at both sides of the issue, asking the states' reason for allowing direct shipments from in-state wineries but restricting out-of-state producers, but also asking wineries to justify their demand for sweeping changes to the way wine is regulated and sold. Justice Souter specifically asked the New York State attorney general why New York should be allowed to engage in the practice of shipping within the state but prohibit shipment from outside the state.

That is an interesting question, given that the tacit argument against shipping is one of local taxes (which most wineries agree they would pay) and not allowing minors to obtain wine (which many agree is a smoke-screen put up by the distributors who would lose their control over the system). Shipping within the state carries the same supposed risks involving minors as does out-of- state. As has been oft noted, how many minors order $20-$100 bottles of wine for enjoyment weeks away (unless put up to it by some enterprising prosecutor)?

"Law and Order" or "States' Rights?" In the end the direct shipping case, medical marijuana, abortion and the like will call on the mostly conservative justices to likely make a lot of decisions that are contradictory, rulings which undoubtedly will be revisited by future generations with different social goals.

In any event, as with many things. be careful what you wish for.

Wednesday December 15, 2004

Yesterday was a setup day so we only blended two wines, our 2004 Cabernet and our new wine the 2004 Escuro. The Cabernet is 100% while our Escuro is 67% Alvarelhao, 22% Touriga Nacional and 11 Petite Sirah. Today we are blending a 100% Carignan, a 100% Sangiovese and our Block 4. It looks like we will also blend our Terre Melange consisting of 51% Carignan, 22% Peloursin, 18% Syrah, and 9 % Mourvedre. The Neighbors' Cuvee which we blend today may all be sold to Brendan's Restaurant, so I won't be offering it now. It consists of 38% Cabernet, , 22% Touriga Nacional, 21% Sangiovese, 13% Zinfandel and 6% Carignan. 

The question has come up: Why am I making a wine this year called Escuro which does not contain Cabernet?. Next year I will make an Escuro containing Petite Sirah and Cabernet. In the future I hope to include Touriga Nacional or even Alvarelhao as well as Tannat or other dark colored wines. All of these new varietals are newly planted on our property. It is true that this 2004 wine will not be as dark as future vintages. It does cost some money to set up a new label so I don't want to use a name that I will not use again. As some of you may remember, our 2001 Terre Melange was very different than our 2002 and 2003 as well as all future vintages, but it sold well and I had no complaints about the different varietals used in later years. At first I just wanted to make a Neighbors' Cuvee for this year, but the Sangiovese was so good I kept it separate. That made me think of these new wines. 

Wednesday December 22, 2004

Note from Brad, webguy:

I've had a bit of trouble with messages that may have been sent to the forum recently.  If you have sent anything that you wanted to be posted to the forum, whether a new thread or a reply, please send it again! We'd love to hear from you. It would be best if you use this email link.

Friday December 31, 2004

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this diary and of course pass the greeting on to those who do not.

With the family matters, it has been a hectic two weeks. Kate is home from Cal Poly and I have been trying to convince her to buy a new car. Have you ever heard of a 19 year old refuse to accept a new car? Yes you have when it isn't the car she desires. Kate wants an Acura TSX which costs $27,000 or so, but Honda is dealing on LX Civics and Accords to the tune of $15,600 and 18,900. I'm willing to help out now, but I guess she could wait and save up for what she wants. 

The blending went well and I am actually warming up to these 2004 wines. As you have surmised I have been pretty cautious about my evaluation of the quality of the 2004 vintage. The grapes came in so quick that it is hard to believe that the quality is as good as it seems. We have not had many visitors in here in the last few weeks, but any one who has been here and tasted the blends are very impressed. I have tasted a few informally and can now give my opinion and first impressions.

If I had to pick my favorite right now, it would be the 2004 Petite Sirah again. As some of you know, the 2003 Petite Sirah is my favorite wine right now. Remember my palate could be different than yours. I am also encouraged with the 2004 Escuro. It has none of the power of the Petite Sirah, but the flavors are fascinating. The Sangiovese and Carignan are balanced and spicy. I really haven't tasted the 3 zins, but most everyone likes the "My Zin". I will doing the most experimenting with the "My Zin". I want to make the style very different by adding three types of tannin. One is French Oak barrels that have been toasted lightly. The other two consist of effervescent wood tannins and grape seed tannin.

We are selling many other 2004 wines. Check out the new .pdf with the updated cases and percentages. Besides these 2004 wines, we are still selling the 2004 Barbera and 2004 Aca Modot. Just let me know if you are interested. 

6:00 PM: Kate and I just bought a new 2005 Civic LX. I cosigned and she will make the payments. I am so happy she is driving such a safe car.


` Dave 

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