David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 41
October 11, 1998 to October 17, 1998 

Sunday, October 11, 1998    (Low 39, High 80) 

I had to suffer through an extremely boring Raider football game, while Pat had the pleasure of greeting 7 customers to pick up wine. The agony of listening to the game on AM radio (humming and whistling and fading in and out) because of the blackout, was further aggravated by 16 punts by the Raiders, a NFL record. They did not get one first down the whole second half except for one long pass play on their last play that went for a touchdown that won the game 7 to 6. Needless to say Kate and I were giving each other many high five's on that play. 

The weather remains OK, but we could use some hotter days. A cooling trend which could bring showers is forecast for tomorrow. We are still hoping to pick Friday or Saturday. 

Monday, October 12, 1998    (Low 40, High 78) 
(By Brendan) 
Dave and I figure that about 45% of our work is prep, 45% is clean-up and the remaining 10% is the actual winemaking.  Today we worked on the first 45% to prepare for our third major pressing tomorrow.  Our press schedule will consist of  the First Fermentation Pinot Noir (our normal hot fermentation), the 4-year-old trellised Zinfandel, the Simpson Syrah, and maybe a 50/50 blend of our Knoll Zin and our Barbera (if it finishes fermenting by tomorrow).  That should definitely keep us busy. 

Today's prep mainly consisted of a couple of basic steps that through repetition Dave and I are getting very good at.  We started with testing the individual bins for residual sugar and temperature to see if they had finished fermentation.   We are looking for a hydrometer reading of about -1.5 which means that the fermentation has gone dry.  You can also tell if the fermentation is finished by looking at the Cap (i.e. the layer of skins at the top of the bin).  As fermentation slows down, the Cap gets thinner and softer as the grape skins sink back into the wine. 

Our next big decision was which barrels to select for the pressed juice.  We have already selected about 20% new oak (a blend of mainly American with a couple of French barrels) for the Zin so most of the barrels we picked were neutral (over 4 years old--no oak flavor left).  We also decided that we wanted to compare the wine from the 4-year-old trellised zin that we did in the 1-ton fermenter vs. the 1/2-ton fermenter so therefore chose 2, 1-year-old Demptos barrels for a side-by-side comparison.  We also decided to try 1 new World Cooperage American Oak barrel for the Simpson Syrah (Dave has decided to lean more towards an Australian-style Syrah/Shiraz instead of a French Rhone style). 

Our final major project was to pull down the 13 barrels we will be using and fill them with water to make sure they are sealing properly.  We then quickly organized the winery and arranged the barrels that we had already filled with wine towards the back of the winery to keep them out of our way.  All in all a pretty relaxing, straight-forward day. 

(Brief Note-  Dave is very excited because he just bought a new professional espresso maker which he had installed in the winery.  I guess working late into the night won't be a problem anymore!) 

Tuesday, October 13 1998      (low 52 degrees; high 81) 

Light showers were predicted for today with cooling temperatures. As usual, the prediction was completely wrong. As farmer-winemakers, we have to take these weather predictions with a grain of salt. But then again, they may be right. This was one of those days when we had many decisions to make and I usually rely on Brendan for his opinion and input, but today he wasn't quite with it. Brendan is only 23, and for some reason, he has insomnia. He complained about it last year, too, but I think he's been burning the candle at both ends lately. Today, after making numerous minor mistakes such as dropping things and looking like a zombie, he admitted he had been writing an article for Wine-X magazine and had been up until midnight. As Pat had reminded me, I had been up to midnight, also. I guess the younger generation cannot handle these long hours, though because I actually was feeling fine - except for the fact that I was getting a little impatient with Brendan -  I did not realize, after all, he is still learning. 

We needed to make some decisions about when next to harvest, so I talked with Steve Ryan about his schedule and he was open for harvesting tomorrow and Thursday afternoons and probably Saturday. Since I am one of the only wineries I know of that will accept grapes after noon time, I guess that explains why I've been delegated to the afternoons for harvesting. As I've said before, I don't mind harvesting grapes "hot" and as we all know, the weather has not been too hot lately anyway, so there is little need for concern. 

We started the day pressing our Pinot "hot fermentation" which actually tasted like wine, instead of like some Pinots I've had which in my opinion are "light weight."  Then we went to the Zinfandel on the wire (which again, to remind everyone, is only 4 years old). The color was much better than the old vine Zinfandel. Then we pressed a Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel fermentation and that also had good color. Lastly, we pressed the Syrah from the Simpson vineyard and we were extremely impressed with the dark extraction. 

Later, I sent Brendan out to do sugar samples on the Aca Modot Cabernet, Petite Sirah knoll and Carignan second block. The Aca Modot came in at 24.2 and we were undecided on harvesting. I would like to have between 24.0 and 24.5, but in the past years, the actual sugar at harvest has come in lower than the samples. The Carignan (French spelling) has been a problem in the past. It definitely comes in lower than the sample at harvest. I instructed Brendan to go out and pick the largest, unripe bunches. Since the sugar reading came in at 23.1, and I want over 24 at harvest, we would like to wait another week. The Petite Sirah on the knoll came in at 23.4 and I would like 24 brix. So we have decided to wait a few more days before harvesting further from our vineyard. We do expect to get some Cabernet Franc from a neighboring vineyard and some more Syrah from the Simpson vineyard tomorrow, as well. 

Wednesday, October 14 1998      (low 52 degrees; high 75) 

We received one ton of Cabernet Franc grapes from Joann and Phil Jones, whose vineyard is just up the road from us, right past John Teldeschi's vineyard. The quality looks excellent. We will have a further report tomorrow. Today was cool but clear. Brendan and I finished the pressing of our cold soak Pinot and carbonic maceration. Even though the carbonic was still about 7 percent residual (to make sure it does go dry I did finally add RC 212 a fast acting yeast), the color extraction at this stage looks equal to the cold soak. The temperature on the carbonic reached 80 degrees, while the temperature on the cold soak and hot fermentations reached close to 90. The pressing of the Barbera/Zin mix resulted in concentrated dark colors and flavors. It looks like we will be receiving some Syrah and Zinfandel tomorrow. 

There have been a few questions to me thru Email regarding color extraction and dry ice. I added the dry ice directly to the must and grapes with good success, but be careful to add it slowly to a liquid such as the sauv blanc---it will bubble and may get violent. There are no sanitary problems--it is a gas. 

Extended maceration does not give you more color--just the opposite. The color may go back into the grapes. I have found that the amount of color is determined by the temperature of fermentation and is set pretty much before 5% residual is left.  As the temperature and sugar goes down, the color may leech back into the grapes.  Some say you may get more flavor by extended maceration or even tannins, but I have not found that in my vineyard---I get less fruit. Therefore I like to press just before the wine goes dry. So far I have found that with both Teldeschi and my vineyard, the color does seem lighter this year than usual.  Remember that doesn't necessarily mean less flavor.  Look at Pinot and Zinfandel--they are usually light-colored wines and have plenty of flavor. 

Thursday, October 15 1998      (low 50 degrees; high 76) 

This was one of of those trying days. NO ONE UNDERSTOOD ME! Have you had one of those days? Actually I must admit Brendan did a credible job and Caterino did all right also. I just think I was very cranky (some would say: my usual self). It wasn't until about 1 PM when I understand what was wrong. I didn't have a clue of what to do today. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow or the next day either. That is not actually true. I do know what I want to do, but not in what order. OR,  I do know what order, but do not know whether I should do it. Do you know what I mean? I am hoping some of you go through this some days? 

The morning started with an animated review by Pat and I of our problem with a Timeshare we got hooked into down in Mexico. We are trying to get out of it. After numerous other distractions I need not mention, I realized I did not know whether Ryan's crew would show up today. After all they were to show up yesterday and did not. To my great surprise at 12:30 I heard their rumbling cars in our yard. Now I expected maybe 4 or 5 pickers, but was greeted with 12. WHAT SHOULD I DO? I knew there was some unripe Syrah grapes 10 days ago still left over at Simpson's. But what sugar and how much? From our vineyard, I knew there was some Zin on the wire left. But what sugar and how much? I knew Doug Nalle left some grapes in his section that were not acceptable to him. But what sugar and how much? Finally, I knew there were many vines that we did not pick two weeks ago because they were not ready. But what sugar and how much? I felt sick. My mind went blank. All of a sudden it became clear. I had to put these guys to work picking all this stuff, or I would never know. It wasn't organized, but I sent Caterino over to Simpson's to pick the Syrah. Caterino is one of those savvy workers who understands me (not many do--including Pat sometimes). I trusted him with my new Ranger. BUT he left me with 8 workers who spoke mainly Spanish. I know-- why haven't I learned to speak the language? Needless to say we had a lot of trouble communicating until Caterino came back with the Syrah. By that time we had a bin of Zin from the wire. I realized the Zin would be impossible to check for sugar until we sorted, but the Syrah being consistent from bunch to bunch would be easy to determine from a small sample. To my delight, the sample turned out to be 25+ Brix. I decided to run the Zin from the wire through first and see what it was. We sorted out about 25% of the unripe bunches and still only came out with about 22 %. After running through the Syrah, we have so far about 1100 lbs of 50% Syrah and 50% Zin at 23+ sugar. By tomorrow morning, after swell up, we should have about 24--just where we want to be. Caterino and others continued to pick until dusk, and we will crush the remainder tomorrow. Overall, we should have about 1 ton and a quarter of Zin and 500 lbs of Syrah. 

Friday, October 16 1998      (low 52 degrees; high 81) 
(By Brendan) 
This was one of those transition days. It was warmer so it looks like we have no problem in getting the grapes in---the problem is always WHEN! Simpson called to let us know his Cab was ready. I sampled the Lane vineyard and the  Zin came in at 23.2 which is about a 1.5 increase over the last sample I took on the 7th. This is good, but we'd like the sugar to go up another point before we want to pick. A sample of Simpson Cab came in at 23.8. 

I spent most of the day finishing up work from the previous day. The last grapes to be picked on Thursday were the left-over Zin from Nalle and some extra Zin that we had left to ripen for an extra week or two. Unfortunately, a lot of these grapes were from vines that are heavily virused and therefore still not ripe. I was forced to do a very severe hand selection. Up until now I have been picking out between 10-20% of our Zin that was below our standards. Today I was picking out 50%+ in order to get the quality level we want. It's always very depressing when you throw away more fruit than you keep but, ultimately, it makes better wine. I've been talking with many other winemakers around Sonoma, Napa and San Luis Obispo who have all recounted to me the same problems of inconsistent fruit that we are having. I am just glad we are in a position to hand-select our grapes so that we can minimize (and hopefully eliminate) the impact on our overall quality. 

Right now Dave and I are bracing for tomorrow. We are planning to take in about 1/3 of our entire year's estate crop (about 12 tons). We are starting at about 7 a.m. and plan to be done ????..........  We will be bringing in most of our Carignane, our Aca Modot Cabernet Sauvignon from the Knoll, and the Petite Sirah from the Knoll. We were planning to also pick the last of the Zin from our Block 1 for Lambert Bridge but we got a late call from Winemaker Julia saying that she would not be able to take it until next week. Dave and I may actually sleep tomorrow! 

Saturday, October 17 1998       (low 39; high 85) 
(By Pat Coffaro) 
Everyone else is too busy to write, so itís my turn to post. Today was without question the most hectic day of this harvest season, if not our entire lives! 

At 7:00 a.m. the picking crew arrived and immediately set out for the vineyard, with Dave leading the way to try to figure out what to pick first. He decided to start them on the Carignane in the second block, then rushed back to the winery to work with Brendan setting up for the crush that was soon to begin. The stats on the harvested grapes for today were as follows (notes from Dave): We harvested only a little over 3 tons of Carignane which was down 30% from last yearís Carignane harvest. It came in around 23.5 brix, a little lower than what we wanted but the flavors were fabulous. Next we harvested approximately 2 tons of Petite Sirah from the Knoll, down 40% from last year but over 24 brix, which is exactly what we wanted. Finally, we harvested the Aca Modot area (also on the Knoll) and took in 2/3 ton Cabernet Franc/Malbec mixture and 2.9 tons of Cabernet. That will give us about 220 cases of Aca Modot bottled wine. 

While Dave was tending to the business of the day, I was trying my best to socialize with my sister and her husband who came in on Friday evening for an overnight visit and also getting prepared to take Susie to her 11:00 a.m. soccer game in Cloverdale. Additionally, we had received calls from over 20 people in the past week who wanted to come pick up their futures today, and not knowing that we would be in full-tilt harvest, we agreed. So I enlisted my brother-in-law Tim to be in charge of  the pick-ups while I went to the soccer game with my sister (that at least gave us some time to chat and catch up on our lives while cheering on Susieís team). 

When we arrived back at the homestead about 12:30, Tim quickly filled me in on what had transpired while we were gone, and Dave was loading bins on his pickup and trailer. I asked him how things were going, and he replied "donít ask."  With a little more pressing, I got him to tell me that he had been running back and forth from the vineyard to the winery, trying to make sure the crew were picking grapes in the right areas and also fork lifting the bins of harvested grapes over to the winery and overseeing the sorting and crushing there. 

In the meantime, also arriving on the scene were Daveís friend Michael Watts (who has his own label and makes a little wine from our vineyard as well) to pick grapes for his own production this year and also some neighbors who needed some help with crushing grapes they had just picked too. 

My job in the afternoon after my sister and brother-in-law left was to parcel out the í97 wine futures to those who arrived for that reason, and "guard" passers-by from going over to the winery for tasting - since the winery was now set up for crushing, not tasting.  I must admit that I wasn't too successful with my guarding job because every time someone stopped by to pick up wine, I got involved with them in going over their orders, etc., and then someone else would show up while I was inside rather than out in the yard and these new visitors would make their way over to the winery before I could tell them we were closed. Although numerous people found their way over to the winery, not many stayed for long because of the unbelievably sticky mess and the snorts and snarls emanating from Dave, who was still running back and forth to oversee the picking in the vineyard and the crushing in the winery and had little patience for being hospitable. 

To put the finishing touch on the "day from hell," a tour bus with 25 visitors pulled into our yard at 3:45 and they immediately disembarked from the bus before I could give them the bad news about being closed for tasting. Their leader, Bill, said he had talked to Dave and set up this tour a few weeks ago - so what was I to do? I meekly approached Dave in the winery and he said "Iíll go out and tell them Iím really sorry but weíre just too busy."  Well, the next thing I see is all 25 people out on our back lawn standing around a makeshift bar (an overturned garbage can topped by a dishwasher rack full of clean glasses and two wine bottles - they brought their own David Coffaro Estate Cuvee to taste!). So, you can see why I was delegated to guard duties and not Dave! All in all, a totally exhausting but very successful day, with over 9 tons brought in and crushed. I'm sure I forgot lots of stuff - just ask Dave, Brendan, Michael Watts or Steve Ryan - I'm sure they all have many more stories of the trials and tribulations of harvesting/making wine on this particular Saturday! 


Home | Read | Diary | Public Forum | Tell Us What You Think of Our Diary! | Last Week | Next Week