David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

August, 2009 

Thursday August 6, 2009

Google collects excerpts of my diary every week if they think it is important to anyone, so forgive me if I state all that is unique in the following paragraph, like Dry Creek Valley.

We did a test yesterday and we are ready to harvest Pinot Noir Tuesday August 11, 2009 in Dry Creek Valley for David Coffaro Winery of Sonoma County. I suspect this will be the first grapes harvested in the North Coast or Central Coast of California this year in 2009 for sparkling wine. Sure we will only harvest about one ton and yes we are harvesting early at a low sugar. But we will harvest at about 20 Brix which will be higher than usual for sparkling wine, normally 18 to 19 Brix (Percent Sugar). You might ask why are we the first ones to harvest grapes and I can explain why. 

All grapes for sparkling wine are grown in cool weather areas, mostly because so called experts feel Pinot Noir grows better in cool areas and we in Dry Creek Valley have temperatures that are very warm. I want to experiment and see if these experts are wrong. I believe we can produce a very good red Pinot Noir wine from our vineyard as well as a sparkling wine. We do have very low night time temperatures so that does create high acids. Typically in the summer for Pinot in cool areas the daytime temperatures can be around 80 degrees and night time around 55. We here in Northern Dry Creek Valley have average highs in the low 90s and an average low around 52. These wide ranges create high acids in grapes but also an environment that ripens all varietals quicker. Pinot Noir in Russian River Valley for red wine is harvested in late September. We could be harvesting for Pinot red wine at 25% sugar as soon as August 20 this year. Next year we expect a larger crop and may be harvesting at the end of July for sparkling wine. I love a new challenge!! 

Sunday August 9, 2009

The high and low temperatures have risen dramatically in the last two days. The low last night was about 58 degrees, 54 on Saturday and 50 on Friday. The high yesterday was 94, while Friday was 87 and Thursday's high was only 74. Our temperature outside now at Noon time is already at 93. We now expect to harvest Pinot at 20+ brix on Tuesday. I went to check on our small crop of our new Sauv Blanc and now plan to pick the 100 pounds or so to blend into the sparkling Pinot. We are going to have fun.

We do have 50 vines of Pinot that was planted several years ago. The ripening on those vines is behind a little so we will use the grapes for our 2009 Rose. Matt wants to pick those grapes at about 23 brix. Also to go into the rose will be some grenache and petite sirah. Matt and I will be making a wine especially for Dave's Wine Club consisting of Zinfandel from our new vines and some petite sirah. It will be aged in new oak barrels for a time so the finished wine should have a higher oak flavor than usual.

The ripening in the vineyard is progressing with on average about 40% colored up so far. The peloursin in our first block is actually all colored and if needed we will take a little of those grapes Tuesday if need to fill out the total of one ton of grapes we want for our Sparkling wine. By the way, I did leave 4 messages to different sources from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat about our first harvest of Dry Creek Valley sparkling wine, but I have not heard back from any of them. I assume they have more important things to write about. I also assume I have not found the right person to contact.

Monday August 10, 2009

One day before harvest!

As most of you know I love my 2008 Escuro, but in the last two weeks the wine is going through another stage. At first I loved that it was the most intense wine I have made, but now it seems to be more balanced. You have to understand I like wines that can stand up to the food I eat. Mainly I do the cooking and tonight I had a rack of lamb with roast potatoes and plenty of garlic and olive oil. Remember I have the luxury to have any of my wines on any night. As some of you know I also have a great collection of older wines and newer wines from many producers. 

All the wines I had tonight were intense. I had my 2007 Zin and My Zin along with Rafanelli's 2007 Zin; all of them opened two days ago; and I had opened last night my 07 and 08 Escuro and Petite Sirah. 7 reds in all, along with a great Chablis first, I survived, I usually take sips and always know when I have had enough. I am now consuming an espresso or three. I love Petite Sirah and I love the 2007 Zin, all of us around me think the 2007 zin is showing real well, try it.  The Escuros are more complex and are more balanced than the petite sirahs. It is interesting to compare the 2008 Escuro to the 2008 Petite Sirah. The Escuro is more balanced and has a long finish while the Petite Sirah is all upfront right now. We are aging our 2008 The Ultimate Cuvee until January. It consists of 4 barrels of Block 4, two barrels of Escuro and two barrels of Petite Sirah. I am excited that after tasting our already bottled components of this wine, the 2008 Block 4, 2008 Escuro and 2008 Petite Sirah, the Ultimate cuvee has to be well balanced and complex. While the Escuro has a long finish and the Petite Sirah has a great beginning, the Block 4 has a great middle and spice character to fill out the wine.

Tuesday August 11, 2009

It is 7:00Am and we are harvesting Pinot Noir. Today I will try to make time to report on all we have to do in order to produce this wine.

7:30Am: It is foggy and 56 degrees right now and that is great because we want the grapes cold. I am now heading out to see how Catarino and Salvador are doing. I might get an estimate of the amount being picked.

8:00Am: I am back after checking on the picking. They are through picking most of the Pinot in the first block which was planted two years ago. This is our first crop and thus it is small. I am estimating they will end up with about 1300 pounds. After finishing there, Catarino and Salvador will head over to our 50 vines of Pinot which was planted in 2003. I expect about 400 pounds from that section. We are aiming for about one ton of fruit today so we will need a little more. We have maybe 100 pounds of Sauv Blanc that was planted last year and we can always pick a little Peloursin if needed.

10:00Am: They are still picking. I am surprised to report that the crop is larger than I expected. We did get about 1300 to 1400 pounds from our first block. The surprise is in our 5th block where we have the 50 vines planted 6 years ago. We had a light crop last year, about 250 pounds but this year it looks like we may have over 700 pounds. That is still only 14 pounds per vine but that means we will not have to pick any Peloursin. Catarino and Salvador are just finishing up picking the small amount of Sauv Blanc and Matt is cleaning up and preparing the press for the fruit.

11:00Am: The fruit is in!! We ended up getting 1800 pounds of Pinot Noir and a surprising 400 pounds of Sauv Blanc. Within the hour we will whole cluster press the fruit and I will have some numbers. 

11:30Am: Let me explain a little more about what we will do today: Instead of destemming the bunches and breaking the berries as we do with grapes for our Red wines, we are going to fork the whole bunches into our press and use light pressure to handle the Pinot Noir gently. After about an hour we expect the acid to start going down and we will stop. After adding 30ppm SO2 to the juice we will pump slowly into two stainless 60 gallon drums and about three beer kegs. I have turned on our chiller to 50 degrees and we will settle the must and rack off as much clear juice as possible and start fermentation tomorrow. 

12 Noon: We just got a reading of 21.4% sugar (Brix) on our first bin of 900 pounds all from the first block. We expect to see lower readings on from the rest. Traditionally we would be looking for a brix of between 18 and 19. We will have higher today. 

12:30Pm: I have done our first check of acid with my PH meter. The Pinot sample at 21.4 brix is at a PH of 3.22 just what I want. I took a few bunches of Sauv Blanc to test and was surprised to get a brix of only 16 and a PH of 2.78, WOW! We are now just starting the press cycle.

1:00Pm: Our press is half through and our first test of the overall juice came in at 20.2 brix and a PH of 3.10. I am very happy. In a few minutes I will check the PH again. Once the press juice dripping out rises to 3.2 PH I will stop the press.

1:30Pm: We are finished pressing. We actually shut off the press about 12 minutes before the hour long cycle. The fresh dripping juice had a PH of 3.2 and the brix had gone down dramatically to under 17. The total numbers came out at a brix of 19.4 and a PH of 3.12, perfect. Now we are starting to pump the juice into two 60 gallon drums and 3 kegs to settle over night at 50 degrees. 

2:00Pm: We have finished for the day but of course we still have to clean up. The juice is in the chiller and we have about 155 gallons. Tomorrow we will find out how many gallons we will have to ferment. After fermentation we hope to store the wine in two drums.......long story...... 

9:00Pm: I am still reeling as I am sure Matt is. We are exhausted but so happy we are into the Harvest. We are excited and can't wait for the next fruit!! We will survive, waiting........................but THIS is one of my great passions. It may take 3 to 4 weeks but we will be ready for the next surge........................

9:30Pm: I have to add one more thing, Matt and I will not have to wait for our winemaking! We will have to nurture this first fermentation for at least two more weeks, but probably until the next fruit comes in. We will have fun!! It is Harvest!!

11:00Pm: Yes I am still up. I have already been out two times to check on our juice. It is a great luxury as a winemaker to be able to stay by their first baby of the year. As we know most winemakers live off the winery site. I am fortunate to live here so I went out to check the temperature in our chiller. At first it was 60 degrees and then as the sun went down and the chiller had been on for several hours the temp was down to 56. We are aiming for a temp tomorrow morning of 50 so I turned the chiller down to 45 three hours ago. I am now going to navigate out in the dark again to check to make sure the temp will not go down too far and we will have to delay our fermentation. We would like the fermentation to start up soon after racking tomorrow to stop any oxidation. After turning off the chiller tomorrow morning at about 7:00Am I should be ready. We will hope for a fast start and a temperature at 55 degrees. 

Wednesday August 12, 2009

7:00Am: The temperature of the juice is down to where we want it so I just went out to turn up the chiller to 58 degrees. The temperature range will now fluctuate between 58 and 61 degrees which will be a good temperature to ferment the Still wine. The temperature outside this morning is 48 degrees much lower than the last several days. 

4:30Pm: Today was another busy day. We racked off 150 gallons of clear juice which should ultimately produce over 50 cases of sparkling wine. We added a hardy yeast and some nutrients. At first we will ferment the wine to dryness. In France this wine would be called a still wine and the blend of Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc would be called the Cuvee. I actually don't know if Sauv Blanc would be allowed as a blender in France but in California we are allowed to use any varietals to make a wine. 

The finished Cuvee will be at an alcohol of about 11%. Sometime in November we will add sugar and yeast to the still wine and crown cap it and then hope a fermentation occurs in the bottle. The wine will be aged about 9 months and we hope to bottle in July or August. I will explain in detail the process as the next steps begin. 

8:00Pm: I have to talk tonight about my favorite wine again. As some as you know by reading my diary it IS the 2008 Escuro. As I reported in a previous diary, I thought it was becoming more balanced and smooth. I have had it open for three days tonight check out my diary of August 10. The 2008 Escuro has stood up over time. It was great after 3 days open tonight, no Vac don't believe in it, of course I liked the petite sirah also. Give these 2008 wines some time unless you are like me....I love their intensity.......the 2007s are showing better. Tomorrow I will open three Block 4s or more.

Thursday August 13, 2009

I have been so rapped up with our sparkling wine that I forgot to mention that today we are bottling our 2008 Zp2C. We gave it an extra month to settle. I am impressed with the first taste I just had. Tonight instead of opening the Block 4 as planned, I will open a bottle of 2008 Zp2c and compare it to several other Zp2Cs from past vintages.

Next week we are going to be busy again because we will be bottling 2500 cases of Wine Guerrilla zinfandel from several vineyards. We produce and bottle the wine for Bruce and he sells it to retailers and distributors all over. Also don't forget our release event on the 22nd and 23rd. 

Wednesday August 19, 2009

6:00Am: The bottling for the Wine Guerrilla is into the third day. The first day found our usual problems with the labeler and filler but Matt had us up and going in little time. Yesterday we bottled 750 cases but today will be a record for us.......we are attempting to bottle a little over 1000 cases from Fred MacMurray's old ranch. When Fred passed away several years ago Gallo purchased or leased part of the large ranch and planted many acres of grapes, some rare including Tannat. The vineyard is a fascinating maze of terraced grape varietals high above the Russian River Valley. We have purchased fruit from the vineyard in the past but last year Bruce, the Wine Guerilla decided to try some of the Zinfandel. 

We are starting early but Matt and I should be able to finish about the same time as yesterday. We have been storing most of the Wine Guerrilla barrels across the way in our storage building. That has involved digging them out and moving them over to the winery. Yesterday we had to move 43 barrels over after finishing bottling at 3:30Pm. Matt and I finished setting up in the winery at about 5:00Pm. Today we should be able to bottle about 150 cases an hour so we should be done in 7 hours. Of course we still have to pump the wine in the tank at three minutes a barrel (about 2 hours) which is going on right now and then prepare for only 20 barrels tomorrow. Those 20 barrels are stacked in the winery already so all we have to do later is unstack them and put them flat on the ground. Today we are hoping to start the actual bottling at about 8:30Am. We will break for a short lunch and thus should be finished with the actual bottling before 4:00Pm and we will be ready for tomorrow by 5:00Pm, that is if nothing goes wrong!!

Late in the day yesterday I checked on the fermenting Pinot for our sparkling wine and was not surprised to see that we were down to about 2% sugar. We will do more analysis today and decide when we will have to rack. That will probably be Monday since we have our Pick-up event this weekend.

7:30Am: Matt has already racked the barrels into the tank. He was smart enough to use a Y connection which meant he could pump 2 barrels at once. We still have to finish cleaning the barrels but we now may be able to start a little earlier. Our tank holds about 40 barrels so we stopped at 37 and will bottle about 100 cases and then put the last 6 barrels into the tank

4:10Pm: We are finished. We had a few problems with the labeler again so we lost close to 30 minutes. We have to stack the empty barrels and put 15 barrels for tomorrow on the ground so we won't be finished until a little after 5pm. Overall we are happy.

Scott our new adviser for our sparkling wine is working on it right now. He is racking one of the kegs into the other containers to top them up high. We want little air on the wine so we can finish fermentation over the next few days. Monday we will turn the chiller down to 50 degrees to settle the wine and rack later that week.

Sunday August 30, 2009

Our Pinot for sparkling wine has been racked again and is now stored in a cool place until November when we will add yeast and sugar and ferment in the bottle.

I will follow up later about what really is important...our Harvest.

But first I would like you to know what I think of the Raiders. Most of you know.....if you have been here....I am a Raider fan. The Oakland Raiders, what they are called lately, have not been doing well. As a matter of fact in the last 5 years they have the worst record in NFL Football. As a fan I am upset. They look pathetic again this pre-season. For the first time I think they could lose most of their games. In other words every season before I thought they could have a winning season. I must not get too upset.....my Harvest must go on!!

Yes the harvest is close. It is so much fun for us to guess when Harvest starts. Every year we have fun betting when we will start harvesting Zinfandel. We will have little time after the Harvest starts to dwell on anything. There is nothing in my life that compares to the constant pressure of Harvest to make the right snap decisions. I need something new to talk about in my diary so if I have time I will try again as in the past to describe our Harvest in more detail. For the Harvest, not necessarily my diary, I will be more focused this year. We have our new Discrete analyzer and thus we will be able to calculate accurate sugars during fermentation. Before we had to guess with a hydrometer which is only an approximation. I hope to explain more later.

Yesterday our high temperature was 106, but more important the nighttime low was 68. As a matter of fact the low was 67 on Friday and the high was 100 on Friday and Thursday. We are back to our usual low in the low 50s this morning but those nighttime low temperatures so warm will speed up our Harvest start. Tomorrow we will take another sample and see where the Zin is at. We are supposed to be cool for the next few days but the next heat spell could yield to a start of Harvest a day later.......


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