David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 17 - 18
April 24, 2005 to May 14, 2005 


Monday May 2, 2005
 
Tomorrow is my birthday so I am gearing up for a big week of food and wine. Tonight Pat and I, along with two friends in town from Santa Fe, will have dinner at Cyrus in Healdsburg. We were there four weeks ago and I thought by far it was the best restaurant in Sonoma County. Tomorrow we will be attending Mirepoix in Windsor http://www.restaurantmirepoix.com/. Cyrus is not open Tuesday, but Mirepoix could be as good. Pat says she is not going out to dinner three nights in a row, so since it is Brendan's birthday Saturday, on Wednesday I have decided to invite a few guys to wander over to K&L Bistro in Sebastopol. Along with Brendan and I, I have invited Brendan's Father Dan, Steve, and my best friend Mich. Since K&L is 40 miles from here I have been concerned about driving back to my house here at the winery. Then Mich suggested to invite his wife Jeannine. Jeannine is pregnant so she is the perfect designated driver. Even though I intended it to be the guys night out, I will make an exception.

Thursday had been an open day, but some friends are in from Wisconsin. They have invited Pat and I out to a restaurant of our choice. Boy, I don't know where I would suggest. On Friday Pat and I head off to San Francisco to spend the night at The St Francis. We will have dinner with Mich and Jeannine at Michael Mina which is conveniently situated in the hotel. Saturday will be with my Mother down in Milbrae and Sunday I will be back home to have pizza. Monday May 9 will be back to normal, what ever that is.

The weather has been variable so we are behind normal. There are showers forecasted later this week so I don't see us catching up in the near future. Last year we were 3 weeks ahead of normal and this year we are at least two weeks behind normal. The vines are growing, but we are several weeks from bloom. The crop level still looks to be normal so I don't see any need to worry about getting the fruit ripe.

The Project in Healdsburg is coming along slowly. The owners are anticipating an opening toward the end of the month, but Pat and I will believe it when it happens. I am still not at liberty to say anything more. I will say that our wine prices will go up on June first. Not necessarily because of the new retail store, but because all are costs are rising dramatically and all my competitors are selling wine at much higher prices than we are. Except for Pedroncelli (Check them out), everyone in the valley is charging $25 or much more for Dry Creek Zinfandel. I have even seen a Dry Creek Zinfandel priced at $45 and another at $60 on Futures. Be assured I will not be charging anything near those prices. Right now we are charging $22 and are offering big discounts on multiple bottles. We are planning to raise prices to $25 and then offer extra discounts to "Futures Club" customers.

Yes, I have definitely decided to start a "Futures Club". Pat and I have not finalized all the details, but I can say that everyone who purchases two cases or more of wine from March 29 until May 31 will be entitled to extra discounts for a year. I will have more details soon since I want to give everyone the opportunity to participate. 

10:00 Pm:

There used to be an understanding among restaurants and local winemakers regarding corkage. Corkage is charged for wines that are brought in by patrons to restaurants. High end restaurants make most of their money on the markup on the wine they sell. We winemakers sell the wine to them and they mark it up by as much as 3 times. That is why you can buy a wine for $20 at a retailer and you see it at $40 or more at a restaurant. The winery sells the wine to both retailers ( The restaurant and retail store) for about $14. We understand that and accept it. Most if not all the local restaurants around here do not charge corkage for winemakers. The Dry Creek Kitchen, Santi and many other local restaurants don't even charge corkage for anyone who brings in a Sonoma County wine. Most restaurants in any area don't charge corkage if you buy a wine from their list. We found out tonight that the policy at Cyrus Restaurant in Sonoma County differs from many of the local restaurants in the area. 

We had a nice meal again at Cyrus. As expected after ordering similar things as last time the dishes did not have as much impact as the first time we were there only four weeks ago. I brought in one of my wines and my friend brought in one of his. We also ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc at $48 and a bottle of Flowers Pinot at $96. The bill before tip was $506 for 4 of us. I noticed that I was charged $50 for corkage which did not surprise me at such a restaurant, so I put a note on the bill suggesting that they do not charge corkage for a winemakers wine especially when they have spent $150 on two other wines. The waitress was amazed at the note and called over the manager who started to badger me. I know I had a few glasses of wine, but since I was the driver I had controlled myself somewhat. This guy said he had to charge me this $25 because that is how they made their money and then he really upset me by telling me that I should come back on Wednesday when corkage was free. I took it as if I was not welcome on my birthday because it was a Monday. 

I can't remember everything, but things got ugly after that. He did not back down and neither did I. I questioned whether he wanted locals and he insisted that he had to charge for corkage. I said I would deduct the corkage from my tip. He said I was punishing the waitress. We had more heated exchanges and I said I would not leave a tip. I did not leave a tip. I would have rather not paid the bill. I will stop off tomorrow to give the waitress $100 in cash. Pat thinks I am wrong and she may not go with me tomorrow to Mirepoix. I can understand her wish to have no confrontations so I will leave it at that. I can only state the facts. I wanted to make a point. 

I feel the customer is always right. So many times, even if we think the customer is wrong, Pat and I have backed down and been fair in the charging of our wine. This restaurant is obviously catering to people out of the area and I am sure they will be successful since they have good food, but they will not have my business again and I will not recommend them to any of my customers. I do not need to be chastised at my dinner table.

Sunday May 8, 2005

Yes, I did drop off a $100 check to my waitress Monday night at Cyrus restaurant.

The weather has remained cold and it's raining here today. But the good news is that after Tuesday there is no rain in sight. We need heat!!

Wednesday May 11, 2005

I have spent many hours trying to come up with a plan for my new Futures Club and I think I have a possibility. I have not mentioned it to Pat yet, but I will before I send this off. My main goal is to offer discounts to our loyal customers. As I have said before we must raise our prices. There are three reasons: 1) Our costs have gone up over the past several years and the prices for our wines have remained relatively stable. We sold pre-harvest futures in 2000 for $12.50 per bottle and after bottling we sold the 2000 vintage for $22. In 2001 we sold futures for $13 per bottle and bottled wine for $20.  For the 2002 vintage we sold pre-harvest futures at $13.25 and bottled wine for $20. In 2003 we went back down to $12.50 and for 2004 remained the same. We have gone to $22 for 2003 bottled wine, but are offering big discounts off those prices.

2) During these years prices for everything we use in our product have gone up dramatically. Adding well over a dollar to the cost of the wine. I still think I am making enough money to live comfortably so I want to keep my prices down for my loyal customers.

3) This third reason is harder for me to justify. It concerns my image and thus marketing which I despise but know it is a fact of doing business. Over the past many years there have been at least 10 wineries starting up in Dry Creek Valley who have garnered a reputation for producing premium wine. These competitors have attracted customers and wine writers because they are charging much higher prices than I. I know my wine is similar to theirs in quality, but I am not recognized as a high end winery, because I am not competing with them by charging high prices. Sure I could produce a "Reserve" and charge a higher price, but I hate that word and it usually means the wine has been aged too long in oak and has lost a great deal of its fruit. I like my style and I will not substantially change what I am doing. I will only get better. I will put any of my older wines up against my competitors. My wines age well.

In Dry Creek Valley some of the zin producers are charging around $30 for bottled Dry Creek Zin. I know there are exceptions like Pedroncelli (All under $20) and Unti is $22, Mill Creek is $25, Fritz and Wilson are $25. Even Preston is $25. Some of the others are selling one Zin under $30 and other zins $30 or higher. I hear Dutcher crossing is charging $45 and Armida is charging $60 for a zin on futures. None are selling 2003 wines as we are, except Preston. We are charging $22 and are thinking of raising to $25 or more. The Neighbors' Cuvee is going for $18 now. We were thinking of raising it to $22, but may decide on $20.

I have had a problem regarding the perception of wine sold under $20. I will never be conceived as a high end winery unless I dramatically raise my bottled prices. I don't want to, but to keep up with Bella, Talty, Mauritson and Dutcher Crossing among others, I have to start charging more for my bottled wines. I can still sell my "Futures" initially for low prices. Very few of these wineries sell futures, especially at low prices and none of them will allow you to mix and match a case.

Coffaro Futures Club Ok here it goes!! As all clubs this Futures Club will be voluntary. You will be able to drop out at any time. Here are the requirements:

1) A minimum order of two cases of pre-harvest futures will be required. You will have up until August 31 to place your order. Anyone choosing to join this year up until May 31, 2005 will lock in an initial price next year of $13 per bottle on most wines, the same as this year. 

2) 

I have to stop here since I have not finalized everything. I promise we will have it done by Friday. I will promise all of my past customers will be IN.

Friday May 13, 2005

First of all you can now see the new website of Plaza Farms.We are not opening in town Memorial day weekend. The opening will most likely be in the middle of June. Click on the link at the bottom of the page and learn more about the participants. Keep an eye on the site for more information.

Ok here is the almost final, final Futures club facts. I've done a lot of thinking in the last two days concerning our "Futures Club". I have changed the first prerequisite to include all "Futures", not just Pre-Harvest so I will start over:

1) A minimum order of two cases of futures will be required and can be purchased at any time during the calendar year. 

2) The two case "Futures" purchase will entitle you to receive a $2.00 discount on any "Futures" for 12 Months from the date of purchase. If you choose to purchase pre-harvest futures, that order may be placed up until May 31 of the harvest year even if two cases of "futures" were bought over a year ago, but during the last calendar year.

3) The two case "Futures" purchase will also entitle you to 30% discount on any amount of bottled wine for 12 Months from the date of the last "Futures" purchase. The exception to this rule: The discount on bottled wine will apply if two cases of Pre-harvest futures are bought before May 31. 

I know this seems complicated so here are a few examples so I may clarify:

Example One: Joe purchases two cases of 2005 pre-harvest futures on March 31, 2005.  Joe purchases 2006 pre-harvest futures on May 15, 2006. He receives $2 off his 2006 order even if he buys only one case since he purchased two cases last year and he buys in 2006 before May 31. 

Example Two: Joe purchases two cases of 2005 pre-harvest futures on March 31, 2005. Joe buys one case of 2004 futures in June just before bottling for $2 less than the stated price. Joe adds one case to his 2005's on December 15, 2005 at a $2 discount from the stated price at that time. Joe now has until December 15 2006 to purchase any wine at the club discounts.

Example Three: Joe purchases two cases of 2005 pre-harvest futures on March 31, 2005. On December 15, 2005 Joe purchases 6 bottles of 2003 wine at the club 30% discount. On May 15, 2006 Joe purchases his two cases of 2006 pre-harvest futures and 2 bottles of 2004 bottled wine. Joe does receive the 30% Club discount on the bottled wine, because he meets the May 31 deadline.

So what do you think?? I would like to have as much input as possible. Do you see some flaws, except that the club is not benefiting me much? Here is what we are thinking regarding prices as of June 1, 2005. Our remaining 2002 wines will be sold at "Plaza Farms" at much higher prices (but will be available at 30% off to club members). Also our 2003 wines will go up in price, more in line with our competitors (Of course club members will receive the discount). We will go up by $2 on all of the 2005 pre-harvest futures. We will raise our prices on our 2004 futures by $2 (Again the $2 discount to club members will make the prices, the same as today). We have stopped selling many of our 2004 futures already and will drop a few more on June1st. We bottle from July 6 until the 15th. After that our prices on most of the 2004 wines will go to $25 ($17.50 to club members). Any of you who have bought atleast 2 cases of wine from us over the last year will automatically be in the "Futures Club". You do not have to buy anything, but you can remain in the club as long as the rules are met each year. Most of next years 2006 pre-harvest futures wines will be priced at $15, but of course $2 will be deducted for club members. 

I look forward to your e-mails or phone calls.

`
Dave 

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