David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 12
March 19, 2000 to March 25, 2000 

Thursday March 23, 2000 

Caterino and the guys were back to work in the vineyard for awhile today. I was very disappointed in the development of our 3 acres of young vines last year (petite sirah, cabernet, syrah, mouvedre, and zinfandel) so I instructed Steve to put out more nitrogen this year. Steve has gone to too many classes on vineyard development. He is of the school of a balanced fertilizer program. Of course that seems logical, but my practical experience in the development of my newly planted vines in 1981 and 1983, suggested that nitrogen was the most important component. 

Steve used a tractor and a fertilizer spreader earlier in the week to apply nitrogen in our old vines. I told him if our carignan doesn't respond with abundance of green growth this year, we must consider replanting in the near future. We have had to start buying fruit from our neighbors' in the last few years because of the poor production of our old vines. 

Friday March 24, 2000

I have been tasting premium wine since 1969. I started with Bordeaux and moved to California wines when we moved to this vineyard in 1979. I had heard that great Bordeaux wines tasted different in Europe compared to their long ship travel to the States. I really didn't feel that even if they had warmed up somewhat during their travel time, this could make a great deal of difference. In the last few years I have changed my mind on what the influence of temperature can have on great wine. I have stored my remaining Bordeaux at an average temperature of 63 degrees over 30 years. These wines are still tasting fine. They certainty have not gone bad. I still believe that constant temperature is very important and if you plan on drinking great wines you sure don't need to store them at 50 to 55 degrees if you plan on drinking them in the next 30 years. I have heard that if wine is kept at 45 degrees, aging might be nonexistent. 

I have changed my mind, however, to believe that even a short time variation in temperature can change a wine very substantially. Since I have the luxury of having an abundance of my wine, I can taste the same wine over and over again. My first experience with my wine stored in two different places was in 1997. We had sold 38 cases of our 1996 wines to a distributor in the Chicago market. I found out in the summer of 1997 that Sam's still had 5 cases of my 96s unsold. I bought my wine back at twice the price I had sold it for. I was very low on my stash of all my 96 
wines!! A couple of weeks later I pulled up a bottle from one of these cases of 1996 Estate Cuvee and was amazed at how well it tasted. The next week I decided to compare the traveled Sam's wine with one I had stored in my own cellar at 65 degrees for almost a year. There was a dramatic difference. The one stored in my cellar had more fruit. But don't panic!! I preferred the traveled wine because it was smoother and more balanced--much more aged. What caused this change in the wine? Temperature!! The traveled wine was exposed to a higher degree of temperature either during travel or storage in Chicago. I suspected that older wines stored over a long period of time could be different, but I was surprised that such a young concentrated wine could taste so different in such a short time. 

Recently I experienced an even more surprising tasting of three of my wines. Three different samples of my 1997 Zinfandel, stored on my property were tasted blind. Two were stored in my cellar at 65 degrees (one with supreme cork and one with Altec). The third wine had been stored at bottling in our new green storage building across from the winery. This last bottle had experienced several months of cold temperatures. At least one month under 50 degrees. Some of you may have this wine if you took possession after January 1999. You will find a small amount of sediment on the cork or more accurately some tartrate crystal formed from a certain amount of cold stabilization. This sediment is harmless. As a matter of fact we have found that the PH and total acid on all three wines were the same. To go further, many of you have tried to convince me and others that they can taste the flavor of our Altec corks in our wine. I can't. (for other reasons we are swiching to an all artificial cork called Neocork)Both the Altec sample and the Supreme sample stored in the same environment to my tastes were exactly alike. The wine stored with an Altec in our new storage building definitely seemed much younger. Obviously, storing wine at lower temperatures for even a couple of months can have a dramatic effect on the taste of the wine. Do they taste better? I don't think so. I just feel the wines stored at higher temperatures are more mature. Since we bottle our wines after only 9 to 10 months of barrel aging, I think somewhat higher temperatures (not over 68 degrees) may be of benefit. The next experiment that would be interesting would be to see if one day changes in temperatures even for a short time could change the taste of our wines. In other words, what if you transferred our wine in your trunk and the bottles reached 75 to 80 degrees for only a few hrs. If you brought that wine home unopened [maybe the people you brought the wine to, were unworthy (:-)) ], and then stored it back in the cellar for a few weeks, would it taste different? 

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