David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 19
May 9, 1999 to May 15, 1999 

May 11, 1999

Steve and Kyle came by today for their first visit here. They have a retail store and were one of the first few to sell my 1994 wines. I feel an obvious loyalty to them and would like to continue to sell them wines. As I've done in the past, I really want to be fair to everyone. I sell wine before it's even made to give the opportunity to customers who have faith in me to buy wine at the same prices that I will sell to my distributor. As some of you know, most of the U.S. is run in a 3-tier or even 4-tier system. That means that a producer, as I am, will sell to a distributor and the distributor will mark it up one-third and pass it on to a retailer, and by the time it gets to the public, the suggested retail price will be twice as much as what I originally sold it for. So that is why I am selling my 1999 wines at $12 a bottle to give my customers an opportunity to buy the wine at half the eventual retail price of approximately $24 a bottle. That brings me back to Steve and Kyle, who would like to continue to buy wine from me and I would also like to give them an opportunity to purchase at these prices. I understand that retailers are businessmen the same as me and have overhead and expenses as I do. And therefore they should be able to purchase wine at reasonable prices and mark it up to make a reasonable profit. I am considering selling to Steve and Kyle directly, which would eliminate one of the three tiers. 

May 12, 1999

Caterino came back to work today. Some of you who have followed the diary for a while are familiar with Caterino, who is Steve Ryan's right-hand man. I should re-phrase it - Steve Ryan is my vineyard manager and Caterino is his foreman. Since Steve had other matters to contend with today, Caterino dragged me out into the vineyard to show me what had to be done. As I have said before, for 15 years I did all the work myself out in the vineyard. So one person for 4 hours a day for 12 months a year could actually perform all the work that is needed in a 20-acre vineyard. Four hours a day is a very key phrase. It was rare that I spent more than six hours working in the vineyard, especially during the summertime when the temperature could be 90 to over 100 degrees during the day. Caterino and his co-workers are some of those rare individuals who cherish being out in the vineyard. They really do have a passion for the work. Now, I have not really asked Caterino specifically whether that passion can be the salary that he receives. He did tell me today that the his two co-workers would like to work 10 hours a day now instead of 8. So starting tomorrow, they will be coming at 6:00 in the morning and working until 4:30. 

Caterino immediately confronted me by asking whether I wanted to get into his truck or my truck to ride out into the vineyard. :-)  I gave him a big smile and said, "I need the exercise, Caterino, let's take a walk." What is interesting about walking out in the vineyard and back to the house, is that you actually cover a mile of territory and it feels good to walk through most of the vineyard and see what is happening. As I've said before, I do miss being out in the vineyard but I do enjoy making the wine and understand that this is my new passion in my life. But unfortunately, my concerns about the Zinfandel crop are even more founded today. At this stage, it appears that the Zinfandel crop could be even less than 1996. I sure I hope I am wrong because 1996 produced a crop one-third of normal. It appeared that the Carignan and Petite Sirah vines could produce at least a normal crop this year. I did not really pay attention to the Cabernet for Aca Modot, but the Cabernet Franc and Malbec appeared to have a decent crop. The young vines in the Barbera looked extremely healthy and should produce well over a barrel this year. The Cabernet in the "bottom" which is used in the Zinfandel and Estate Cuvee seemed to have a good crop also. I was encouraged that the new budded vines of Carignan and the spicy floral clone of Petite Sirah that I may have mentioned before appeared to have a very vigorous crop and could produce a few barrels. So at this stage, the Zinfandel is the big concern and of course, that is the wine that everybody seems to want in Dry Creek valley. I've talked briefly to a couple of other growers and I will talk to some others again tomorrow at a meeting I'm attending to see if my concerns are also the concerns of other growers of Zinfandel in Dry Creek valley. 

May 14, 1999

We had several visitors today. Among them were old (in the sense of "former") customers, Mark and Marsha Koransky. We hadn't seen or heard from them in over a year and we were beginning to wonder if they had a bad bottle of Coffaro wine. But, alas, we discovered that a big change had occurred. They are expecting their first child! So they called us and decided to visit the winery today for two reasons:  (1) Marsha's due date was yesterday and they had an extra day to do whatever they pleased, and (2) we are the only winery they knew of selling '99 wine :-) that they could buy now to commemorate the birth of their baby. 

They spent a couple of hours here sharing their excitement with us and some of our other visitors, including Jim and Crystal Berg of Wisconsin, back in the valley again to participate in the Wine & Food Affair event being held this weekend, and another couple that the Bergs had met in the valley and referred to our winery as well (word of mouth really is a great thing). At the end of their visit, Mark and Marsha promised to keep us and their new acquaintances posted on the delivery of  their baby (Mark is a doctor and so they weren't too concerned about being away from the hospital today), and we promised to post the news on our diary. 

It must be the season for babies, as we can recall talking to at least three customers recently who just had or were imminently expecting babies. So anyone with new children in your lives, please let us know so that we can build a '99 futures list of potential wine drinkers for the next generation! 

May 15, 1999

I did a walk through of the vineyard again yesterday and hope to do a more thorough one this morning. Again, I am concerned about the lack of potential Zinfandel crop. I realize it is early and a few dormant shoots may come out and yield some fruit, but it appears that the fruit set could be one of the lowest I've seen. The other problem is we could see some weather that might hinder the bloom stage, which should occur in the next couple of weeks. That could further lighten the crop. I also hope today to re-figure the potential case production of each wine I will be making this year. I could purchase more grapes than I had anticipated this year, but at this stage I would rather not buy additional Zinfandel grapes. 

Yesterday Pat and I found a couple of hours to tabulate the orders we have received in the last ten days. It appears that we have sold more wine than we had expected. As close as we can determine right now, we have sold approximately 930 cases of the 1999 vintage. 260 cases of that total is Zinfandel. A few days ago, we sent out 450 order forms through a postal mailing to cutomers that we suspected had not found our forms on the Internet. These were only customers who had purchased 1998 futures. We suspect a great many of these people may order from us also in the next few days. Tomorrow we will change the offer form on our web site to restrict the sales of 1999 futures to a 3 bottle limit on each varietal. Any of you reading this will obviously be able to copy the form and mail, fax or email your order today, and I encourage that because I hate limits. Anyone wishing to buy more than 3 bottles of any of the 1999 wines after today should contact us before placing an order. 


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