David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

arrow July 15 - July 21, 2012

Sunday July 15, 2012 

I have tasted enough of the 2011 wines to form opinions about the vintage. As far back as I can remember I can't recall a more fruit forward vintage. Every wine has more apparent fruit than the last vintages. The Grenache is wonderful if you like apparent sweetness, but there is no sugar left in this finished wine. We opened a bottle in the tasting room yesterday and sold several bottles. Similar in character are the Carignan and Pinot. The Zins this year have plenty of fresh fruit. The Petite Sirah is less tannic, much more fruit than the past. The Cabernet is similar, a little more structure than the Petite Sirah. Put the Zin, Cab, Carignan and Petite Sirah together in a blend and you have my favorite wine of the 2011 vintage and that would be Estate Cuvee, a layered complex wine already. The Block 4 is already showing great and I preferred it slightly over the 2009 Block 4 BUT the Estate Cuvee was better. The 2011 RaiZin and Zin Block 6 were similar in character, right now showing better than the My Zin. The other 2011 wines all showed more fruit than the past and the 2011 Aglianico is very astringent, the only wine of the vintage to be so intense in structure. Our open house showcasing these wines will be August 18 and 19. Come by and enjoy.

Monday July 16, 2012

Last night about 9pm I was waiting in the office while my coffee beans were roasting to 2nd crack so I thought I would report I was bare foot again. As I have said I usually walk out to get more espresso about 9 and it is faster to get there with no shoes. Usually I have no issues just a jab or two from something on the ground. Well, that has changed last week. Remember we get no rain around here in these next 2 months and most of the time there is no rain in September SO nothing to wash away the debris left over from our bottling. Evidently many small particles off wine boxes, forklifts, trees, etc. are all over the place. Most of these little sharp things are near the office door so it is an adventure to navigate to the winery 50 feet away. We keep the winery clean but the wind moves these particles around outside. I will ask Catarino to wash away all debris from the outside of the winery and tonight I should have less trouble. 

Wednesday July 18, 2012

8:30 Pm:

There is a rain delay in the giant game so I have some time.

So far there has been a lot of developments with the County, my addition project. More may happen so this will have to wait until tomorrow....

Tomorrow....Matt and Cindi have arranged and are hosting an industry party so Pat and I will have fun.

Too much happened this week...tomorrow is another day.....

Saturday July 21, 2012

Sonoma County I still an adventure. It seems the principals involved do not understand what is going on. I don't mean just the County employees, I mean all the people who hear what I have to say. My architect is confused....my contractors (3 possible) are confused...my previous designer is confused....my web designer is confused and my relatives and friends are confused. I seems like I am the only one who understands all.

I don't want to explain again the problems with the new addition which was started back in 2009 and has been on hold for 2 years so I have copied below a history of the buildings constructed on this property since I started the winery back in 1994. My latest plans are to ask for an electrical inspection next week. That is the inspection that was halted 2 years ago because I was told I did not have a permit to store wine across the way. I explain more below but I don't expect any of you to understand all of it because like I said no around me does. If the inspection is denied again because I must have wheelchair access planned and installed first OR I have to have a 2 hour firebreak put in to protect the upstairs....I may just give up and go ahead with my right to store wine. This last week it was confirmed: I do have a USE permit to legally store wine in any of the buildings below the guest house across the way. Any code requirements is another matter and that is what I am trying to clear up with no results. There is a hardship form to fill out and I will present it to the county next week. It states if the project cost is less than $136,000 I would only have to spend 20% of the cost on ADA upgrades. I estimate the total project in the end will cost $100,000 and 20%would be $20,000. The handicap parking place and Rest Room would cost at least that much. BUT they still probably would require another layer of sheetrock OR sprinklers.

Here is a history of the buildings on the property and some of what I would present at a County meeting..........

First a few definitions:

“1992 Building” This refers to the existing building here prior to the use permit application in 1995.

“1996 Building” This refers to my main metal winery facility.

“2002 Building” This refers to the two story building finished in 2002.

“2012 Building” This refers to the addition partly finished.


In 1994 I started David Coffaro Winery and got bonded with the ATF. I started making 400 cases in my garage. In 1995 I wanted to start selling directly to the public so I asked for a USE permit to construct a simple metal building, “1996 Building”. I had a great deal of problems dealing with Sonoma County. The State of California and the ATF were very accommodating. After resolving several issues with Sonoma County, it came down to one last issue and this problem existed for months. If I remember right it was about the Scenic Corridor. One agency wanted me to plant trees to cut off noise because the “1996 building” would be too close to the road they would not come out and take a look). Another agency wanted me to cut down trees because they were too close to the road. Obviously the two agencies were not communicating with each other because I already had a large row of pine trees, 700 feet along my property. Finally after getting nowhere for months, a friend suggested I call my supervisor. He came out to take a look and decided it was not necessary to cut down all the trees. He called a meeting at the planning commission and got up to speak and my winery building was approved in less than 5 minutes. I received a permit to produce 8,000 cases. This year we hope to produce 4,000 to 5,000 cases. This total has not changed for over 10 years.

I have no plans to expand. In 1998 I decided I needed another building, “2002 building“, because I did not want to store wine off the property. I obtained another USE permit and started on plans. I found out I could construct a two story structure with the upstairs being an area used for marketing and promotional activities for non paying guests so I decided to present plans. To this day I have regretted the decision to construct the upstairs. It is never used by any customer and we have no distributors so it sits idle except for an occasional family member who helps at events, about three times a year for a total of 10 days in the whole year.

Again like the “1996 Building”, I had a great deal of trouble getting the project through Sonoma County. One person wanted me to construct a commercial kitchen but it was a residence. I could not have a commercial kitchen so that took many months to resolve. I remember being told once after complaining to my contractor, that someone had told him “If he wants to construct this upstairs he will have to jump through all the hoops just like big wineries”. It took about two years with many similar problems like the one about the trees, but in 2001 it was finished.

There was an existing building, “1992 Building” alongside this larger two story structure which had been used to store wine for 15 years. I certainly was not hiding the fact. I thought I had the right. In 2003 I realized I needed to store wine in the larger storage area under the guest area. I did not think that would be a problem. I thought I had the right. After that for 7 years I stored wine in the”2002 Building” right in the open with no problems. I even had employees of Sonoma County come by for tasting so I was not hiding anything. I thought it was accepted.

In 2008 I was approached by a friend who wanted me to custom crush 1000 cases for him. I did so but realized if he was to continue to custom crush here I needed another small addition to store my equipment, like empty barrels and vineyard equipment. I was told by everyone I knew to just do it and not contact the County of Sonoma. I said I had nothing to hide and I wanted to do the right thing so I asked for an Agricultural building and was told they do not do those anymore. So we decided to ask for a commercial addition like the main building where I had been storing the equipment and wine. We were denied after also presenting detailed plans to construct a handicap restroom with a very extensive ramp alongside the “2002 building”. After many months we found out we could only construct a residential garage so I went ahead because I figured this would work to store my equipment.

The “2012 building” started in 2010. The inspector who came out was very grumpy but we dealt with him OK. When we were finally ready to close in, after all the electrical was done, this guy came out and saw that we were packing up some wine stored in the “1992 building” not associated with the project. At that time I had been storing wine in the “1992 Building since 1996 right in the open, 15 years without anyone questioning it. Shouldn’t there be some grandfather rule? He immediately said we could not have wine in that building. I was shocked. Again I have never hid anything. The “1992 Building” was not part of the project.

Since then, 23 months ago, Sonoma County has done everything to make it impossible for me to finish this project. Construction wise, the cost to do what they want would be in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. It would also involve my losing a great deal of my business and cost considerably more. I will explain:

We store wine on the property because we sell directly to the public. As I said we have no distributor nor do we sell to retailers. We sell mostly “Futures” at wholesale prices. We make over 20 different wines. Customers may pick up their wine (already paid for on “Futures”) any day of the week. We also have permits in other states to ship directly to our customers so we need to have access to all the 20+ wines and past vintages. We store them on pallets as little as 20 cases. That means we need an area to store at least 50 pallets flat on the ground in order to get to the wine. Like I said we only produce 4,000 cases so on average we produce less than 200 cases of each wine and extra cases are stacked up high in one of the storage areas. Installing sprinklers would limit the height and we would not be able to stack as much wine. Installing sprinklers and or new sheetrock would require us to remove all the wine. I have found no facility that would allow me to store wine in this way and to keep it at the right temperature. If I had to move all this wine to another facility I would have to hire someone full time to hand wine out to my customers off the premises. Customers would not be purchasing more wine because they would not be able to taste. The only solution I can think of is to move wine outside in the winter months, one section at a time to construct the 2 hour firebreak, sprinklers or sheetrock. Of course that would still involve a loss of business and be very complicated.

I am asking for a compromise.

I want to construct a handicap spot over by the “2002 Building”. I don’t think I should be required to give wheelchair access inside the “2002 building”. This modification inside would cost me more than the whole “2012 addition”. Also the building is always locked and is not allowed access by the public. Employees occasionally have access for work related duties. The job description for these employees would not allow wheelchair employment. Most work is heavy lifting, forklift work and vineyard work, none of which could be done on a wheel chair. If an employee was unable to do the job, the person would be on disability until able to return to work.

The upstairs residence is rarely used and only by family members. Do you really think wine will catch on fire? All of these storage areas below the upstairs building will have no winemaking activities. Only lights are used so no hazardous electrical activities.

I am willing to have wheelchair access to the “2012 building” but I don’t know why it would be necessary regarding the work requirements of employees mentioned above. Also, my plans are no longer to store custom crushing barrels in this new addition.

In closing, I have already spent way too much on this project. It was supposed to be simple. The “2012 Building” has been incomplete for two years now and thus exposed to the elements. Over the last few years we have presented three sets of plans to Sonoma County. I have had engineers, architects and contractors. I was hoping for this small addition “2012 building” to cost $50,000 and I am way above that and have no hopes insight for a finished building.


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