David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 24
June 13, 1999 to June 19, 1999 

June 13, 1999

Brendan called today to remind me that he was available to work here for the next week. He is in between quarters and is gearing up for his final quarter of college, leading up to his full time employment at Coffaro Estate Vineyard. We are tardy but have wanted to post a note in the last couple of days congratulating Brendan on his official graduation from Cal Poly this past Saturday morning. Evidently, there is only one graduation ceremony a year so Brendan was eligible to participate in the ceremony even before completing his graduation requirements in August. I think I would have nightmares about that for the rest of my life. I graduated in 1967 and it took me 6-1/2 years to complete a degree in finance. As I've said before, I did switch my majors a couple of times. Even though I did graduate, I still felt I should have achieved more in a shorter period of time and thus I remember having nightmares about searching for my last class, forgetting the classroom number, and failing to take the final exam. We are really looking forward to seeing Brendan again and also looking forward to having him become a full-time employee in August. 

Steve Ryan took off  to go abalone diving again on Friday. He was also away last Saturday while Caterino and the guys were here working. So last Saturday, this Saturday, today, tomorrow and Tuesday I will have to assume Steve Ryan's job as vineyard manager. Steve and I must sit down and talk about  his obligation vs. mine as I feel I really shouldn't have to be spending so much of my time out in the vineyard organizing this 2000 vine planting. With Brendan coming to work full time in August, I'm hoping to have him concentrate full time on the many things that should be taken care of on a day-to-day basis out in our vineyard. Steve is a very busy person managing many other vineyards besides mine and I feel I need someone here all of the time to help take care of some of the fine points, such as weed control in the newly planted areas. 

Susie just came into the office and wanted us to announce to everyone that we do now have a new member of our family  - a 10-week-old male Golden Retriever puppy. We've been brainstorming a name for him for a few days now and hope to have it finalized in a day or two. Susie wants to name the dog "Cuvee," pronounced more like "Cuvie."  Susie wants Cuvie to be a house dog and even though we are reluctant, it appears that the puppy would rather be sleeping in her bed than anywhere else. He appears to have a certain amount of intelligence since he does run every time I get near him. So far, he is definitely a devoted one-person dog. 

June 15, 1999

Some of you may have wondered why we are planting 2000 new vines. I've been thinking about this for several years and do have a definite plan of what I want to do in the future. I want to produce the best grapes I can on my property. I also want to plant as many varieties so that I can blend what I want to produce the best wine I can from this property. I bought this property in 1979 and as I've said before, in 1981 I was the first one in Dry Creek Valley to put up steel stakes in the new vineyard I planted that year. In 1998, I believe I was the first one to put in vines that are spaced at 3 x 12. That means that rows are 12 feet apart, large enough to drive a truck through, but also be intensive enough to establish around 1100 vines per acre. 

I am using a method less radical but rare and probably not done in Dry Creek Valley:  a Geneva double curtain. This was first done - as far as I know - in Australia, but not as close as 3 feet apart. My feeling is that I may be able to produce more crop, with good quality, by extending these vines straight up, 5 feet high and 3 feet apart within this 12-foot wide row. As the vine grows up 5 feet, it will be split and divided out 42 inches on a cross arm - in other words, perpendicular to this row. Then the vine will be distributed out on two parallel wires to the row, connected by the next cross arm and separated by the next vine. These two wires separated by 42 inches will carry two shoots 3 feet over to the next vine, and should produce an intensive planting that could create more quality crop than normal. Many of you might know that Mondavi has attempted other intensive planting techniques, but which I have been completely leery of. I believe some of their plantings have been as close as 3 x 4 and only 2 or 3 feet high, and thus too intensive. 

I don't want to belabor the point since I could go on for another hour, but I believe that many of the new trellis systems being established within California are too low to the ground. California has much hotter temperatures than Europe. From what I have heard, Europe uses trellis systems which are closer to the ground to take advantage of the heat from the soil. They can be as close as 1-1/2 to 2 feet. What I am establishing is 5 feet off the ground. Many vineyards in Dry Creek Valley are well below 3 feet and some are as high as 4 feet. I don't know of anybody that is establishing a trellis system to carry the fruit at 5 feet above the ground. I know that Dry Creek Valley has temperatures that are 3 to 5 degrees hotter than the Healdsburg-Alexander Valley area, and as much as 10 degrees higher than the Russian River area. Also, on average, 10 degrees or more higher than European grape growing areas. I believe that I do not need the heat radiating from the soil, because we are already hot enough. By keeping the fruit 5 feet off the soil, I can also eliminate some of the problems caused by moisture such as rot. 

June 19, 1999

We know that our diary postings have been sporadic in the past few weeks, but it just seems as though we've had so much going on lately that's its been hard to concentrate on the diary. Getting the 2000 new vines planted and arranging for the 1998 wines to be bottled have been at the top of the list of priorities. But in addition to those two important and time-consuming tasks, we've also had to coordinate the efforts of our electrician, plumber and gardener in getting certain undertakings accomplished and have had numerous meetings/discussions with regard to the planning of a "vineyard storage/hospitality center" for which we just recently obtained a use permit and which further involved getting our property appraised (twice now) for a possible refinance in order to be able to construct this building. Add to this the end of the school year, with 8th grade graduation ceremonies for Kate (and attendant shopping, hairstyling etc.), her 8th grade trip to Washington, DC (more shopping) the day after, picking up Susie's puppy on the last day of school (even more shopping for accessories, dog food etc.), planning for Kate's birthday now that she's back........well, you get the picture. Our family/business has kept us more than a little busy in the last couple of weeks 

But now that the vineyard planting is nearly complete, the filler/corker has arrived in New York, the winery's new lights are operational, some new plants have been installed, the refinancing appears to be going through, the final design of the new building has been determined, Kate is back from Washington, and Susie's worked out a routine for her new puppy, it appears that *almost* everything is under control for the moment. But in case any of you are wondering why you haven't yet received a confirmation of your 1999 futures order, don't ask.  :-)   -- Pat 


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