|January 11, 1999
Today I received the results on the last five wines that were sent to Vinquiry for analysis. These results are even more surprising than the last ones. It makes me wonder how accurate these resuls are. The dry Sauvignon Blanc showed an alcohol of 14.42. Don't ask me how that could happen. The pH is 3.33; the TA .622; free SO2 was 7, so I added some SO2 to bring it up to approximately 20 ppm today. The Aca Modot turned in at 14.32 alcohol, a pH of 3.65, TA of .642, free SO2 of 18 ppm. The Pinot Noir results were the most surprising. The carbonic Pinot had an alcohol of 13.86, which was about what I suspected, a pH of 3.64. The cold soak Pinot had an alcohol of 14.1 and a pH of 3.60. The hot fermentation Pinot was the most surprising, with an alcohol of 14.66 and a pH of 3.48. All the wines had very little sugar and malic acid left in them, which was good. What surprises me about all the results was that the alcohols were all so high compared to the results of three days ago. You must understand that I know what the sugar readings were at harvest, and if I had to compare the wines from three days ago with the wine alcohol results of today, the alcohols should be more similar. I do have analysis equipment for alcohol and pH, and although it isn't as sophisticated as Vinquiry's, I hope in the next few days to spend some time analyzing these wines for myself. I did check the sugar readings on each bin of Pinot Noir that came in at 45 degrees when picked back in October. They were all the same. If the alcohol readings on the Pinot Noir are correct, that would obviously conclude that a hot fermentation would create more alcohol than a cold fermentation. I will have to confer with my Davis-educated winemaker friends, but if I remember right, it should be the opposite.
January 12, 1999
A few customers have commented on my desire to produce half bottles, so I thought tonight I would elaborate more on that subject. To be honest, I've never opened up the same wine in different sized bottles at the same time. So I really have no practical experience whether I would prefer a magnum over a 750 or 375 ml bottle of the same wine. I can only relate it to an experience I had in the early 1970's. There were many half bottles of Bordeaux wines available at that time. So it was fun to buy several different bottles and taste them to decide on which Chateaux I liked. In 1972, I bought a case of 1964 Petrus (a fabulous year for Petrus) - 24 half bottles, for $240. I drank one bottle a year for 17 years (This was before I started the David Coffaro Wine Diet I mentioned a few days ago.). I did not see any difference in the wine over that entire 17-year period. The wines were stored between 60 and 70 degrees. Petrus obviously is a wine that lasts for a long time. It is also, I believe, 100 percent Merlot. I found very little complexity in the wine, although a very concentrated flavor. I thought "if this is the essence of Merlot, I am not a big fan of that grape". I then sold the remaining 7 half bottles for $500. If you could find those half bottles now, I'm sure they would be several hundred dollars a piece, if not more. What would it taste like now I wonder? I have been told a 750 ml bottle, or especially a magnum, would age better than these half bottles. I have grown to appreciate the fruit in the wines that are produced from my vineyard. I really like the fact that they do change dramatically within a few years. What I did not like about the half bottles of Petrus was that they did not change much over 17 years. That convinced me that I may not be a lover of magnums.
January 14, 1999
Most of my day was spent working on income taxes. I know, most of you think taxes aren't due until April 15th. I used to think that also, but as of last year I learned that I now have to pay taxes like most of you. As a starving grape grower and also with starting a new family, we have had to pay very little in the way of taxes in the last ten years. The first fiew years in the winery business also found us paying little but also losing money and becoming deeper in debt. Therefore, the reason I'm working on taxes this week is that I may have to re-calculate my estimated, which is due tomorrow. I quit about 5 o'clock today after Turbo Tax flashed on my screen "It appears that you may have a penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes applicable for 1998. This version of our program does not contain the form 2210 or the form 2210-F necessary to calculate your underpayment penalty." Since this is the home and proprietor's version, which cost me $70 - as opposed to some versions which are as low as $8 - and it did not have the form I needed, I decided it was time to retire to the kitchen and start my Coffaro Wine Diet for tonight.
Two groups of customers came through for a visit today and I greeted them gladly (a welcomed diversion from taxes). Also, I felt I should take a break from taxes to start working on the 1998 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. I spent two hours of the day racking, adding SO2, and adding Bentonite(sp?) to the wine. To explain a little about racking this small lot of wine, I took a half-inch clear plastic hose, stuck one end inside a 5-gallon carboy full of the late harvest wine (which was rasied to about 5 feet off the floor), sucked the other end of the hose (which caused the wine to start flowing freely), and then *quickly* put the hose into another empty carboy located on the floor. Within a few minutes, gravity caused all the liquid to transfer from one carboy to the other. In the middle of the transfer, I added 100 ppm of sulfite solution (the SO2) in hopes that it may stop the fermentation. After transferring all five carboys of wine, I added the Bentonite (a solution of clay and water). The Bentonite is heavier than the wine and therefore it removes some of the yeast cells from the fermenting wine. This wine started at 31 percent sugar, and if I cannot stop the fermentation, it will ferment to at least 16 percent alcohol. I felt within the last few days that it had started tasting very interesting (like grapefruit), was still at around 16 percent residual sugar - thus probably around 8 percent alcohol - and time to try to stop fermentation. I then tried adding a little of this fermenting wine to the 1997 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, and it made a nice blend. As many of you know, I have to sterile filter the remaining 1997 late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, and it appears that I will most likely have to sterile filter this 1998 Sauvignon Blanc, also. Sterile filtering will remove all the active yeast cells and stop further fermentation.
January 15, 1999
As some of you know, my life is an open book. I have nothing to hide. After spending all day doing my taxes, it appears that we will have to make additional tax contributions this next year. One way to help alleviate the sting of taxes is to start a retirement fund. I think that could be a problem for us since we will still have the winery and could continue to earn income even after we retire.
Also, a few of you know that my previous passion - before buying a vineyard in 1979 - was to invest in the stock market. Yes, I did spend all my day on the phone or in San Francisco watching the stock tape. There was no Internet or software programs to help us out at that time. Just at the time when I thought I had mastered the stock market, Richard Nixon decided to resign. My whole life was locked up in the stock market. (This was before Pat came along.) I was a passionate Kennedy supporter before he was assasintated and I remembered that the stock market had gone up during his tenure. So when the stock market went down after Nixon resigned, I almost blamed the Republicans for my ensuing struggle. Of course, that wasn't realistic and I did really respect Nixon for his intelligence in economic matters, but I remembered that and when I thought I had found the next president who understood economics, I gladly voted for Clinton. I also voted for him the next time because I thought I was right when the stock market continued to go up. I still feel to this day that a president who undertands economics can fuel the stock market. Now, I understand many of you will say that Clinton came at the right time because we are experiencing a new revolution including digital and the Internet. Sure, I think Clinton (or any perceptive president) understands we must take advantage of this opportunity. This long preface leads me into my own personal revelation today - I think it is time for me to invest in the stock market again. I am a risk taker but I am also conservative when I change my habits. Let's put it this way - I'm "thinking" about investing, but as a past professional who devoted my whole day to investing in small companies in the over-the-counter market - now referred to as NASDAQ - I will be cautious since my real passion now is winemaking and I don't have the necessary time to spend on making and pursuing investments. But if I do invest in the stock market again, it will be in digital or Internet-related stocks.