David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 33 - 36
August 21, 2005 to September 17, 2005 

  Tuesday August 30, 2005

Not much has been happening here. We had our first pickup party last weekend. Sales were just fine and we had pork ribs and beans. Pat has been back for a week so we are catching up with shipping and preparing for Harvest. We are certainly within two weeks of harvesting Zinfandel and Pinot. If we have another spell of temperatures into the 100s, we could harvest by the beginning of next week.

We are actively searching for a replacement for our stall at Plaza Farms. Our sales there have been dismal. Phil Staley is doing fine, but he is there quite often. When the owner is there sales pick up, but our sales are going too well here at the winery to spend time down town where sales will never be as good as here.

5:00pm: We have taken a few sugar tests today. One was from a new vineyard near Lytton Springs. There is only a small section that could be ripe. The main part of the vineyard is about 19 brix which means it needs a few more weeks. A very small vineyard in Cloverdale was about 20 brix. I had Catarino pick two bunches from out 3rd Block. To our surprise the bunches came in at over 25 brix. The PH was 3.17 which means we would have to wait to harvest. I will have him pick a full bucket tomorrow and check the acid again. We are looking for about 24 brix at harvest because by the next morning shriveled bunches will swell to 25% sugar. I'd like a Ph of no less than 3.3. Remember this is a reverse scale. Lemon is in the 2 ph range while water is about 7. Wine at bottling can be anywhere from 3.5 to 4 ph. I like acid so we aim for about 3.6. After malo lactic convergence, ph's usually go up by 0.2. So a Ph at harvest of 3.4 could yield a 3.6 reading at bottling. I'll have more results tomorrow.

Wednesday August 31, 2005

Things do change fast in the Wine Country when Harvest is upon us. We will be harvesting some of our old vine Zinfandel Friday. We will also harvest about 500 lbs of zinfandel from the Lytton Springs Vineyard. We could even have Pinot. 

Catarino picked about 30 bunches this morning from our 3rd Block of old vine Zinfandel. I crushed by hand every bunch and tested them individually. The lowest reading came in at about 22 brix. Most were about 26 brix. The hole sample was about 25.5 and a PH of about 3.25. The juice is tart, but we should have good flavors by the time we pick most of it next week. On Friday we will pick about 4 tons and see what happens. The first trailer load will be in the stemmer by 8:30AM. If I don't like the taste or numbers, I can always stop picking at about two tons. There is nothing more exciting than crush!! 

5:30pm: I just checked a sample of Pinot and the sugar was 23.2. The Ph is 3.5 so we will probably pick Monday or Tuesday.

Friday September 2, 2005

The first day of harvest is always an adventure. This year is no exception. First of all I had many people stop by. Most were in the wine business ready to talk about the harvest and other matters. That is distracting, but I had to talk to all of them for one reason or another and everyone was important.

I woke up at 5am, but got back to sleep briefly until 6am. Catarino and his 4 helpers showed up at about 6:30am, so I headed out to the vineyard to make sure they knew where to start picking the 3rd block of old vine zinfandel. We did see several bunches with red berries, but the crop was heavy. By 10am we had the first ton stemmed and the initial reading came in at about 23.5 brix. There were some raisins so I suspect that would swell up to a little over 24 % sugar. That would make about 14% alcohol. I am looking for 14.5 to 15%. Catarino and I decided to send the pickers to the South side of Block 3 where we suspected the fruit would be a little ripper, because there was less crop. I also told him to stop picking after finishing the three bins on the trailer. That would give us about three tons for the day and leave still 12 tons to pick. 

We were right and the last two bins came in at well over 24 brix. Also one bin from the North section also was over 24%. In the mean time 700 lbs of fruit was picked from the Lytton Springs vineyard. That sugar has an initial reading at well over 25 brix. So in all we have one ton with the Lytton Springs fruit and topped off with the lowest sugar. The other two fermenters containing all Estate grapes should swell up to well over 24 brix. The harvest today should yield a little over 6 barrels or about 150 cases at bottling. Now it is time to drink some sparkling wine. 

Monday we will have our Russian River Pinot delivered and Wednesday we will probably start picking the rest of our old vine zin. 

Saturday September 3, 2005

I'm excited! It is 9am and I just checked the sugar on our three fermenters of zin. One was 24.8 Brix, one was 25.1 brix and the other was 25.2. I couldn't ask for more. This is the first time in three years that I will not have to add water to rehydrate the the old vine zin grapes. I have made some great zins in the last two years, but I would rather pick at the right time and not have to add water. BUT what is the right time? Like I have said before the catch phrase lately has been "Hang Time". Some gurus believe the longer the grapes hang on the vine the better the resultant wine. I have found that my best years have been the years where the grapes hang the least time. Last year we harvested in August. This year was the shortest year ever considering we hardly saw the sun until June. I have also said before, " If Hang Time was important, Dry Valley zinfandels would be horrible since we have the shortest growing season of any premium zinfandel producers. As we know Dry Creek is considered the best area to grow Zinfandel.

In a short while I will add yeast to these three fermenters. Next Tuesday I will probably bring in some more old vine zin and see where we are. The weather has cooled down, with the fog heavy at this time. If we warm up I probably will have to add a little water. If so the berries will be more colored and consistent. I love Harvest. There is nothing normal about Harvest, except change!! I love challenges! I thrive on variables. Give me the parts and I will put them in order.

Sunday September 4, 2005

The North wind is up! We will be Harvesting again in a few days! Oh Boy, The Adventure begins again! I can't wait!

Monday September 5, 2005

Now I see there is a forecast for rain. Not surprising since they can't pick the weather for one day. I was the only forecaster (No one knows me for that), who predicted it would get warmer. I know I did not exactly predict that last night, but that is what I meant. When the North wind is up, I know there is no fog in the Bay Area (I have never been Wrong). We are in a valley with a draft. All of a sudden last night the wind shifted and I knew there would be no fog the next day, because the north wind would crush the fog. I could go into more detail, but I don't want to lose most of you. 

Yes it was 91 degrees today and there still is no wind, meaning the south wind is not up; meaning the fog is still not in (Al right enough of that).

It is 9pm and it is still warm so it will get warm tomorrow. AND I was right we will be Harvesting on Wednesday. By Friday we will be finished with all our old vine Zinfandel and the Pinot from Russian River. I just sent a message off the vineyard manager for the Pinot to make sure someone doesn't get a head of me. Paul wanted to go today and I put him off. He brought me in a sugar at 24.7 last Friday. To double check I sent Steve out Saturday to make sure. We got 23.5 brix. Paul was upset, I could hear on the phone, that I did not accept his figure. The Winemaker is FIRST. The Grower is second!! The vineyard manager is THIRD! I make the decision on when to pick!!! I was calm with Paul and let him know I would come out to do the next sugar test. I said a lot of nice things and got off the phone. I could tell Paul is very nice, but in this business CHANGE IS KING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to be ahead of the CHANGE!!

Yes I did say there is a forecast for rain. Rain could destroy all zinfandel, whites and Pinot. I am talking about 2-5 inches could do damage. Less than an inch will do little damage. I am prepared. My Estate Zin will be IN! All our other Estate grapes will withstand a 2 inch rain. 

Wednesday September 7, 2005

We started picking our old vine zinfandel again (4.6 tons) and the sugars seem to be the same as last Friday. Sometimes this happens when the weather cools down. If we get real cool, like in the 60s which is being predicted over the weekend, brix readings could drop somewhat. If 2 inches of rain occurs brix readings could go down over 1% sugar. I am seeing now that rain is going to pass us by. We will pick some more zin tomorrow, but will leave some still in the vineyard to pick in a week or more. It looks like we will not pick our Block 4 for at least 10 days. 

Acids and flavors in this zinfandel are very good. Phs are about 3.25 at harvest and 3.4 after fermentation. When malo/lactic is over we should be about 3.45, perfect. As you know I am cautious about predicting the quality of a crop, especially at this time. I am tasting good spice in all bins, so I am optimistic.

Sunday September 11, 2005

The high temperatures in the last two days have been hotter than expected. We were supposed to be in the mid 70's, but have had highs in the low 80's. I want to pick the Block 4, but now there is no hurry since the rain has not come. We may harvest by Friday.

Last Thursday and Friday we harvested almost the rest of our Old Vine Zinfandel, a little less than 8 tons. That brings our total to 15.4 tons. 20% more than I expected. The quality looks great, and the sugar is perfect. On Thursday we also got in our Russian River Pinot Noir. I would have liked it a little riper. I distributed the 3.7 tons into 4 fermenters. One had a ton at 24.7 brix. That one should get hotter than the other three which hold about 1700 lb each. Those sugars are 23.2, 23.6 and 23.8. It will be fun to see how they compare in the barrel.

Monday September 12, 2005

Most of you know I love to ferment wine very HOT as fast as possible. This year is different! The outside highs have been around 80 degrees and the lows in the morning have been in the 40's. That has created temperatures in the winery lower than I would like. My wine in the fermenters has taken a very long time to come up to the spike I want. I would like to see 90 degrees at some time during the fermentation. I have seen that, but it has taken 5 days to reach that high. That could be good for zinfandel since it has a tendency to stop fermenting when it goes too fast. The Pinot was harvested Thursday and the 4 fermenters are just starting. All 4 reached up to only 72 degrees this morning. 3 of those fermenters are only two thirds full so I expect them to reach into the mid 80's in two days.

Tuesday September 13, 2005

Today was a day of transition. It was complicated, but everything came in to place. I may go into more detail tomorrow, but the bottom line is that we will be harvesting Cabernet. No one is Harvesting right now, but we will be.

I went to Best Buy the other day. (I know some of you remember when I boycotted Best Buy (Search for Best Buy in my diary)). I don't Carry grudges so I have wandered in to pick up some sale items once in awhile. You can find some gems on Tuesdays when the new DVD's come out. Last Tuesday they had me fooled so I ended up with my second copy of "Hide and Seek". Best Buy had it in their new release section and I couldn't remember whether I had it.  It was packaged, I thought in a new wrapper. Be ware, not all of the titles in the new release section are within the last week. I found out from Amazon.com that "Hide and Seek" was released on July 5th.

More tomorrow!! 

Wednesday September 14, 2005

Doug Rafanelli called yesterday and said that we might want to come over and check out the Cabernet we are to receive. Brendan, Steve and I traveled across the valley up on the hill and took samples of the Rafanelli Cab. There is a lot of shatter with very few berries on most of the stems. I checked out many individual berries while Brendan and Steve collected whole bunches to take back to the winery to analyze. My readings rarely came in at less than 24 brix with some well over 25. The sample taken back to the winery came in at 24.3 brix with a PH of 3.35. I love the Ph, but would like 24.5 brix. By tomorrow we could have it. We will pick tomorrow and I suppose it is ready because of all the small bunches. 

Today we are pressing more Old Vine Zin. Tomorrow we will press the Pinot.

Friday September 16, 2005

Yesterday we received 9.3 tons of Doug Rafanelli's Cabernet. At destemming the brix was anywhere from 23.2 to 24.8. This morning before I added the yeast, the sugars had risen slightly to 23.7 and 25.2. We also got in a half a ton of Petite Sirah from Doug. We mixed that bin with a half a ton of Cab. This bin (to be used in the Escuro or My Zin) is about 23.1 brix now, but I suspect it will rise a little more. Most of the Cab bins are in the 24's or low 25's. Most should come in at around 24.5 alcohol. There were very few berries on the stems so we are not sure how much wine will be yielded. Most varietals yield about 180 gallons or three barrels. That is before racking and bottling. At bottling, the final total of wine is usually 160 gallons. I'm suspecting at first pressing this cabernet will only produce 150 gallons or 2.5 barrels. This morning I inoculated the Cab fermenters with yeast and the first punch down will probably be Sunday afternoon. I'm hoping Brendan will come in Monday morning when the fermenters will be most active. The cap will be extremely thick. I am not looking forward to punching down 9 fermenters of this tough skinned Cabernet.

Yesterday we pressed Russian River Pinot Noir into 11 barrels. That should yield about 250 cases at bottling. Today and tomorrow we are pressing the last of the Old Vine Zinfandel. At some time next week we will harvest the Block 4. The high temperatures during the day have been into the 70's, but we are hoping for 80's again in the next week. We did reach 83 briefly today. We are one of the few wineries who received fruit this week. 


9:00 pm I just heard the forecast. They are confused. It looks like we will get a warming trend!

` Dave 

Home | Buy | Read | Diary | Public Forum | Tell Us What You Think of Our Diary! | Last Week | Next Week