David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 37
September 8, 2002 to September 14, 2002 

Tuesday September 10, 2002 

As usual a lot has happened since Friday when I last wrote. I won't be able to relate everything. That would take all day to write.

On Friday we received 3.6 tons of Sauv Blanc and 4.7 tons of old vine zinfandel. The sauv blanc is fermenting separately from the 1.9 tons picked on the 4th. We have had to adjust the sugars on most of our zin fermenters to keep the alcohols under 15%. This will be a very extracted year. So far the quality of the zin looks exceptional. We will know more when we press which should be by Friday. 

There has been a lot of confusion about which winery should go first during this harvest. To be specific, Steve harvests for other wineries and that has interfered with when I would like to harvest zinfandel. All our old vine zin has been ready to harvest since Friday, but has been delayed because other wineries have been harvested first. I won't go into more detail, but it will have to be resolved between Steve and me.

Yesterday, Julia from Lambert Bridge received her Sauv Blanc from our vineyard. In retrospect, I feel I should have delayed her in order to finish our zinfandel. Next year we will have no sauv blanc to worry about. We may save some small amount for us, but I'm not sure I want to make a dry S.B. in the future. In the afternoon yesterday we picked only 2.6 tons of zin, but we have to worry since it was over 95 degrees-potentially too hot to start fermenting. 

The biggest problem we had yesterday was discovered by Brendan after taking a sugar sample of our sauv blanc and chardonnay fermentation. To his great surprise he found out that the temperature was 90 degrees. As I have said before, I wanted to ferment at 56 degrees. We found out that the valve for the chiller was stuck shut. We thought it was open all along. Since the weather has been cool until yesterday, we hope it did not effect the wine much. Of course all we can do is taste it at the end of fermentation and see. We think it could be interesting for all of you to taste when it is in the barrel. It could be our best wine. 

Another problem yesterday occurred after everything was over: Our forklift got a flat tire. We had that repaired this morning so we had no down time.

Today we have convinced the other wineries that we need to harvest all our zinfandel. We did start early so we have 4 bins that are 50 degrees. We will use these to mix with the 95 degree bins we harvested yesterday--perfect. In all we harvested over 14 tons of old vine zinfandel.

2:00 PM: We have a new crisis: A truck just came to deliver our new barrels and decided they could not make it in our driveway. I've had bigger trucks make it, but I did not want to argue so I drove out onto busy Dry Creek Road with my forklift to unload 14 barrels when I was told they would not help us unload the barrels. I told them I did not have anyone to help and that no one had refused before to help. They were two young men. I sent them away and refused the barrels. I then called the sales person, Jerry, who is a great guy. He was steaming and has convinced them to come back. Jerry is coming also so this should a fun time. Remember I thrive on controversy.

3:00PM: Jerry came through!! He actually cornered the guys with the truck and brought some of the barrels here himself. Steve went to get the rest.

Our next problem has developed. Our new barrel racks are too small to be picked up with a pallet jack. I now have to call and find out what happened. I could go on more, but I am exhausted.

Thursday September 12, 2002 

After two days, I just received a call from the guy responsible for the barrel racks. He said he had no idea they were too small to be picked up by a pallet Jack. In the mean time I have ordered the right size from another manufacturer. 

The biggest surprise yesterday was that Caterino and his crew showed up at 11:30 Am yesterday announcing that they were stopped from picking grapes from the vineyard and winery that wanted to go ahead of me Tuesday. It seems that the sugar was not high enough. I am so happy I had enough confidence in my sugar tests to insist that we harvest Tuesday. All our sugars have been over 25 requiring us to add water to rehydrate. The acids are great so I do not see a problem. We will press our first zin tomorrow and see what the flavor is like.

When Caterino showed up yesterday I sent him out to pick Julia's zinfandel (Lambert Bridge Winery). After that we picked some petite sirah and zin that I hope will go into "My Zin". Today, when Caterino showed up about mid day again, I was happy to see him again. Yesterday we had crushed our "Block 4", but we had no time for the Aca Modot Cab Franc and Malbec so I sent him out to harvest those vines. When we did a test on the harvest of that fruit today, I was not surprised to get a sugar reading of over 26 Brix. The yield was way off, but I am sure the quality is high. 

Also this morning I had a local company come in to fix our chiller that controls our sauv blanc fermentation. Remember the valve was found to be malfunctioning on Tuesday. I have not received the bill yet, but suspect it will be over $500. I need to consider not making white wine again. It is too expensive.

Friday September 13, 2002

Winemakers and vineyard owners must decide when to harvest their wine grapes. Some taste the fruit and can get a pretty good idea. Most of us use a refractometer. This instrument can be carried around in your pocket and used when ever you want. Only a few drops are needed to determine a sugar reading. The juice is dropped on a lens and the sugar reading is determined by light showing through. The thicker the sample, the higher the reading. Of course the most important task is to know what samples to use. That is a whole other subject. 

For all my years, since 1979, I have used a refrac and then a hydrometer after fermentation starts. Hydrometers have been used for centuries. A cup of juice is put in a narrow flask and the hydrometer is floated in the sample, thus the reading is determined. This method is messy and takes a great deal of time. Also the reading is hard to see. This season we bought an instant hydrometer ($1400--just takes a few mills of juice) and have been checking out readings before fermentation. We have found that the readings on the hydrometer are about one percent higher. I've been told that this reading could be from higher suspended solids.  We are used to the refrac for initial readings and will continue  what we have done before.

BUT we are using this new hydrometer after fermentation starts. (refracs are not accurate after alcohols are present. Actually hydrometers have some amount of guess work involved but that would take a longer discussion) In the morning we take samples from our fermenting musts. I mentioned in the past that I also purchased an instrument, $14,000, that will calculate alcohols in 2 minutes. By estimating the potential alcohol from the sugar reading (% sugar times 0.6) and adding this number to the alcohol reading we can get an approximate idea of what our end alcohol will be. Remember we are trying to make wines that are completely dry: NO SUGAR LEFT. If we have an initial brix reading of 24, we can expect an alcohol of about 24 X 0.6 or 14.4%.

As I have said we have been receiving fruit that is 25 brix or higher. Thus we have had to make adjustments to keep the alcohols under 15%.  Zinfandel is even more of a challenge since the bunches have raisins so we don't know what the actual sugar reading is until they swell up. We could see an initial reading of 25 and an end alcohol of 16%. That is where the alcolizer and new hydrometer come in. Every morning we must take new readings and calculate the potential alcohol and adjust with water accordingly. Water used for rehyration during fermentation does not effect the wine. Well, it is time to start the analysis.


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