David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 39
September 26, 1999 to October 2, 1999 

September 26, 1999

Low 60, High 103

I know!!!! It has gone from a low of 47 yesterday to a high of 103 today. Guess what?, that is not unusual for this time of year. We almost always get a heat spell of 100+ temperatures between September 1st and October 15th. Check out the records for Marin, Sonoma or Napa counties ( similar weather patterns ) and you will see that I am right almost every year. Of course most of you are only inconvenienced, but we wine makers wait hopefully for this event. It ripens the fruit. When it rains occasionally it can spoil a great season. This will be a great season for Zinfandel!! The flavor from the grapes is fabulous. The weather forecast is for continued hot temperatures, so it looks like we will have all our Zin in by the end of the week. Rain can either deteriorate the quality of Zin or ruin it. Zin wants to rot. Rain or fog promotes rot. No matter what, there is always some rot.  Most wineries eliminate all rot. We like some rot since it gives character to our wines, but some rot is undesirable. We taste the grapes and if the flavor is good, why not leave it in. Some rot is noble! Our Carignan, Petite Sirah and Cab will take another week or so, but is less prone to rot. 

Some of you have been wondering why I have not mentioned the Raiders in the last few weeks. I know that the consensus is that they may have a good team, but I have been let down so much in the last 17 years that I will have to see it to believe it. I have mentioned before, Kate my 14 year old is more of a Raider fan than I (of course she has not been let down for 17 years yet). Yes, she dragged me off to The Chicago game today in Oakland and even though they gave the ball away 5 times we won! Seattle is going to be tough. 

Monday, September 27, 1999

Low 53, high 103.

It's been a very hectic day. Our two new computers came in about 1:00 p.m. today and at 6:10 I left the office to go watch the 49er game and start cooking dinner-----since there was a glitch in the Internet connection. We are communicating on one of our old computers after re-establishing our Internet connection on it. The reality is that the providers of the new computer equipment have probably installed two inferior modems that will not communicate with Best.com, our provider. I also was not too thrilled by the two monitors that they have sold to me, and of course these 4 items happen to be the 4 things for which I did not specify brand names. It gives me the impression that this guy has tried to cut corners, but he doesn't get it yet - I'm ahead of him. He wants to charge me for a set-up fee and obviously if his products are not working, I shouldn't have to pay for this fee. 

It took us a while, but Brendan went out to do new sugar tests in our vineyard and just as we suspected, all the Zinfandel is ready to be harvested. The lowest sugar reading we got is 24, which is what we wanted on the high side. We are hoping that these sugar levels will come in lower as we actually harvest. Steve Ryan has other obligations this week but has guaranteed me that he will get all the Zin in for us by Friday. After that, of course there's the Petite Sirah, Carignan and Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals to harvest. This will probably be a fast and furious three weeks. 

Since we did receive two silver medals, we must pour this Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Rosa Harvest Fair. Brendan and I could obviously still be busy harvesting/crushing grapes depending upon how hot the weather remains and how fast and physically able the pickers are capable of harvesting. After all, think about how it might be to pick grapes in 103 degree weather! We have some friends and relatives coming in this weekend who are willing to help serve our wine at the Fair if necessary. 

Tuesday, September 28, 1999

Low this morning 47; high today 100

I'm hearing all over that everyone in the valley is frantic because the Zinfandel is all ripe at once. If you go back in our diary, remember the reading we got just last week was only 21.9 on the Zin. We harvested 5.25 tons today at 25 sugar. We now have nine fermenters full and we only have another 10 which are now empty. We expect another 9 or 10 to be filled tomorrow and then maybe we will press on Thursday or Saturday. Friday we will be receiving another 5 tons (or 6 fermenters full) and Saturday another 1 or 2 fermenters full. Monday or Tuesday (I'm ready to go Sunday, but for some reason the pickers seem to want to take a day off) we may already be harvesting Carignan and even Cabernet. If you've been following this paragraph, you're probably wondering how we are going to put all these harvested grapes in fermenters that do not exist. Well, we do have smaller bins that are mostly used for harvesting but can be used for fermenting the grapes if additional space is needed and these can hold as much as 17 tons. And of course we do also have to press every 7 to 8 days and then transfer that wine into barrels, thus freeing up a certain number of fermenters every time we press. At this time of night after a long day of harvesting, I have not figured out the logistics of all this, but of course I may wake up in the middle of the night with the answer. But as almost anyone who follows grape harvesting knows, things could be completely different in the next two days if there is a change in the weather. 

September 29, 1999

Low 48, High 100

Pat and I had our 26th anniversary today, but since it is harvest time we had to delay our celebrations till Friday. 

Brendan and I had another hectic day. Caterino and his pickers came in about 1PM. I was hoping for 11AM. I found out shortly there after that he had picked more acreage than I had suspected. Thus we are already down from what I was hoping for. I must reevaluate our tonnage and recalculate the amount of wine we will make. 

The rest of our old vine Zin was harvested, And the sugar levels came in at about 25.2 percent sugar 

Thursday, September 30, 1999

Low 52, High 100

Yes it was 100 degrees today again. Four days in a row over 100. No winery has enough pickers to harvest the grapes. The sugars are rising quickly--the alcohols will be high! Our congressmen and senators say there are too many Mexicans coming across the border taking our jobs----, but frankly, I don't see any other nationalities harvesting. Our workers are fabulous! No one could replace them!! How would you like to harvest in 100 degree weather messy, sticky, high sugar fruit? 

I want to get a little poignant now! It is now 12.00 Midnite and I am still working. Pat is in bed Brendan left at 4:30. Nothing could repeat this day. Every day during the harvest is unique! Every day is special. It has been a hard and trying day, but there is nothing I would rather do. It is overwhelming for the many winemakers such as I who take so much pride in what we do. You must understand that similar to athelites, we have only so many opportunities. Actually at this winery we only harvest 6 to 10 days a year. and over a time period of as little as 3 weeks. We have only so many opportunities to do our best, but we are so busy we sometimes get lost and don't appreciate the creative part of it. I really feel that by living here at the winery, I have a certain advantage since I am only a few feet away from the winery 24 Hrs a day. I am trying to take the time and reflect on how important these oportunities are that have been gifted to me. 

Today Brendan and I pressed our first red wines into barrel. It is a great satisfaction to see the wine finished fermenting. We produced 4 barrels of Syrah, two barrels of Barbera and two barrels of a combination of the two. We will harvest some more Zin tomorrow and also our new Italian field blend. 

Friday, October 1, 1999

Low 47, High 90

As you can see the temperatures were lower today, but it still didn't seem like it. For the second day in a row we did not receive grapes. And for the second day in a row our sugar samples came in higher than we expected. The lowest sugar sample that we extracted was 23.0 on our Estate Cuvee Cab. The petite sirah areas came in about 24 and the Carignan came in over 24. Even the Jones Cab Franc came in over 25. If we had the pickers ready we could harvest everything by the end of next week. We will receive the Lane Zin and some of our Estate grapes tomorrow. 

Saturday, October 2, 1999

Low 52, High 78

We received our Italian field blend area which we are keeping separate for now. We also stemmed some zin from the 1st block and some wire zin. It was another hard and trying day. 


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