David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Weeks 42 - 45
October 28, 2007 - November 17, 2007 
Tuesday November 6, 2007

Our website was down Sunday so we have been scrambling to find out what was wrong. It may be cleared up now so there is no reason to go into much detail. Our server was making changes and something went wrong crashing thousands of websites. 

Things are slowing down here and I am now getting an idea of the quality of the wines in the barrel. We started to taste out of the barrel and I can say for sure this will be a very fruit driven vintage. There is so much fruit that I am having trouble tasting much tannin. As you know I love tannin so it will be interesting to see how these wines develop. The wines I have tasted are the Rafanelli Cab, our Estate Petite Sirah, Gallo's Malbec, Block 4 Lot One, Peloursin, and Gallo's Petit Verdot. All the wines have great color and intensity. Come by and taste and see what you like. By December 8th, our open house, we should have all the wines ready to taste.

Our Late Harvest dessert wine has stopped fermenting. We just checked the wine that has been fermenting for almost two months and it is at 7% alcohol and 41% residual. I thought we started at 47 brix, but I guess I was wrong. It had to be closer to 53 brix. I am aiming for 11-12% Alcohol and 20+ residual. We still have some Sauv Blanc down in our sandy loam that we hope will go up in sugar. We had some good rain a few weeks ago so there has been some noble rot forming on the bunches. Last week I turned on the drip for 48 hours to flood the area and promote rot. I knew it would be warming up and thus create a greenhouse effect. I was greeted with 80 degree highs over the weekend so everything is setting up for a harvest of the bunches next Wednesday just before it rains again. I am expecting about 35 Brix. The plan is to press the fruit with the Late Harvest that has been fermenting for two months and re-ferment.....fun, fun.

I have really been enjoying my bottled wine lately. All the 2003s with screwcap are tasting wonderful. Last night we had a 2003 Carignan that might be at it's peak, great fruit balance. All the Block 4s from 2003 to 2006 are wonderful, great spice. If you are lucky to have either My Zin or Estate Zin from 2003 or 2004, try a bottle or two. I am very impressed. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Of the 2006s I am enjoying the Block 4, Dry Creek Cab, My Zin, Petite Sirah and especially the Aca Modot. The 2006 Aca Modot has a great deal of complexity already. 

Thursday November 8, 2007

In the last two days we have been working on our Late Harvest wine. It will consist of about 75% Sauv Blanc and 25% Muscat concentrate. I went into some detail on September 24th and even more two days ago. Yesterday we picked about 450 pounds of Sauv Blanc which had about 50% botrytis (Noble Rot). The sugar came in at 40%, more than I thought it would be. We pressed for 3 hours, 1.5 hours yesterday and 1.5 hours today. The quality looks great. This was the first time that I had to add water to lower the sugar for a late harvest wine. As I stated above, I already had late harvest fermenting that included Muscat concentrate. The sugar on that wine is too high and has stopped fermenting. I also had 6 gallons of Muscat concentrate at 68 Brix left over from two months ago. By adding the late harvest from two months ago and the 6 gallons of concentrate and the 30+ gallons of the juice we pressed from the harvest of yesterday I now have a source of juice and wine that is too high in sugar. I decided to add 20 gallons or so of water to bring the final potential wine to 11-12% alcohol and residual of over 20%. If my calculations are wrong I have other possibilities to pursue. The main goal is to get over 10% alcohol and over 20% residual sugar.

Today I received two very good questions on this topic from a valued customer.

Question one: Couldn't you just mix in enough dry, already fermented, Sauv. Blanc with your present low-alchohol, high sugar late harvest, to get the alcohol/sugar mix that you want?

My answer was in two parts: Yes I could add dry sauv blanc to the wine but I have none except the Cal Poly wine still fermenting. I would have to buy some bulk. I further answer this question at the end of the next answer.

Question two: With all that sugar, why didn't it ferment any further?  I thought it was high alcohol that stopped the fermentation?  Why wouldn't it go to 15% alcohol (for example) and then stop?

My answer: It is the sugar that stops the fermentation. Sure alcohol can destroy yeast, but high sugar is even more deadly. The rule of thumb is that if you start at 30% sugar you could get up to 18% alcohol and still be dry. 18% alcohol or so is the max that a yeast can tolerate. Once you get higher than 35% sugar the alcohol goes down from 18% and residual sugar is left. Classic Sauterne, I believe, is picked at about 40 brix and naturally stops at 14% alcohol and residual of about 15%. I Like alcohol of 11% and residual of 20% or more. So to get back to the first question....if I add dry sauv blanc I will reduce the sugar and take the chance that the wine will start fermenting again, a fine line. That could create a wine of over 15% alcohol again. The wine is stable now so I decided to start the fermentation again by adding new juice as stated above.

If any of you have more questions, just fire away.

Friday November 9, 2007

Here it is Friday morning and I have wandered out to the winery already. I have the luxury of living at the vineyard so I only have to walk a few steps to the winery. The Late Harvest has started perking away. We have re-started the wine by adding yeast again and storing the wine in a 60 gallon stainless steel drum, a 55 gallon plastic drum and a 70 gallon neutral barrel. If all goes as planned we could have 140 or so cases of half bottles to sell. Any of you interested in purchasing some on futures now, just send me an e-mail. If all goes well we may start offering the Late Harvest officially at our open house on December 8th.

Saturday November 10, 2007

I forgot to mention that we received 360 Gallons of Sauv Blanc juice from Gallo on October 31st. It actually came off a vineyard at Cal Poly (Central Coast of California 300 miles south of here) controlled or owned by Gallo. Gallo harvested and settled the juice in a tank before filling our 6 barrels. We started the fermentation last Friday. The acid was real good but the alcohol was a little high so we adjusted to about 24 brix. The wine is fermenting in the barrels in a cool building across the way and should be finished in a week or so. I was told it is a lot like New Zealand Sauv Blanc. We will see.


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