February 15, 1999
I know I promised that I would rack off my Pinot Noir on Friday, BUT many distractions came up besides getting ready for my mother's birthday. We did have many unannounced visitors over the weekend, which enticed me away from the labors of transferring the Pinot. I much prefer socializing with winery visitors. I do miss Brendan. I could give him orders and the racking of the Pinot would have been done a week ago. (Brendan, where are you?) Even though I did have five groups of people stop by today, I was dedicated to belatedly accomplishing my goal of last Friday. I even got so far as to start topping off all the barrels in the winery, which is a ritual which must take place (as I've mentioned before) every two to three weeks.
There is a Passport Committee meeting planned for this Thursday, so Pat and I have been brainstorming new ideas to bring up at the meeting regarding the allocation of tickets. I was very happy when Pat said she would like to join me at the meeting so we could both provide input. Anybody familiar with the Passport event knows that tickets are very difficult to get, and there is much controversy over how they should be allocated.
In my past life (i.e., 1969-1979 before I moved to this area), I was an investor in the stock market. I had a partner and we controlled enough money to impress a lot of stockbrokers. We concentrated on small capitalized companies. During that period of time, there were many computer companies which were going public. In those days, we referred to these as new issues; today they call them IPO's - or initial public offerings. Today, the rage is Internet stocks. Since I've had the privilege to pay income taxes for the first time in many years, I must start a sep-ira account. Because I've been out of touch with the stock market for 20 years, I've been asking everyone I know if they have any "hot" tips on some emerging companies. I'm the type of person who will take everything in and then try to decide for myself whether it is a good investment or not. Therefore, if you have any suggestions, I'd appreciate hearing from you. I won't hold anyone responsible for anything that doesn't work out, nor will I give any kickbacks for profitable investments!
February 16, 1999
Carignan, Carignan, Carignan-- I love Carignan! Many of my customers who have tasted my wines from the barrels are very impressed with Carignan. It is probably the most approachable wine right from the time of harvest. As the other varietals develop, they become interesting in other ways. But Carignan still shines for me. It's so concentrated, almost like caramel, and it's got an earthy tone about it with a lack of tannins. It just seems like the wine that is the most drinkable of any of my wines for at least the first year. After the months go on, I tend to prefer the Estate Cuvee. I still feel that the 25 percent Carignan in the Estate Cuvee is one of the secret ingredients in that blend. My plans in the future are to develop the Carignan into a wine that will be the equal of the Estate Cuvee. The1998 vintage is my first attempt to change the Carignan by adding a little Barbera to the blend. I like to harvest Carignan (which will continue to be 75% of the wine) at close to 25% sugar becaue it brings out more concentration in the varietal. The acid level starts to fall off at around 24% sugar, so I'm hoping to use Barbera to naturally increase the acid in the wine to create a balance. I've also planted Syrah and will be planting Mourvedre, and feel that a certain amount of those two varietals should bring up the complexity in the wine. As a final statement here, I would like to say that overall Carignan is my third favorite wine after the Zinfandel and Estate Cuvee, but I feel by continuing to experiment with other varietals in the 25% that I have to play with (as most of you know, there must be at least 75% of any varietal in a wine in order to be able to use that name on the label), to my tastes, I can improve the wine to be on the level of the Zinfandel and Estate Cuvee.
February 17, 1999
I guess it's time to give an update on my first stock purchases in 20 years. As I have said before, my life was the stock market twenty years ago. Once I decide to concentrate on something I'm interested in, I become obsessed to perfect what I want. Thirty-five years ago, I invested in my first stock. At that time, I was 21 years old and what I wanted was to become a multimillionaire. I floundered around for a few years until 1968 and even though I'd made some money in the stock market, I realized that my goal to make my first million was going to be harder than I thought! I remember having a chart that started at $2000 and then I compounded it at 50 percent growth a year. I figured that I could be a millionaire by the age of 35. Try it out - $2000 times 50 percent growth, even if I didn't add another cent, would equate in 15 years to $1,000,000. By 1968, I'd taken out as much money as I put in and still had around $2,000. I was forced into the Army Reserves because I was about to be drafted into the Vietnam war, and at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, I met a guy named Reece Duca who changed my life. Without going into too much detail, his idea was to invest in small companies which he could understand and which were growth oriented. By picking his brain, I did make around 50 percent compounded for several years after that. But again, I'd spent all my money, putting it into a small house I bought in Marin County, California. The stock market was doing nothing after Nixon resigned, and I dabbled in commodities and was somewhat successful in the late 70's and then decided to get out of the investment world and into something I could be obsessed with again. At that time, I took the $70,000 profit I had in my house in Marin and put that money into a vineyard and started growing grapes and making homemadewine. In 1994, I started the commercial winery and now have become obsessed with making wine that I enjoy. It is a great satisfaction and pleasure to know that some of you also enjoy my efforts. BUT I now have to pay income taxes. Therefore, is it time to be obsessed with investing in the stock market again? I hope not because I know winemaking should be my only obsession if I'm going to make the best wine I can. That leads me to what I have decided to invest in - small companies, the tech industry, but maybe also a little in Internet stocks because that sure seems to be the future. After all, isn't the Internet the reason we are communicating at this moment?
February 19, 1999
We've had a minimal response on our $75 Pinot Noir 3-pack to date, which package would include the entire story about the fermentations and each of the three wines bottled separately. Any of you who have been by to taste these wines have been very impressed by how different they are from one another. I've never had anybody come in whose eyes didn't seem to say "wow, what a difference!" A few of you who have tasted them, have bought the three-pack as is, and I have also shown maybe three or four groups what the blend of the three wines could be. After all, I am a blender and I feel that perhaps blending the three wines together would result in the best wine. Since I have the potential of 285 three-packs and we have sold about 30, I want to throw this open for discussion - maybe I should either blend the Pinots into the neighbors' cuvee or blend the three together, and then save all the expense of printing up the story, the separate box and all the time involved in bottling these separately. My biggest concern is that everyone who comes by here (which could be up to 50 people a week) are getting a half ounce of each wine and as they continue to taste, the wines are diluted and become less what they could be. I can estimate that this ongoing tasting will amount to the loss of approximately two cases of wine between now and bottling, and then there could be an additional two cases of evaporation before I actually bottle the wine in July. That will be four cases out of the total of 75 that will be diluted with other wines. I do have two cases of the carbonic fermentation that I could use for topping, but I do not have any of the other two fermentations. The bottom line is that I can't afford to continue to offer tastings to all visitors, and if the wine isn't going to sell without further promotion, then I think I should consider blending the three together or blending them into the neighbors' cuvee. If you have an opinion, you can post it to our public forum or please write me privately!
February 20, 1999
Today Dave and I had a chance to visit out friends at Lambert Bridge Winery. They had invited us to their first annual "Three Z Weekend" celebrating the release of their three new Zinfandels (96 Amador County, 97 Sonoma County and 97 Dry Creek Valley). Of course, you've heard Dave mention Julia, his mentor and Lambert Bridge's winemaker, many times in this diary, but what we haven't said before is that all the people over at Lambert Bridge - including Ann, Shirley, Maureen, Peggy, Richard and Bob - are such fun and gracious hosts and make Lambert Bridge a totally happening place for a visit! And of course, we also wanted to be among the first to taste their 1997 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (produced mostly from grapes from our vineyard) - we give them two big thumbs up! We had a great time there this morning and even ran into a couple in their tasting room who were visiting from Wisconsin and who had coincidentally already made an appointment to visit us later in the day.
So about noon all four of us tore ourselves away from the fun, good food and festivities at Lambert Bridge and headed up the valley to our place, but not before making a quick stop at a "new kid on the block" - Unti Vineyards. George and Linda Unti are members of the Dry Creek Valley Winegrowers' Association, George is a new Board Member as well, and they have just opened up a tasting room at 4202 Dry Creek Rd. We wanted to stop by, welcome them to the valley, and taste their new releases of course! They have two wines, a 1997 Zinfandel and a 1997 Syrah, and we thought they were both great and that the Syrah in particular was smooth, well balanced with great intensity. They will be a great addition to the valley. So if you get a chance, stop by on your next visit (call 433-5590 beforehand as their tasting room hours may be by appointment) and tell them "the Coffaros sent us"!
Jim and Crystal, our visitors from Wisconsin, followed us up the valley and spent a good part of the afternoon with us in our winery building listening to Dave drone on and on about his latest blends, intermittently pouring samples from the various barrels. Later on, more local visitors, Larry, Lloyd, and Carrie from the East Bay, Bill and a friend from Marin County, and Judy (and her friends) from the Belvedere on the Plaza Tasting Room joined our Wisconsin visitors for some further tasting. We also fired up the big screen projector and watched some selected music from the The Eagles' concert "Hell Freezes Over." Unfortunately, Jan, J.P., Kevin and Robyn - our scheduled visitors and futures customers from Arizona - didn't make it here in time to see the video, but did get to taste and were the very first to buy from our new display of logo shirts. (Ahhh, the selling of merchandise - another subject for me to write about another day!)