David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 42
October 18, 1998 to October 24, 1998 

Sunday, October 18, 1998    (37 low, 87 high) 

Since the Raiders were not playing, I had time to greet a few people who picked up wine. Pat was proud of me--I gave them a tour of what we harvested in the last few days, but did not give them tasting of wines they could not buy, because they were sold out. I hope they still enjoyed the mini tour. I did see some Football, but mostly concentrated on what the percentages of the different varietals would be this year. As I mentioned on Wednesday, we have a Cabernet Franc from the Jones Vineyard that is very promising. I've decided that would complement my Zin this year. I also think the Syrah would blend very well with the Zin. That would mean that I would have to drop the estate classification on my Zin. Does anyone care? After all Most wineries, including Rafanelli, are not estate. Since we only harvested 2 tons of PS and 3 plus tons of  Carignan, we are practically already sold out of those two wines 

Monday, October 19, 1998    (40 low, 92 high) 
(By Brendan) 

The winery looks more official today. There was a two day period at the end of last week where we had pressed off all of the grapes in the winery and it looked sadly empty. Now the 9 tons that we brought in on Saturday are all fermenting and the winery looks (and smells) like we're working again. This is an interesting time for people to visit (if they catch us between jobs) because we have many stages of the winemaking process going on simultaneously. 

We had a couple of small groups in the winery today who got the chance to stick their arms in a fermenting bin, taste recently pressed wine and try our new Sauvignon Blanc. This is something that is tough to find for wine tours. Most wineries let you taste their bottled wines but very few let you experience the process hands-on (literally).  I think this gives people a much greater understanding of the wines we make and why we do the things we do. 

Tuesday, October 20, 1998    (47 low, 94 high) 
(By Brendan) 

Well, the weather is starting to pick up again although it might be a case of too-little-too-late. It is nice to see a good 47 degree swing between the highs and the lows again but most of our grapes have either been picked at this point or are starting to change colors and go into hibernation. Oh well, I guess better late than never. 

Along with the weather Dave and I are celebrating the return of the fruit flies, who much like the sparrows to San Juan Capistrano or the Monarch butterflies symbolize the coming and going of the seasons. We were beginning to get a little worried because the fruit flies were late this year (along with everything else) and, as everyone knows, it takes great fruit flies to make great wine. 

Aside from our flying friends, there is another interesting thing happening in the winery right now. As most of you have already read ,we took in 9 tons of fruit last Saturday.  In order for our pickers to do this, they had to start very early in the morning (7 a.m. +/-) and finish late in the afternoon (4-5 p.m. +/-).  This caused the fruit that they picked to have a wide variety of temperatures. The Carignane that was picked first in the morning came in at a chilly 45 degrees, the Petite Sirah on the knoll came in at 65 degrees, the Bordeaux blend grapes (Malbec, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc) came in at 72 degrees and the Aca Modot Cabernet from the knoll came in at 82 degrees. This variance in temperature has greatly effected the fermentations. 

After 2 days in the fermentation bins, the Carignane and the Petite Sirah have not even started while the Aca Cabernet and the Bordeaux blend is already half way done.  This is not necessarily good or bad.  Dave normally likes to get the grapes in warm whenever possible because he thinks it works better with our estate fruit. On the flip side, I know many winemakers that will not pick their grape past noon because they want the grapes colder so that the fermentations will start slower. It should be interesting to see how these different fermentation temperatures (and therefore speed) changes the nuances of the wine (if at all). 

Wednesday, October 21, 1998    (44 low, 92 high)

I am tired, I want to write this diary, I must write the diary---the must is in. Yes I'm still trying--MUST refers to the mess of berries, juice and skins we start to ferment after harvesting. It was another day of constantly thinking, adjusting, (does that mean reevaluating?). ::::: What should we pick next? Will the pickers show up? Will Ryan come back tomorrow?  What is the sugar (Brix)? Does Julia want the first block zin?  Should we crush for her? Can we get a few gals of Sauv Blanc bulk from her? Etc.!, Etc.! Should I pay bills???? Do I have time to pay bills? Will I get some sleep tonight?

Caterino, that suave vineyard foreman,  showed up at noon with his usual friendly smile. (Remember he covers Ryan's tracks and keeps me from getting too nervous). I said "Great, You're here to pick!" "No, I need more bins!! I'm picking for you at Lane's Zin" Now I was hoping they were at Lane's, but also hoped they would be ready to pick for my Estate vineyard also. But I was also very happy that meant there were probably more grapes than I thought at Lane's. It was another hour and a half before the pickers showed up to pick for me and not until 7pm that I got delivery from Ryan of those grapes. 

We harvested from 1:45 till 5:45 the rest of our Carignan and  Petite Sirah from the bottom. We stemmed the Carignan by 5:30, but will do the Petite Sirah and Lane's Zin tomorrow.

I'm fading---I'll have to finish tomorrow. 

Thursday, October 22 1998    (morning low 40; 82 high)

The sugar levels on the Carignan after soaking overnight were between 24.5 and 25. The flavors are dark blackberry--the most intense fruit that we have harvested this year. The Lane Zin was another matter. The flavors just aren’t there yet. There were a lot of raisins so we’re hoping by the morning the intensity will be evident. The sugar level initially seemed to be between 21 and 22 percent, although after only an hour, the sugars swelled up to over 23 percent.

Brendan and I were so busy sorting the Lane Zin—over six hours of sorting out bunches we did not want from the 3 tons harvested—that we had no time to prepare for pressing tomorrow. The pressing of our Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, etc., from last week will have to be Saturday and Sunday. I informed Brendan that I may have to take a break for the Raider game on Sunday, but I know he can handle it alone if necessary.

Friday, October 23 1998    (morning low 33; 74 high)

The Lane Zin sugar levels swelled to over 24% and created an incredible smell that I am trying to like and also identify as something I have smelled many times. After hours, I finally think it must be cheese! Maybe blue cheese or cheddar. I sure hope that is good! 

Several people came in to pick up wine and were extremely impressed with the Carignan, which just started fermenting. We also began our first barrel tastings today. As many of you know, it is the most fun time of  year for me. I really enjoy the input from EVERYONE who participates in these tastings, which sometimes result in unexpected smells and tastes. With wines only one to two weeks in the barrel, you always get a whiff of yeast which, to most of us, is hard to take. But as this is my fifth year of tasting wines this early, I'm actually enjoying the experience and still learning from it. So far this year, I've been starting tasters off with our old vine Zin and then tasting the 4-year-old trellised Zin. These are totally different wines. The Zin on the trellis appears to be higher in alcohol and will blend well with the more balanced old vine. Next is a taste of Syrah, which I suggest could add a middle to the blend. Also, I mention that most of the Syrah will probably go into the Neighbors' Cuvee. I think the most interesting experience this year from our barrels will be the three Pinot Noir experiments. We start off with the carbonic which is more fruity and light, and then go to the cold soak which has more body and color, and finally to the hot fermentation, which to me is much more concentrated, darker and far better flavors. I just can't wait for you Pinot Noir lovers to come in and tell me which one is really the best. We don't have any Petite Sirah, Cabernet or Carignan in the barrels yet, so I've been ending the tasting with our 2/3 Zin-1/3 Barbera blend, which is very acidic and as I've explained before, I'm hoping to use this blend to raise the acid levels in some of our wines. 

We have decided that tomorrow we will press the Cab franc from both Jones and Coffaro vineyards, some Zin and Syrah -  and then whatever else is ready on Monday. 

Saturday, October 24 1998     (low; high)

It is 7 am as I write and it is pouring rain. It appears that over a half an inch has come down so far, which should get into the soils and create havoc for any Zinfandel that may still be hanging. We were hoping get two tons of Teldeschi Cabernet today and our five tons of Cabernet for our Estate Cuvee on Tuesday. This first rain will not hurt the Cabernet grapes because of their tough skins, but could affect the sugar levels for a short time. I am waiting for Brendan to arrive, and with our overhang outside the winery building, we should have no trouble pressing as we planned today.

We pressed our Cabernet Franc, the Malbec blend for Aca Modot, and the Cabernet Franc from the Jones Vineyard. We also pressed a Zin blend.  In all, 3-1/2 tons and 9+ barrels were filled. 

The skies turned sunny by noon and the total rain fall was just a little over 1 inch. Harvesting of the Teldeschi Cabernet was delayed until Monday, and Steve Ryan is still hopefully picking Cabernet for us on Tuesday. He and his crew are responsible for harvesting several vineyards and since virtually all grapes are ready to be picked, everyone wants his services at the same time. It's a hard juggling act for all vineyard managers. 


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