David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery Winemaker's Diary

Week 46
November 15, 1998 to November 21, 1998 

Sunday, November 15, 1998

This was the most trying day of the year!: I went to a Raiders' game. Kate and I started at 9 am and arrived at the Oakland Coliseum at 10:50. No traffic to speak of. The game was to start at 1:05 so I was happy that we had plenty of time. We started into the parking lot to be greeted with a jam up. It took 15 min to get into the gate. I should have realized that something was wrong, but had faith that the ticket people would not let anyone in if the lot was full. It was immediately apparent that there was no parking places to be had. That does not mean that there were not places empty, but those parking places were taken up by tables or barbecues. I even asked one guy if he would move his empty table over a few feet and he laughed at me. It was bizarre. It took us 45 min to just get out of the lot. I was kindly told to try the other parking lot because they had plenty of places. I was dumb enough to try it. Another 30 minutes were wasted. By the time we found a parking pace in yet another parking lot, the time showed 12:25 pm. THE RAIDERS DID WIN! but it took another hour to get out of the parking lot and we arrived home at 7:15 pm. There is much more--but let's just say I don't need to have a day off like that again this year. 

Monday, November 16, 1998

Ray showed up to start replacing the bladder inside the press and Brendan labeled a few more cases of wine (we still have over 500 cases remaining to be labeled). Pat and I entertained and were entertained by a couple of good  customers. 

Wednesday, November 18, 1998

Today we have a guest post from Everett Bandman who visited on Monday and tasted barrel samples of our 1998 wines.  Here are his notes. 

The Zins 
Teldeschi - light in color, herbal, wet hay notes in the nose, elegant up front strawberry flavors, light finish 

3rd Block Zins - tasted three different barrels (one labeled north, one south, one simply 3rd block), all were similar in style and fruit character but varied in color and aromatic intensity.  The north and south barrels were richer (the south barrel being the darkest) and exhibited classic Coffaro Vineyard black and blueberry fruit even at this early stage. 

The Wire Zin - Nice purple color and gook dry creek zin character with little tannin.  The brightest tasting fruit at this stage.  Given that these were budded over only 4 years ago, I think there is a great future ahead for these vines.  Similar in character to the 3rd block, but combined with youthful exuberance though perhaps not as complex.  Has big shoes to fill as it has to replace the Davis clone (which in my opinion was the core of the Blockbuster 97 Zin) that was removed in the construction of Lake Coffaro. 

Lane Zin - My least favorite (as it was last year) of the zins in the winery.  Hard to judge the color since it had only been in barrel a short time and was still somewhat cloudy, but it seemed more pink than purple at the edges.  Simple grapey and plummy fruit showing little "dry creek character".  Last year this wine was awkward to say the least and I had doubts that Dave could resurrect it, but as the Neighbor's Cuvee shows, when combined with the Neighbors Cabs this can produce an interesting counterpoint to the Estate Cuvee.  I suspect that many California wine consumers expect a degree of firmness and drying tannins in the finish of their wines after drinking young California wines for so many years. The Neighbor's cuvee satisfies those tastes and expectations.  It is a wine for "structure lovers" as opposed to "fruit lovers" like myself.  It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see the Neighbor's cuvee outlast Dave's estate bottlings and to satisfy those wine drinkers who want to wait around for the end of the race to compare the "mature" wines and not the ones we are drinking now. 

The Syrahs 

Dark purple, tree bark, herbal, pepper, hints of cherry, big mouth feel, drying tannic finish.  Will certainly add structure to any wine it is blended into. 

We also went over to Lambert Bridge, to sample a barrel of syrah that Dave was thinking of purchasing.  That sample was just as dark but lower in tannins than the Syrah Dave had made from purchased grapes. 

The Cabs 

Bottom cab  -  purple, spicy anise, low tannin, typical young coffaro cab. The essence of estate cuvee. 

Aca Modot - richer than the bottom cab but not as open at this point, also it is harder with more tannin.  A little dull on the palate and could use more acidity to highlight the fruit. 

Cab Franc/Malbec blend - weedy, tobacco, herbal.  Similar to last years Cab franc but more restrained. This wine will clearly add the "bordeaux-like" quality to Aca Modot. 

The Carignane - very deep purple color, red fruits and minerals dominate the wine in the mouth.  Much more intense than previous vintages.  A little "stinky" from fermentation odors right now.  The 98 vintage has concentrated the Coffaro Carignane to the point where I suspect there will be those who love it and those who think it is "over the top" (in my opinion similar to comments on the 97 Zin!). 

The Petite Sirah or Pbot  - very dark purple, violets and spices in the nose and in the mouth.  A classic example of Coffaro Petite Sirah (or whatever it is).  Full bodied mild to medium tannins that add structure without overpowering the fruit. 

And now for some philosophizing <grin> 

The Zinfandel Decision - 

What to do, what to do, what to do?  A short crop of zin, carignane, and petite sirah and burgeoning futures sales has left Dave with the least flexibility he has ever had.  In previous years Dave has blended in small amounts of carignane, cabernet, and petite sirah to round out and add complexity to the estate zin.  Whether he can do that again is not clear at this point.  In my mind the carignane is a much better choice than the syrah for fleshing out the zin.  It would add the missing components (color, minerals, red fruits).  The syrah could add the color, but at the cost of adding tannin to the zinfandel.  Would that significantly effect the mouthfeel and structure?  Also in Dave's mind, the Teldelshi and Lane zins would also add complexity to the zinfandel and allow him to produce as much zin as had anticipated (>850 cases).  But neither of those zins, have the "classic coffaro zin qualities" I have grown to love over the years and will only dilute the "essence" of Coffaro Zinfandel.  Further complicating these decisions is the fact that a significant portion of Dave's zinfandel grapes are sold to Nalle and to Lambert Bridge at prices less than Dave has paid to purchase (much lower quality) zinfandel!!   Can Dave afford to continue providing zinfandel to other producers?  Will they "understand" if he should decide that his growing customer base (many of whom purchase the wine as futures before the grapes are "born") should be the rightful recipients of  Coffaro zinfandel?  What to do? What to do? What to do? 

A proposal for 98 (and perhaps the future too). 

In 97 Dave added the Neighbor's Cuvee.  By all accounts it has been a success and as discussed above a counterpoint to the estate cuvee.  I suggest that Dave introduce this year the Neighbor's Zinfandel.  A blend of purchased grapes (75% of which must be zinfandel) molded by the Coffaro hand.  A wine distinct from the Coffaro Estate Zin both in fruit complexity and in structure.   I suspect with Dave's unique palate and ability to blend, this wine would contrast nicely with the homegrown Zin and develop a following just like the Neighbor's Cuvee.  Dave has told me he doesn't want to make two zinfandels, but I think it makes a lot of sense and I wouldn't be surprised that some would prefer the added complexity that can be obtained from purchased grapes and the magic of Dave Coffaro.  This would give Dave and Pat a Zinfandel (in addition to the Estate Cuvee and the Neighbor's Cuvee) to pour, taste, and sell at barrel tasting and passport, and still preserve the unique Coffaro Estate Zinfandel. 

* * * 

We already have had at least 100 people come in to taste our 1998 barrel samples. Every one of them has preferred my estate Zinfandel over the Teldeschi and Lane Zins. This has caused me to re-evaluate dropping my estate classification on the Zinfandel. In the next few days, I will try to estimate which barrels will go into each of our six or seven red wines. Hopefully, I will post a note on Friday giving my decision. 

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