Tasting Notes: Coffaro Wines
    Tom Hill, November 28, 1999

    [The following notes were posted by Tom Hill in the Tasting Notes Forum of the West Coast Wine Board and are reprinted here with his permission.]

    David Coffaro didn't want to ship me his '98's back in September w/ everybody else's because he knew I would immediately crack those suckers open & review them, even if'n they had just been bottled. I assured him I'd wait a few months and, so, my two months probation was just about up, so we tasted Coffaros this week.

  1. Coffaro Neighbor's Cuvee Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (50% CS, 16% Syrah, 14% PS, 11%CabFranc, 9% Zin; 13.4%; 575cs) '98: Med.dark color; fragrant/spicy light Fr.oaked/pencilly very perfumey/aromatic nose; tart very spicy/fragrant/perfumed chocolaty light pencilly/ Fr.oaked flavor; very long very tasty very spicy slight chocolaty light pencilly/oaked finish w/ some tannins; a beautiful perfumey/aromatic very spicy red w/ little obvious Cabernet character; wonderful drinking now but give a yr or two.
  2. Coffaro Estate Cuvee Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (35% CS, 26% Zin, 26% Carignane, 13% PS; 13.7%; 425cs) '96: Med.color; dusty/old vines light spicy slight bretty/horsecollar mostly Zin-like very spicy/perfumed nose; soft smooth very spicy/aromatic slight bretty light pencilly/oak flavor; med.ong lean/spicy aromatic bit bretty/horsecollar perfumed mostly Zin-like finish w/ light tannins; really lovely balanced ready-to-drink red.
  3. Coffaro Estate Cuvee Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (34% CS, 31% Zin, 24% Carignane, 11% PS; 14.3%; 705cs) '97: Med.color; very spicy/aromatic slight herbal bit dusty/old vine very fragrant light pencilly/oak nose; tart spicy bit lean/tight slight herbal/black cherry/coffee light pencilly/oaked flavor; med.long tart very spicy slight dusty/old vines aromatic slight black cherry/coffee finish w/ light tannins; needs another yr.
  4. Coffaro Estate Cuvee Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (35% CS, 32% Zin, 23% Carignane, 10% PS; 13.9%; 575cs) '98: Med.dark color; really beautiful/lovely very fragrant/cinammon/coffee very spicy/perfumed nose; lush rich very spicy/aromatic/fragrant/floral/buttery/buttered popcorn light Fr.oak/ pencilly flavor; very long lovely/lush/floral/very spicy slight coffee/berry light oak finish w/ some tannins; needs several yrs.
  5. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Zin (75% Zin, 10% CS, 9% PS, 6% Carignane; 14.5%; 425cs) '96: Med.color; fragrant very spicy slight Zinberry/raspberry slight brett/horsecollar very perfumey nose; soft bit lean very spicy/aromatic some raspberry/Zinberry slight bretty light pencilly/oak flavor; long very spicy light Zinberry/raspberry/cherry/black cherry light pencilly/oak slight brett finish w/ light tannins; really lovely drinking now. $11.25
  6. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Zin (75% Zin, 11% Carignane, 8% PS, 6% CS; 14.9%; 875cs) '97: Med.color; lovely/ beautiful very spicy fragrant Zinberry/raspberry classic Dry Creek Valley Zin aromatic nose; tart very spicy/perfumey raspberry/Zinberry light pencilly/Fr.oaked/buttery some dusty/old vines flavor; very long/lingering very spicy bright Zinberry/raspberry/Dry Creek Valley Zin light pencilly/ oak finish w/ some tannins; a really beautiful bright Dry Creek Valley Zin, could use another yr of age.
  7. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Zin (75% Zin, 13% CS, 7% Carignane, 5% PS; 13.9%; 675cs) '98: Med.dark color; strong fragrant Zinberry/raspberry bright bit closed very spicy light pencilly/oak nose; bigger more earthy/dusty old vines bit hard/tight bright Zinberry/raspberry light pencilly/ oak flavor; med.long light/buttery/pencilly/oak bright/Zinberry/raspberry bit deeper/dusty/ old vines finish w/ fair tannins; lots of lovely bright Zinberry fruit but seems a bit tight & closed yet; bigger & richer than his previous Zins.
  8. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah (75% PS, 15% Carignane, 8% CS, 2% Zin; 13.8%; 125cs) '96: Med.dark color; deeper dusty/pungent/bit peppery some spicy/fragrant bit clunky/PS slight bretty/ horsecollar nose; soft bit clunky/PS/peppery sime spicy/aromatic/fragrant bit bretty some dusty/old vines some pencilly/oaked flavor; med.long spicy/perfumed some pencilly/oaked some clunky/PS/peppery slight bretty finish w/ some tannins; still needs another yr; has some of that PS/clunky character but very spicy/perfumed for PS; not your usual big/ oafish PS.
  9. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah (75% PS, 11% CS, 8% Carignane, 6% Zin; 14.1%; 250cs) '97: Med.dark color; more earthy/dusty/old vines deeper spicy/fragrant black cherry/chocolaty/peppery light pencilly/oak nose; bit lean/tart richer black cherry/peppery/chocolaty some dusty/old vines fragrant light pencilly/oak flavor; med.long very spicy/fragrant peppery/chocolaty/black cherry light oak finish w/ some tannins; more like Dry Creek Valley Zin than PS; lots of aromatics for PS.
  10. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah (75% PS, 14% CS, 11% Carignane; 13.9%; 250cs) '98: Very dark color; bit buttery/pencilly/oaked rather fragrant bit black pepper/spicy light dusty/old vines nose; softer/richer black pepper/licorice some buttery/pencilly/Fr.oaked pretty spicy/ perfumed flavor; long spicy/black pepper/licorice dusty/old vines some pencilly/Fr.oak/ buttery finish w/ fair tannins; needs several yrs; more PS character than the other two, but still very spicy/fragrant/bright not your usual clunky/PS.
  11. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (83% CS, 11% CabFranc, 6% Merlot; 14.1%; 225 cs) '96: Dark color; slightly herbal/Cab/cinammon very spicy/fragrant/cloves light bretty light oaked bit chocolaty nose; tarter/harder bit herbal/Cabernet rather fragrant/spicy/floral/light rose petal light bretty some pencilly/oak flavor; long bit hard/tart rather floral/spicy light herbal/Cab perfumed light bretty some pencilly/oaked finish w/ some tannins; seems a bit lean & hard but near drinkable; really improves w/ air and becomes very fragrant/ aromatic/floral.
  12. Coffaro Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (80% CS, 20% Carignane; 13.5%; 225cs) '97: Dark color; some herbal/Cab slight chocolaty/black curranty bit intenser some pencilly/pungent/Fr.oak slight menthol nose; bit bigger/harder/leaner slight herbal/black curranty/black cherry some pencilly/Fr.oak flavor; med.long light herbal some chocolaty/black curranty/black cherry hard/lean pencilly/oak finish w/ fair tannins; needs several yrs; seems to have a hard/lean character typical of Carignane; good backbone & needs age.
  13. Coffaro Aca Modot Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (70% CS, 30% CabFranc; 75cs) '97: Very dark color; intense rich/ ripe blackcurranty/Cab slight herbal very perfumed/spicy/fragrant dusty/old vines some pencilly/toasty/oak nose; rich ripe big blackcurranty/Cab dusty/old vines perfumey/aromatic very spicy somewhat tannic flavor; very long lingering ripe/black curranty/Cab rather hard/ tannic very spicy/aromatic some pencilly/pungent oak finish; pretty big Cab but very aromatic & stylish; needs 3-7 yrs.
  14. Coffaro Aca Modot Dry Creek Valley Red Wine (73% CS, 14% CabFranc, 5% Malbec, 5% Zin, 3% Barbera; 14.3%; 250cs) '98: Near black color; intense blackcurranty/chocolaty/Cab smokey/pungent/toasty/oak very fragrant/perfumey very spicy nose; big rich very spicy blackcurranty/Cab/chocolaty some smokey/toasty/pungent/oak rather dusty/old vines bit herbal flavor; big/huge rich/ripe/ blackcurranty/chocolaty/Cab some toasty/pungent/oaked finish w/ ample tannins; needs 3-10 yrs of age; seems to have different oak in this than the others; terrific Dry Creek Valley Cab.

And the usual pedantry from the bloody pulpit:

  1. The prices were all those from Dave's future/futures program and include shipping. Retail prices are significantly higher. In about February, he will be offering his '00 wines at (presumably) very attractive prices. I always feel so guilty about sending Dave such tiny checks for so much wine every year. :-)
  2. Dave's WebSite is at  http://www.coffaro.com . Tons of interesting stuff there, like looking over his shoulder on a day to day basis in his winemakers' diary at http://www/coffaro.com/diary.html. Don't know where he finds the time to do it all.
  3. Brett: I found a very slight touch of brett in all the '96's; more so the next day. But it was at a pretty low level I not at all objectionable; it gave the wines a slightly rustic character. I'm sure it was also in the '97's and the '98's, but at a level I couldn't pick it up.
  4. The Coffaro Style: Now here is one tough subject to write on, but here goes: All of the wines had a very distinct David Coffaro style to them. Like the "Draper perfume" in Ridge wines; these all had this Coffaro character to them; just something unique, very identifiable; impossible to describe. Probably the Nalle Zins (which contains some of Dave's Zin grapes) are the closest thing in style I can think of. They all show a distinct very spicy/fragrant fruit, a distinct pencilly/oak; lots of dusty/old vine character. These wines are, to me, the epitome of fragrant/spicy/racy/bright/vibrant Dry Creek Valley reds. These wines, for me, were damnably difficult to describe. All very distinct.... but trying to put words to those distinctions was near nigh impossible. So these notes come out sort of gray and useless; not very helpful to a reader. That's also very much the problem I have in notes on the Ridge wines. Maybe I need a bit more experience in writing up tasting notes!! I've always sort of regarded Dave's blending practices as ..... disingenuous; this feeling in the back of my mind that maybe we're the victims of some sort of scam or that Dave's just funnin' us a bit. Nobody, but nobody, in California blends Cabernet varieties in with Zinfandel (you can actually read in UCDAvis texts that blending Cab w/ Zin is a no-no) or Petite Sirah. Dave's wines have sometimes seemed to have had their varietal character obliterated by his strange blending practices. The Zins seem to have the most varietal character of all; distinctly Dry Creek Valley Zin, if you know to look for that. The PS... is much more aromatic & perfumed than most clunky Calif PSs; not your typical PS (thank goodness). The Cabernet.... I really have to struggle to find much Cabernet character in it at all... it seems more like Zin than Cabernet to me. But after this tasting, I think I'm beginning to see a method in his madness.... maybe ol' Dave knows a bit more about winemaking than I've been giving him credit for!! :-) The varietals were all distinctly different wines and within those varietals, they all seemed to have some sort of commonality. But they don't seem to wear their varietal character on their sleeve; they don't shout Cabernet or PS or Zin; you have to contemplate the wine a bit and search a bit to dig out that varietal character. He seems to use the varietal character as a subtle nuance or modifing adjective to the wine, rather than have it shout "I am Zinfandel" or "I am Cabernet". Maybe it's just that the grapes from his vnyd just give this character.... maybe I just don't know varietal character well enough (slow learner, here!!). But it's sort of like the wine says "nudge,nudge..wink,wink... I am Zinfandel... just between you and I". So what IS the David Coffaro style?? It's all about restraint and balance in the wine. A distinct but modest use of oak. It's about an incredible perfume and fragrance and aromatics and a very distinct spiciness. It's NOT about bigness and alcohol. It's about letting the David Coffaro vnyd speak its piece in the wine. The bottom line is that it's about making damn good drinking wine at a good price (if you buy on the futures)!!
  5. AcaModot: This is Dave's Cabernet based top-of-the-line wine from a knoll in his vnyd that the AcaModot tribe once occupied. Dave's vnyd slopes down from the road towards the river, across from Preston Vnyds. There is this noticible rise in the centre block there that is the AcaModot knoll from which he sources the grapes (primarily, I assume) for this wine. When you walk this part of the vnyd and scuff up the soil w/ your shoe, you can find old arrowheads from their hunting, blackened rocks from their campfires, broken roulette wheels and bingo cards from their casinos. Any visit to Dave's should include a walk thru his vnyd if he has time. The '98 AcaModot is SERIOUS Dry Creek Valley Cabernet, folks. This is easily the biggest, richest, most intense red Dave has made, IMHO. But, still, it shows that Coffaro restraint and balance. It's going to be fun watching this wine evolve.
  6. The Vintages: When we tasted the '97's a year ago, just after Dave sent them out; they all seemed to have a shrill/strident acidity to them which made me think they were acidified. Dave assured me that they were not and that's just what '97 produced. That acidity has really tamed down a lot in the '97's a yr later and the wines are developing some beautiful aromatics as they come into balance. Dave's '98's seem, to me, across the board, the best wines he's produced since he's started. They seem bigger & richer & more intense than any I recall at this early stage. They're hard not to drink right now they're so perfumey & aromatic; but there still seemed a bit of a closedness & tightness that suggests that one should be patient for another few months. Hard to do w/ these wines, I know.
  7. I've followed Dave & Pat's wines from the very start (being introduced to them by Paul Root), when they were a tiny Mom&Pop operation. Now that they are a SMALL Mom&Pop operation; the wines just seem to keep getting better & better (along w/ the sound system!!). A visit to Dave's wnry is one I would highly recommend to anyone who's up in the Healdsburg area. Make an appointment ahead, though.
TomHill (wishing he had boughht more David Coffaros over the yrs... or, at least, not been drinking them so fast!!)


  • Tasting Notes: Coffaro Wines

  • Tom Hill, November 28, 1999