david coffaro

wineries like shopping malls

by Stevie on November 5, 2009

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Healdsburg part of Sonoma County for wine tasting with friends. We stopped at Stryker Sonoma first, then Nalle; before enjoying our picnic lunch overlooking Lake Sonoma. It was a beautiful sunny day. The picnic spot couldn’t have been more perfect! The only flaw with the moment was that Christian and Aleks had forgotten to pack the olive bread. Alas!

WC crew at stunning Ferrari-Carano

WC crew at stunning Ferrari-Carano

I’d never been that far north in Dry Creek. There were lots more exciting-looking vineyards and wineries past David Coffaro than I’d ever realized. While chatting about everything over lunch and drinking two bottles of Stryker Sonoma zinfandel between the four of us (Aleks abstains), we decided that we’d try to hit one or two more on the drive back to San Francisco. By then we were a little loose from all of the wine. Our first stop was Sbragia. It sounds Italian to me which is always inviting.

Sbragia has one of those large tasting rooms with lots of merchandise other than wine. I sort of liked it. There were these cute sparkly pumpkins that caught my eye. They seemed so seasonally appropriate somehow. Suddenly we had to leave, even before trying any of the wine! What could be the matter?!? Back in the car one of our party shouted, “I felt like I was in a shopping mall in Minnesota!” As a result he refused to stay and would have nothing to do with the wine. The next place looked more promising.

Ferrari-Carano also seemed Italian-named (yeah!) and it was a lot more fancy-looking. There were sweeping gardens and a stunning tasting room in what appeared like a mansion. I really liked it. In fact I even impulsively (drunkenly more like it) bought a really cute, really overpriced ceramic wine bottle holder designed like a medieval tower. Very cool! It’s completely useless but I love it! Yet the same problem arose. Some of us refused to taste the wine because the place seemed too commercial; so we left.

Too commercial, too commercial… hmmm. Is that really possible? Aren’t these places, well, you know, businesses?

sparkly pumpkins on sale at Sbragia

sparkly pumpkins on sale at Sbragia

I have to admit that I’ve been to a fair number of wineries, in Napa especially, though in other locales too, where I felt like I was in Disneyland or starring in a James Bond feature film. I don’t ever think “shopping mall” though. Now that I’m reflecting on it more, it does seem that there’s a whole range of styles of winery, if you know what I mean. We’ve toured many mom-and-pop operations. Nalle, David Coffaro and A. Rafanelli immediately come to mind. These places are pretentiously small, intentionally ramshackle and seem to make a point of being almost anti-commercial. Sometimes I’m not even sure if they sell wine at all, let alone other products.

At the other end of the spectrum are those mammoth, showy places like Lambert Bridge, Darioush and Artesa; yes, and maybe Ferrari-Carano, too. At these wineries I often feel that I’ve entered an alternate Universe, travelled back through time or suddenly been identified as a long-lost relation and heir of some dearly departed multi-billionaire. In these fantasy wineries, you need to wade through endless examples of fine art, luxurious knickknacks, exquisite bottles of extra virgin olive oil, etc. to even find the wine. To me the experience can be thrilling. But I do see that it’s pretty artificial and could be a turn off for some. Most wineries fall somewhere between these two extremes.

homey Nalle tasting room

homey Nalle tasting room

I’m not that sure I’m totally a fan of the little, understated winery. Inevitably they’re staffed by the family that owns the place, or worse, their children. I vividly recall a long conversation at one such place where the daughter of the owner was clearly miserable to be stuck there and completely beholden to her parents for her financial existence. That must really suck. Poor thing! Her folks provided her salary, and owned her house in town, and it seems were more than a little intrusive into her private life. I didn’t have the sense that they liked her boyfriend very much. Just talking to her was a downer and it seemed way too work-related.

Usually the problem is not freebie psychotherapy sessions but the difficulty you have getting away from these miniscule outfits if it turns out that you don’t like the wine. How awkward to hear the whole family drama-rama about how much work they put into the place and then simply walk out empty-handed. That doesn’t happen at the luxury wineries.

I suppose the big showy places have their own problems. Sometimes I do get exhausted walking through endless gardens, vineyards, showrooms and palaces, all the while tripping over the fancy merchandise laid out everywhere. Simply tell me where to get my glass filled, please! Often, too, you’re treated like a complete wine hick, which is a bit insulting.

I wonder if these places make a lot of money on the various non-vinous items? Certainly I see many more product-laden wineries than the homespun variety. Or do we Americans simply feel more comfortable in an impersonal upscale store compared with the cozy intimacy of some stranger’s home/office?

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looking for David Coffaro

looking for David Coffaro

After our picnic at Trentadue, the WC crew headed over to David Coffaro by way of Yoakim Bridge. Wendy popped into YB for a minute then we were off to see Matt and Dave!

David Coffaro was the first winery that we reviewed for weirdcombinations.com. That plus the fact that we love the place, makes our return seem all the more special. I had ordered a mixed case of 2008 wine futures when we were last here in April. It was finally ready! Futures can be a really good deal if you’re sure that you’ll like the wine. Often futures wines are less expensive to buy ahead. Or if the wine is in super high demand, even if the price isn’t less, sometimes it’s the only way to ensure that you’ll be able to have it at all.

Anyhoo, it was time to go back! Dry Creek Valley really is picture perfect. It was a clear day with warm but comfortable weather, lots of sunshine and we all felt great because of the long weekend. Since we’d been before, we already knew what to expect at David Coffaro. It looks like a pleasant country home on the outside. But inside, the tasting room is a bit of a dump. Ziggy noticed cobwebs on the plants outside and in various corners inside. I was really struck by the football autographs over the bar. They were sort of cool but didn’t fit my fantasy of a vineyard tasting room at all. This time Matt was playing Coldplay’s “Yellow” when we walked in. We’d just been playing the same song in Wendy’s car on the way there! It’s got to be kismet! We asked about Muse but Matt said that he’d played two of their albums earlier that day. I guess that we missed it.

David Coffaro poses with our own Carey

David Coffaro poses with our own Carey

Matt looked good. His hair seemed blonder than our first visit and, if possible, he seemed even funnier and more outgoing than last time. We had the good fortune to meet the real David Coffaro this time! I got a great pic with him and Carey. We tried some of the same wines as earlier in the year with a few changes.

2008 Rose: 50% merlot, 50% mourvedre. $19 The wine was an orange color with a berry smell. It tasted of cherry, strawberry and had a pleasant tartness.

2006 Fresco: this is that crazy mix of 22% alvarelhao, 21% tempranillo, 21% tinto cao, 20% ploursin and 16% carmine. (Carmine was apparently created at UC Davis. The other varietals are all from Europe.) $15 To me this had a barnyard smell. It was medium red with cherry notes. I thought it was a bit sour. Matt described the wine as “vibrant.”

2006 Pinot Noir: 100% pinot. $20 This wine was brownish red with barnyard on the nose. It had medium body with a refined tannic finish. It tasted of cherry. It led some of us to ask “What do you like about pinot?” Uh oh!

2006 Escuro: 36% cabernet sauvignon, 30% tannat, 20% petite sirah and 14% petit verdot. $20 This wine was a very dark purple, really living up to its name: escuro means dark. The group liked this wine a lot but was a bit lost for words. Folks kept saying “This is good” or “This is delicious” or “They’re getting better and better!” Ziggy bought a bottle for later consumption.

you're as cool as ever, Matt!

you're as cool as ever, Matt!

2006 “My Zin: 77% zinfandel, 13% petite sirah, 10% cabernet sauvignon. $28 This was dark red with tobacco and caramel notes. It has a long finish that ends with cherry and fruit. We liked it.

2006 Petite Sirah: 100% petite sirah sourced from three different vineyards. $28 This was a black purple color. It finished with root beer notes. Ziggy thought that it was unbalanced. It was my favorite thus far.

2006 ZP2C: This bottom of the barrel Coffaro specialty is a mixture of everything. $22 It was a medium red with a long finish and caramel notes. Just o.k.

2007 Block 4 Dry Creek: 50% zinfandel, 25% petite sirah, 9% carignan, 8% syrah and 8% peloursin. This is their estate wine, made from some of their oldest vines. $35 It was a dark red with mulberry and strawberry on the nose. It tasted of chocolate, blackberry and was very smooth. We all liked this wine. We ordered one for home tasting.

David Coffaro is a really fun place to visit. It’s not stuffy like so many of the other places. Their wines are interesting and often wonderful. The staff is really low key and enjoyable. Plus you can save a lot with their futures program. You should visit them soon.

football memorabilia at Coffaro

football memorabilia at Coffaro

Ziggy is looking fine at David Coffaro!

Ziggy is looking fine at David Coffaro!

we loved these wines in particular

we loved these wines in particular

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david coffaro winery

by Heguiberto on April 22, 2009

We went with the weirdcombos tasting crew to this out-of-the-way gem in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Less well known than Alexander Valley or Sonoma Valley AVAs, Dry Creek Valley is particularly famous for Zinfandels. The drive from San Francisco to David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery is about an hour and a half along a gorgeous stretch of highway 101 through rolling hills, some dotted with grazing cows or more often, long rows of grapevines. The weather was record breaking for April, going just over 90 degrees on the day we were there.dscn17181

David Coffaro V&W is small-ish and a bit obscure; located at the far north end of Dry Creek Valley. From the outside, it looked like someone’s country home, something like you might see on eastern Long Island, but a bit more ramshackle. It was very charming though. There was a lazy golden retriever dozing nearby, amid a random seeming collection of wine-production implements, all abandoned in the heat. Finding the tasting room was a little tricky, though it was well marked. The door to the place was just so nondescript that it blended in and was easily missed.

The tasting room itself was large, dark and cool. Really part tasting room and part storage facility as barrels of wine were stacked almost to the ceiling on two walls. But any other comparison to more tourist-focused wineries goes out the window at this point. The place looked like someone’s oversized cluttered garage or perhaps junky basement. There were about a half dozen beaten-up sofas, hopefully waiting for Goodwill, and some very not-winery-style decorations. Numerous old movie posters from Star Wars, Twister and the like covered most of the blank wallspace. Tacked over the winebar were autographs of Mohammad Ali and various 1970’s movie stars. Matt Wilson, the assistant winemaker at Coffaro and our tasting leader, told us that they were the personal collection of the owner and were just for display. We liked Matt. He poured with a heavy hand and was knowledgeable about the wines but didn’t over promote the product. Plus, he was blasting a couple of albums from Muse, a personal favorite of the weirdcombos crew, so we immediately felt at home. The dude has style.

We tried several of their 2006 vintage from bottle. The 2006 Fresco was a blend of mainly obscure grape varietals: alvarelhao, tempranillo, tinto cao, peloursin and carmine. The whole WC tasting crew agreed about this one: it definitely tasted red. The 2006 Pinot Noir was a “hearty pinot” much admired by one of us, who actually splurged and bought one. Though, at $28 per bottle for quality California pinot, this is a good deal. The 2006 Petit Sirah, 100% sirah blended from three different plots of petit sirah grapes, looked “ultra black” and tasted delicious. The ZP2C, also affectionately called the “bottom of the barrel” because it’s made from “equal amounts of all barrels,” was only nice. Both 2006 cabs were excellent. dscn17192

The fun really started when Matt gave us barrel tastings from the 2008 vintage. These wines will be bottled sometime in July 2009. Right now they’re aging in mixed barrels of French, American and Hungarian oak. The 2008 Zinfandel blend, “My Zin,” was excellent: great dark color with a long, lingering finish. The ’08 Escuro, a Coffaro-style weird combination that would send European winemakers into spasms; a blend of petit sirah, lagrein, tannat, aglianico, touriga, souzao and alvarelhao; was a crowd pleaser. The real star of the ‘08’s that we tried was the 2008 Carignan. This is 100% carignan, and according to Matt, sells out quickly. We can believe that. Yummy!

David Coffaro keeps its prices fairly low: the 2006 vintage sells for between $15 and $32 per bottle and they offer volume discounts. The bargain hunter will go for their futures sales. These are all about $10 to $15 dollars less per bottle compared to release price. The only caveat is that you have to get a case or more, though you can mix and match for cases. (No problem for the wine-hounds at WC. We ordered a case and can’t wait to go back to pick it up in the fall!)

We left drunk and happy in the knowledge that fine quality wines can still be found at reasonable prices in Sonoma County.

David Coffaro Vineyard and Winery
7485 Dry Creek Road
Geyserville, CA 95441
707 433-9715
www.coffaro.com/

Open daily 11AM to 4PM

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