In the world of wine, it’s fashionable to say you’re unique. Many wineries will promote a story about what sets them apart from all the rest. In other words, it seems like they are trying to be different. David Coffaro, owner and winemaker at the David Coffaro Winery, doesn’t have to try. He simply has his own way, and it means he’s not afraid to jump into things head first.
In the late 70’s, he was an investor in the stock market but couldn’t see doing it long term, so David found himself looking for something new in his life. While David loved wine and his father-in-law was a grape grower in Modesto, he didn’t know too much about it himself. That didn’t deter him. His thought was, “If I’ve been willing to take chances in the stock market, I may as well take chances here.”
Thus, after looking at land in November of 1978, David purchased about twenty acres in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley just a few months later. When David first took over the vineyards, he had some hick-ups. “I had one of the first wines I made tested at a local lab, and they came back telling me it had the highest alcohol they’d ever seen,” David laughs.
Despite his initial struggles David stuck with it, and after a few more vintages, he was making drinkable wine. For a longtime, that was enough. He sold most of his fruit to Gallo, and they were quite happy with it. David made amateur wine for himself, friends and family with the fruit which was left over. Then in 1994, something changed in him. David began to wonder just how good his fruit was and just how good a wine he could make if he had all the grapes to himself. Rather than focus on single varietals like so many winemakers, David wanted to make a blend of the varietals that grew best in the Dry Creek Valley. It meant grapes like Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet, and Carignan would all be main components of his wines. He had a feeling his vineyards were of top quality and could produce a fine “Dry Creek blend,” so he took the plunge and started up a commercial winery.
David follows some fairly simple philosophies that have served him quite well over the years. First, he goes by the adage that blending makes everything better. He’s planted 22 different varietals in his vineyards and that allows him to play around with the blends he puts together every year until he’s happy with them. Second, he believes in being straight forward about what’s in the bottle. It means David won’t dress his wines up to be fancier than they are. “I won’t call a wine ‘reserve’ or ‘old vines’,” he explains. Plus, so people know exactly what they’re drinking, he always puts the percentages of each grape right on the label. David’s also not afraid of being a little radical. His newest venture is a wine called RaiZin. It’s made from berries that were left on the vine for too long and have started to shrivel in the sun. It’s certainly far from orthodox, but it’s very unique and people have responded well to it.
David knows he’s not going to be recognized for making truly great wines. “I don’t charge enough and I use screw-caps,” he jokes. But he does make some very good wine, and you certainly won’t over pay for them, especially if you take advantage of his futures program. A lot of people have, and David hasn’t disappointed. He puts a lot of care into making his wines, and if his gut tells him something will work, he’ll pursue it, even if convention would say otherwise. Of course, for a former stock-trader who jumped into making wine without any real training beforehand, maybe unconventional is exactly what we should expect. After all, it’s work well for David so far.
Check out our tasting panel’s reviews of some of David’s wines:
Article by Jason Barlow