Futures Buying & Tasting

Last year on our Sonoma trip, we had the fun and pleasure of barrel tasting at David Coffaro Winery.  I’d never barrel tasted before this trip, but I certainly made up for during that trip and since.  I’ve decided that it’s tons of fun and educational to be able to taste the wine while it’s still developing in the barrel.  At Coffaro last year we probably tasted about 10 wines in barrel (you can read about that here) and purchased a case of wine that arrived this past November.

Now, here’s the beauty of buying wine before it’s bottled: Wineries who offer this option tend to discount the wine a bit, so you can end up paying quite a lot less for a lot more wine! Last year we walked away with a case of great wine, including taxes, for $213.  This year, if they’ll let us barrel taste again, we’ll get an even better deal as I’ve joined up with Coffaro’s new club. (Hey folks at Coffaro, I’m coming by on Thursday afternoon….any chance I can barrel taste? ;) )

I know some of my wine blog buddies had a blast at barrel tasting weekend(s) in Sonoma recently and scored some excellent deals.  I’d love to make it out for barrel tasting some year so I could participate in the buying bonanza.  You should go read about their adventures here, here, here, and here.

So tell me about your experiences barrel tasting or buying futures! Good, bad, or indifferent?  I’ve noticed in the last year or so that many of the wineries that send me email (and that’s quite a few….) have been offering futures. It’s not something I had picked up on before, so it has me thinking.  Would you buy futures without tasting the wine? Being on the East Coast, it’s not really all that practical for me to be able to go to the wineries to taste and decide, so I’m torn as to whether buying sight taste unseen is a good move for me. I suppose if it’s a winery I’ve been familiar with over the years it wouldn’t be such a risk, one would hope.

Purchasing Futures

On our 3rd and last day tasting on our recent CA trip, we met up with Russ the Winehiker at Bella first thing in the morning (more on Bella later.) We enticed Russ (well, really, it didn’t take much arm twisting….) to come out with us for a few stops on Wednesday before he had to head back home by dangling Bella and David Coffaro as stops in front of him!

Our second stop of the day was at David Coffaro. Three other people were at the tasting bar when we sidled up and I whipped out my notebook and started writing. Steve, who was pouring our tasting, took a look and decided I looked serious, so grabbed a wine thief and offered us a barrel tasting. Apparently this was to be the trip of barrel tasting! We tasted everything David Coffaro had in barrels and purchased a case of futures which will be bottled later this year and shipped to us when we decide the weather is good enough!

David Coffaro sells the vast majority of his wines through his futures program, so you pretty much have to go to the winery to get your hands on any of them. However, I promise you, it is worth your time to stop. I’ve found the wines to be excellent values over the years, especially if you purchase in futures as the prices go up the closer he gets to releasing the wines! Also note, all the wines are bottled under screw caps, but as I can attest to, having a couple of 2003s still hanging out in the basement, the screw caps work just fine.

The following were all barrel tastings. Picture above is Steve posing for me between barrels….I warned him it would appear here!

2007 Zinfandel: Price now: $17. Price on release: $26. 83% Zinfandel, 17% Spicy Cabernet. 590 cases. Vanilla, blackberry, dark fruit.

2007 My Zin: Price now: $17. Price on release: $26. 75% Zinfandel, 14% Tannic Cabernet, 11% Petite Sirah. 610 Cases. Blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, tart, slight red fruit.

2007 Estate Cuvee: Price now: $17. Price on release: $26. 465 cases. 33% Zinfandel, 33% Spicy Cabernet, 25% Carignan, 9% Peloursin. Dark oak, berries, red fruit. We loved this one and put 3 bottles in our futures case.

2007 Terre Melange: Price now: $17. Price on release: $25. 365 cases. 49% Peloursin, 29% Mourvedre, 17$ Syrah, 5% Grenache. Leather, a little earth, red berries, still prickly from fermenting!

2007 Carignan: Price now: $17. Price on release: $25. 270 cases. 100% Carignan. Blueberries, vanilla, a touch of red fruit.

2007 Escuro: Price now: $17. Price on release: $25. 500 cases. 35% Petite Verdot, 33% Petite Sirah, 32% Cabernet. Chocolate, pepper, dark berries, spice, tannic, a dark wine.

2007 Block 4: Price now: $19. Price on release: $32. 765 cases. Field blend: 50% Zinfandel, 25% Petite Sirah, 5% Peloursin, 5% Syrah, 5% Carignan, 10% other. Chocolate, cherries, blueberries, pepper. 3 bottles made it into out case.

2007 Aca Modot: Price now: $19. Price on release: $32. 525 cases. 38% Cabernet, 21% Petite Verdot, 18% Malbec, 16% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot. Barny, leather, saddle, red berries, very Bordeaux-like.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Price now: $18. Price on release: $28. 185 cases. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Smells very good, red strawberry, red berries, still a bit prickly, but great. 3 bottles made our case.

2007 Petite Sirah: Price now: $17. Price on release: $26. 335 cases. 100% Petite Sirah. Blueberry pie, vanilla, pepper, earth, very good. 3 bottles went into our case.

The whole case ran us $213. If we had been able to pull off a second case of futures (which I really really wanted to do) we could have had the whole case for $201 as the deal at David Coffaro is that if you buy 2 cases of futures you are in the Circle and get $2 off on all futures and 30% off on bottled wine, which applies to the next two vintages after you by your first two cases. Maybe on the next trip! This was our second visit to David Coffaro and I will certainly be stopping by again. The wine are consistently excellent and I highly recommend them.

Already in bottles we tasted:

2005 Zinfandel: $26. Old vines (really old, planted in the 1890s!). Smoky, chocolate, blackberries, a bit of reddish fruit, tart. Took home two bottles, one for us and one for our neighbors who kindly took in our mail for us while we were gone.

2005 Escuro: $26. Strawberry, herby leather, blueberries.

2006 Fresco: 22% Alvarelhao, 21% Tempranillo, 21% Tinto Cao, 20% Peloursin, 16% Carignan. Cedar, big berries, red fruit, mint.

2005 Petite Sirah: Blueberry cream, pie, tasty, one of my favorites. I wanted to take more home, of this in particular, but Matt was giving me the: it’s only noon and you’ve already bought enough wine look…

2007 Sauvignon Blanc: Only tasted this briefly before we were whisked away for a barrel tasting, but this was my kind of Sauvignon Blanc. Green pepper, grapefruit, tart, crisp, lip smacking acidity.

We walked away from David Coffaro with purple lips and stained teeth, but having tasted some great wine. I am very much looking forward to my futures case arriving in the mail and I will of course post reviews of those bottles as we consume them. It’ll be fun to see how the bottled wine compares to my (brief) barrel notes!

My First Barrel Tasting!

So does that belong in a scrapbook next to “My first steps” and “My first birthday cake?” As a wine enthusiast, I certainly think it might take a place among those milestones ;)

While in Sonoma, Matt and I were lucky enough to be shown all over town by Patrick (more about Patrick, his wife Genevieve and their wines later) of Iridesse Wines. We were also joined by Russ, the Winehiker himself, for all of one day and part of another. It was so much fun to meet more wine folks, and especially to finally put faces and voices with people’s internet personas. We couldn’t have asked for a better host, and I find it to always be great to go out and about with someone who lives in the area you are visiting…not only did we have great wines, we also went to fabulous restaurants! We met up with Patrick and Russ at the Flying Goat in downtown Healdsburg, and Patrick quickly whisked us away to Chateau Felice, where we were fortunate enough to be offered the chance to taste everything (and I mean everything) that was in the barrels.

Aside from the sheer joy and fun of being up close and personal with wine barrels and getting to taste the wines in their various states of development, the wines were really good. I also got to spit on the ground for the first time…..my pants may have come out a little bit worse for wear from that experience! As you can see, the grounds at Chateau Felice were absolutely picturesque. I can see why it’s a popular place to have a wedding. Before we tasted, Patrick showed us all around the vineyards.

All of these were barrel samples:

2007 Chardonnay: (Clone 76) Apple, tropical fruit, crisp, not oaky at all, pineapple, great acidity, yum.

2007 Chardonnay: (Clone 96) Pineapple, little creamier than the 76, a touch of toast and butter, peach, the wine was definitely still in the maloactic stage.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Dusty blackberry, cherry, strawberry, white pepper, baking spices, very nice, layered, cherry, layered, definitely needs some more time.

2006 Cabernet Franc: Herbal, berries on nose, boysenberries, nice strawberry in the mouth with licorice and milk chocolate. Very well done.

2007 Merlot: Chocolate berries, plums, nice fruit, very good structure, kick on the end.

2006 Syrah: (out of tank) Peppery, vanilla, black fruit.

2006 Zinfandel: (out of tank) Peppery, light color for a Zin, vanilla, spice, red fruit, a touch of blackberry.

2007 Zinfandel: Chocolate malt, herbs, boysenberry, sweeter than 2006, still prickly from being in the barrel.

2007 Zinfandel Port: Very much like a late harvest Zinfandel, syrupy, boysenberry, blackberry, high residual sugar.

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