Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wine Maker Profile--Jesse Katz and Devil Proof Vineyards

Check out my latest feature story about Jesse and Andy Katz and Devil Proof Vineyards in Sonoma Discoveries September/October issue. Click here for the online edition.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Lodi Wine Bloggers Conference 2016: The Missed Connection — St. Jorge Winery

My Friday excursion tag for #WBC16 in Lodi read “The Wine Abides” -- and as I waited with my group to board the bus to our undisclosed location, I realized I’d left my phone charge cord behind in the conference center. I ran back to retrieve it and when I returned the “Wine Abides” bus had up and left without me! Without a roster of who was on what bus it was impossible for them to know who should be aboard. But my missed connection had a very happy ending as I ended up on the “Souzão Berry Fields Forever” bus with wonderful small group consisting of Rachel of Three Strings Wine, Rob Frisch of Odd Bacchus, Josh from Josh Likes Wine, Andrew Pitt from Visit Lodi, Chris Kern of Forgotten Grapes, and Jo-Jo the Wine Guzzling Bear. (I think Jo-Jo blogs for Costo.)

Jo-Jo bellying up to the barre. 

Our destination was St. Jorge a winery focusing on Portuguese wines along with a few Italian varietals as well. Our hosts for the evening were Vern & Jenise Vierra, the owners of St. Jorge Winery since 2007. Jenise’s family heritage is Italian and Vern’s family was Portuguese hailing from the island of St. Jorge, thus the name of the winery. Together, Vern and Jenise have all the elements for a great reality TV show--like a modern Lucy and Ricky, they were a thoroughly engaging and highly entertaining couple.

The St. Jorge Estate was like a little slice of Portugal transported to the outskirts of Lodi. After a welcome glass of Verdelho along with some extraordinary Portuguese cheeses and traditional breads, we headed out to the vineyards with Vern.

Bounded by olive trees and oak groves the vineyard soils consist of shallow clay and sandy loam. The estate-grown varietals include Verdelho, Malbec, Tinto Cão, Carignan, Trincadeira, Alicanti Bouschet, Alvarelho, Touriga, Souzão, Tempranillo, and Petit Sirah. 

They also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Maria (Mediera Port), Old Vine Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Sobremesa (Dessert), Syrah, Tannat, Vinho Cor De Rosa, Vinho Tinto Belo, and Vinho Tinto Doce.

With over 22 wines offered, you are sure to find one that suits your palate at St. Jorge.

It was dang hot out and I drank a lot of water. Perhaps too much water as it had the effect of flushing all the salt from my body of making me feel worse in the heat rather than better, and I struggled through the evening until my electrolytes finally balanced out. Note to self: Water is dangerous!

Vern Vierra in the St. Jorge vineyard
After the vineyard tour, Vern led us through a technical tasting in the cellar where we tasted a vertical of Verdelho including the 2011 Verdelho Seco from Silvaspoons Vineyard, 2014 Verdelho from Vierra Estate, and 2011 Maria also Silvaspoons Vineyard. 

We also took a mini liquid tour of Portugal and tasted the 2014 Trincaderia , 2013 Tempranillo,  2014 Touriga, 2014 Souzao, and 2011 Vihno Tinto Doce  (Port).

But that’s not all!

We then tried the 2013 Sangiovese (a personal favorite of mine), 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Syrah, and the 2013 Alicanti Bouschet.

Time for Dinner
Jenise Vierra, at left, our gracious host.

As the air temperature dropped to a balmy 92 degrees, we headed back outside for dinner alfresco in the courtyard with outdoor chandeliers, and elegant glass sculptures atop a long table artfully decorated with fresh cut grapes that I mistook for fake as they just looked too good to be true.

Not fake grapes, the real deal!
The Portuguese and Italian inspired meal was prepared on site by the long-time family chef Lucia Rogers. The menu was as follows: Gazpacho with a fiery kick of jalapeño paired with 2014 Verdelho; Filetto Carpaccio Salad with 2014 Souzao; Bacalao the traditional cod dish of Portugal with 2014 Trincaderia; Pappa Pomodori Ravioli with 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; and Port infused Fudge Brownie with Armena & Raspberry sauce paired with 2011 Vinho Tinto Doce.

It was an evening of grand hospitality and wine, wine, and more wine!

Grateful thanks to Vern and Jenise for hosting us and also to Mike Shinn, Director of Operations, for his assistance and the lively dinner conversation.

If you visit Lodi, be sure to stop in at St.Jorge. They are open Friday - Sunday from 11-5pm .

St. Jorge Winery

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Wines and Revelations of Josip Brkic - A Visit to Brkic Winery in Bosnia & Herzegovina

“I will make wines like this or I will not make them at all.”


Of course almost all winemakers are highly passionate about their craft no matter where they are from. But I found the people I met in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina were deeply vested in their land and wines in an almost spiritual way.

One of our first visits was to Brkic Winery in Citluk - Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Josip Brkic is a shining example of a winemaker whose wines embody a philosophy that goes beyond mere passion for wine making. It’s a philosophy of life as well. The vineyards, grapes and wines are regarded as members of the family.

We sat down to taste several of the Brikic wines and listen to Josip tell his story.

Fifteen years ago Josip Brkic had an epiphany and it changed the course of his life and the trajectory of his wine making. While exhibiting at an Italian wine expo he learned about biodynamic practices and fell in love with the concept. Up to that point says Brik “I was not thinking of the wine as a living thing, only as a product.” He realized how one farmed and approached the land was a long-term vision that needed to be fully embraced.

After his father died, Josip took over the winery and against all conventional wisdom, and the advice of others, he set out on a new path to convert the vineyards to be fully organic and biodynamic. His goal was to showcase the wine as a document of the year in as pure a manner as possible.

The freedom of the moment, realizing that he alone was making the decision with no one telling him what to do, was thrilling but challenging. Brkic found going organic is risky, and not for everyone. With great changes, came great challenges. All biodynamic vines are organic, but not all organic vines are biodynamic. Brik wanted both.

Converting to all organic practices is a difficult for a vineyard, explained Brkic. “It’s as if the vineyards are addicts that have been on drugs and the new practices presented a shock to them.” It takes time to convert them without stressing them out. But Brik stayed the course and slowly nurtured the vines to a new reality.

As Brkic spoke, a family member translated from Bosnian for us. I focused on Josip’s voice and all of a sudden I felt like I could understand his words completely without translation. Perhaps the wines imbued me with some type of mystical language abilities. I don’t know. I suggest you try some for yourself and see what happens.

When I sampled the wines, it became clear, everything I needed to know about Josip Brkic was there in the glass. Josip’s personal creed and promise also appears on all the labels— “I will make wines like this or I will not make them at all.”

If you find yourself in Bosnia & Herzegovina by all means make the pilgrimage to Brkic tasting room in Citulk. It’s well worth the trip.

Tasting Notes

Unfortunately I spilled wine on my notebook towards the end of the trip so I can barely read my tasting notes. But here is what I could decipher:

Zilavka 2015 : (zhee-lav-ka) Fresh, creamy, bright and light, with full flavors of pear and quince, and notes of limestone and thyme. Pretty, floral nose. Friendly and approachable style.

Greda 2010: An orange wine made from skin macerated Zilavka and aged for 2 years in oak – texture is the name of the game here. Greda is name of the vineyard. Very mellowed orange style wine with long lasting flavors of mead, almonds, orange peel -- Absolutely loved this wine!

Mjesecar 2013: 100% Zilavka. Limited production, numbered bottles. You’ll have to go to Bosnia & Herzegovina for this one, but it is well worth the trip! Named “Moonwalker” after the cycles of the moon in biodynamic charts, not after Michael Jackson and his moonwalking moves as rumor has it.

Rose 2014: Lovely and light, his first time making a rose.

Plava Greda 2013: 100% Blatina fresh and juicy red fruits with a lively minerality. Soft and elegant with long finish. Would be great to pair with smoked meats.

Brkic Winery
Kralja Tvrtka 9
Bosnia & Herzegovina

Brkic Wines are available via Blue Danube Wines.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Wine Road Podcast Episode 08 - California Wine Month

Wine Road EP 08 - California Wine Month - In this short but sweet episode we talk about California Wine Month and what the Wine Road is doing to feature California wine, we discuss the book Down to Earth, and taste the 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Optima.

Listen here:

Show Notes:

• California Wine Month - 0:35
• Major Valleys and AVA’s along the wine road - 2:26
• Sub-AVA’s - 3:56
• Wine Road Map great resource for visitors- 4:45
• Wine of Day // Wine of the Cast - 2012 Optima Cabernet Sauvignon - 5:22
• Down to Earth wine book published by the Wine Institute 6:35
• George Rose Photographer 6:46


• Wine Road Website - https://www.wineroad.com
• Wine Road Map - https://www.wineroad.com/maps/
• Optima Winery - https://optimawinery.com
• Down To Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California- https://www.amazon.com/Earth-Seasonal-Sustainable-Winegrowing-California/dp/0615946615
• George Rose Photographer - http://georgerose.com

Wineries Mentioned:

• Optima - https://optimawinery.com


"Secret of Tiki Island" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Monday, September 5, 2016

Essay on Croatia in Wine Enthusiast

October 2016 Wine Enthusiast 

So this happened.... Last Drop essay in the October 2016 issue of Wine Enthusiast!

I will share the link when it’s available online, but for now it’s only on newsstands. Thanks to Mary Cressler for the above photo.

The essay in the magazine is a thin slice of life about my April road-trip. Now that it’s published, the full story of the wild and epic Blue Danube Wine road-trip along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and through Bosnia and Herzegovina can be told.

So much wine! So much food! So much fun!


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