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

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