The Divine Wine Encounter at St. Supery Estate

St Supery Entrance

I recently had the opportunity to visit the St. Supery Estate Vineyards and Winery in Napa Valley, California, for a weekend of educational activities and incredible wines. The event is called the Divine Wine Encounter and they hold it annually for different groups of sommeliers and beverage directors from around the country. 

St. Supery Vineyard Grape Leaves

We kicked off Day One with an international Sauvignon Blanc tasting where we compared ten different styles of the varietal from around the world. Two of the wines featured were St. Supery’s Napa Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc and Dollarhide Estate Sauvignon Blanc, both of which showcase different flavor profiles. The Estate emphasizes the nature of the fruit without any influence of oak and the Dollarhide is its bigger, more full bodied brother with a rich silky texture and balanced oak integration to make any Chardonnay lover’s heart skip a beat. After the round table, we went on to the owner and CEO Emma Swain’s house for an incredible dinner in the true spirit of hospitality.  

On Day Two, we dove right into an ampelography seminar. For those of you who are unfamiliar, ampelography is the field of botany that focuses on the classification of grapevines. It was hosted by Lucy Morton who is a specialist in this study and one of very few practicing ampelographers. We were given the basic guidelines and characteristics of the vine leaf in order to be able to identify them ourselves. Once we finished the class, we loaded up and went on a field trip to the Dollarhide vineyard so we could apply what we had leaned. Dollarhide is a 1,531-acre property dating back to the late 1800s with steep and rolling hills, some flat lands, seven lakes and diverse wildlife. The vineyard is where the majority of St. Supery's estate wines originate, with some vines nearly 30 years old. We hopped between vineyard plots riding in side by side ATVs collecting and inspecting leaves to determine the varietals. We discovered white varietals like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was an unforgettable experience.

Seguin Moreau of Napa Valley wine barrels

On Day Three, we had a barrel-building demonstration by Seguin Moreau of Napa Valley. This included a tour of the facility with an inside look at their step-by-step process. We observed the shaping of oak staves, formation of barrels and toasting and setting of the head. It is an art of craftsmanship and, after seeing this firsthand, my respect level for what they do is through the roof. Talk about a tough, laborious job in a room filled with smoke! We were only there for about an hour and my clothes smelled like a camp fire. Along with the construction of the barrels, we discussed the selection of oak for production, differences between French and American oak and efforts being taken to keep up with the high demand of oak (lot’s of fun, geeky stuff for us somms).

The facilities at the St. Supery winery are quite impressive with a focus on both large production and small lot single vineyard estate wines. With state-of-the-art equipment, like an optical sorter that seems to work at the speed of light and open tank top fermenters, they blend traditional wine making methods and modern technology to create outstanding wines. As a sommelier, it is inspiring to see a large winery like St. Supery put such residence on quality while also focusing on sustainability and operating green. During the winery tour we tasted through barrel samples of 100% varietal wines and got to experiment with creating our own blends which was fun. It was hard to mess it up since all of the wines were so delicious.

All in all, St. Supery has made a great impression on me with their beautiful line up of wines and philosophies as a winery. They did an amazing job of providing interesting activities and classes, all of which gave me useful information to apply back at George's with a fresh, new perspective. My personal top pick of theirs is the Dollarhide Merlot. It’s an incredible representation of the grape with a nose that will surely put a smile on your face and it's well-balanced, structured palate makes for a delightful finish. Rich notes of black and blue fruits, velvety tannins and the perfect touch of oak to bring it all together. If that sounds like a wine you may like, good news as it's now available on our extensive wine list available at George’s California Modern. And if you're looking for something a little different, not to worry. We carry over 200 wines from around the world. We'll find the perfect pairings to complimnent your meal. Cheers!

Ampelography Class

St. Supery Vineyards

St Supery Vineyards

Seguin Moreau of Napa Valley wine barrels

Seguin Moreau of Napa Valley

Seguin Moreau of Napa Valley

St. Supery Winery

The Divine Wine Encounter