May 17, 2005: County approved a permit allowing a 3,000-square-foot building for lobby sales, display, a lab, wine processing and temporary barrel storage, a 3,840-square-foot building for wine tasting and barrel storage, a 512-square-foot dwelling and four marketing events a year, ending at 10 p.m.
April 12, 2012: County instituted an “enforcement action,” claiming that the Vierras violated their 2005 permit by constructing a commercial kitchen and wine garden, and that St. Jorge hosted special events with more than 100 people present.
April 20, 2012: Vern and Jenise Vierra applied to the San Joaquin County Community Development Department to expand their winery. Their request was for a 6,652-square-foot wine garden, a 300-square-foot commercial kitchen, a 1,600-square-foot storage building, a 336-square-foot wine storage building, a 288-square-foot covered patio and a 420-square-foot restroom, for a total of 8,596 square feet.
June 2012: Winery interests developed a Winery Ordinance Task Force consisting of members from Visit Lodi!, the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, the Lodi District Grape Growers Association and the Lodi Chamber of Commerce to draft an ordinance governing winery activities. It will be considered by the Board of Supervisors next year.
July 19, 2012: The county Planning Commission voted to not enact a moratorium on winery expansion before the Board of Supervisors adopts a new winery ordinance.
Aug. 17, 2012: Judy and Romano Isola file suit against Vern and Jenise Vierra. They claim St. Jorge expanded its property without a county permit and that the county didn’t enforce its own action against the winery. St. Jorge’s expansion allegedly resulted in excessive noise by attendees, loud music and other winery operations, traffic, diesel fumes, lighting and glare.
Additionally, St. Jorge advertised on the Internet that it could accommodate 200 guests for small weddings and banquets, offered an “exquisite” suite for rent, and constructed a commercial kitchen and amphitheater, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint says that St. Jorge hosted four events in 2009, but expanded the number of events to 24, 25 and eight the following three years.
Sept. 20, 2012: San Joaquin County Planning Commission votes 3-2 for St. Jorge to proceed with its expansion request. Commissioners Miguel Villapudua, Stan Morri and Clem Lee supported the St. Jorge project, while Linden farmer Randy Hamilton, who represents the Lodi area, and commission chairman Peter Johnson cast dissenting votes. The Isolas later appealed the Planning Commission’s approval to the Board of Supervisors.
Nov. 6, 2012: The Board of Supervisors were to hear the Isolas’ appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval, but the Vierras withdrew their application just before the meeting, making the appeal moot.
— Ross Farrow