Laborers in the Vineyard
Legates who operate vineyards offer more than premier-quality wine; they describe invaluable realizations – pruned, harvested and clarified by their faith and work with the fruit of the land. Ted Hall jokingly boasts that his parish in California’s Napa Valley has the best Communion wine in the world.
“The routine wine at Mass is a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Hall, a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter who owns Long Meadow Ranch, a winery business with three properties in Napa Valley and other properties in Anderson Valley and West Marin. Hall arrived in Napa Valley in 1989 with a vision of making elegant, balanced wines. Running a winery was a lifelong interest for Hall, who grew up on a small farm in western Pennsylvania and made wine while in graduate school.
Close to the land
Asked what he loves about the vineyards, Hall replied, “It’s the fundamental grounding of being attached to the land, and what the land produces… The best thing a good wine-maker can do is do no harm, get out of the way, and help present what was developed in the vineyard.”
Hall is one of a handful of Legates who own and operate wineries, not just in Napa Valley but in other parts of the United States. Those Legates oversee impressive operations that produce high quality wines as well as other products.
Overseeing the wineries and the vineyards have conveyed several invaluable lessons about stewardship and God’s creation. Working and living in those settings have even helped to illuminate the parables where Christ evoked vineyards to teach about God’s kingdom.
“There are many references [in Scripture] to vineyards, vine growers and to the harvest,” said Judy Barrett, the owner of Chateau Montelena Winery in Napa Valley. She noted how the Prophet Isaiah referred to sweet juicy wine and wonderful foods to describe the harvest.
“It’s hard not to keep those things in mind as we go about our daily business,” Barrett said. “I live in the middle of a vineyard. I see the change of seasons and what the vineyard crew is doing, the pruning, the caring for the vines, seeing the harvest. It’s certainly in the back of your mind, if not in the forefront.”
Workers ‘later in the day’
Barrett, a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter, moved to Napa Valley in the early 1980s after Jim, her late husband of 33 years, began feeling burned out from his law career in Los Angeles. They were looking for something new in their lives when they discovered Chateau Montelena Winery, which was established in 1882.
“Jim was a city boy his whole life. He loved wine, was looking for something different, saw this place and fell in love with it,” said Barrett, who has lived in the same house in the middle of the vineyards since 1984. She said it was an easy adjustment from life in LA.
“We thought we’d miss all kinds of things, but then discovered they really weren’t all that important,” Barrett said. “Living in an extraordinarily beautiful area with a lot of peace and quiet, being involved with the land, you quickly forget about a lot of things you think you would miss and you really don’t.”
In 2006, John Guevremont, a founding member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter, purchased the 200-acre Reality Farm, located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Virginia. Guevremont, a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who served in the first Gulf War, entered the winery business after retiring from an executive position with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
“This is a working retirement, so to speak,” said Guevremont, who originally had plans to make a few gallons of wine each year for himself, his family and friends. However, that changed with the first successful harvest. Since then, Quièvremont Winery has been expanding with an additional acre every year.
“That all drove us to our focus with the winery to produce classic French-style wines, Bordeaux blends, using Bordeaux grapes. That’s been our focus since 2011, said Guevremont, who did not have an agriculture background when he bought the vineyards.
“Every day is a learning experience in the sense that weather patterns change, the different types of pests, parasites and birds, the animals coming through the area that you have to learn how to control,” Guevremont said.
Dedicated to the Trinity, guided by faith
Garrett Busch, a member of Legatus’ Napa Valley Chapter, said he learned about the winery business through osmosis by being around his parents, Tim and Steph Busch, who shared a passion for wine and founded Trinitas Cellars in 2002.
“My sister and I were the kids being dragged around on winery tours,” said Busch, 30, the current proprietor and CEO of Trinitas Cellars. Since joining the business in 2010, the winery has expanded its portfolio to include top-tier wines such as the Trinitas Family Collection Line.
Other wines in the Trinitas portfolio are clearly inspired by the Catholic faith. There is Rose’ary, a rosé blend wine with a rosary-inspired design on the label. Revelation is the name of a dessert wine, and then there is CABERNET FRANCis, a red wine named for Pope Francis. In 2014, Tim and Steph Busch presented a bottle to Pope Francis, who pointed to it and said, “Mio vino, mio vino.” “We’re believers. We’re not shy about our faith, and our winery is probably the greatest representation of that. The faith has worked its way into our whole philosophy behind our winery and our branding,” Busch said, noting that his family’s winery itself is named for the Holy Trinity.
The “Legates in the Vineyards” certainly do their part to integrate the Catholic faith into their businesses. Guevremont dedicated his winery to the Blessed Mother, and has a stone grotto at the entrance to the vineyard with a Marian statue.
“Also, every season we have a local priest bless the vineyard,” Guevremont said. “We’re trying to make that an annual event for the local vineyards in the area, especially those owned by Catholics.”
Hall said it was always important for him to establish a culture-based organization, fundamentally grounded in values reflected in the Catholic faith.
“We talk a lot about not only our mission and our vision, but the three core values of our business are balance, respect and stewardship,” said Hall, adding that Wine Estates at Long Meadow Ranch emphasizes respect for workers, humane treatment of livestock and sustainable farming practices.
Barrett said a priest-friend always comes to her vineyards at the beginning of harvest for a blessing. “We give thanks for the harvest. We ask for blessings on all of our workers and on the harvest,” said Barrett, who added that the phrase from the Eucharistic prayer, “fruit of the vine and the work of human hands,” has become really tangible for her.
Especially important, Barrett added, is the fact that fine wine is meant to be enjoyed with close friends and family. “It’s about meals and coming together, the communal nature of it,” she said. “I think that really feeds into the sense of how faith informs your work. It’s about faith and community.”
BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.