It’s no secret that wine is a strong, consistent symbol in Catholic culture. From the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine, to the consecration of wine into the Blood of Christ during mass, it has been connected to the Church since it was formed. In fact, it was Franciscan friars who first introduced wine grapes to California in the late 1700s. Wine and faith in Christ seem to go hand in hand.
Bishop’s Vineyard began back in 2006 as a beautification project at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in the Diocese of Oakland. The grounds contained a portion of unused land that needed some aesthetic modifications. Robert Seelig, Executive Director of Cemeteries for the Diocese of Oakland and Tom Richardson, Director of Development, brainstormed a unique idea—instead of spending $50,000 per acre for weed-free, irrigated turf, why not plant some grape vines at half the cost? Planting grapes on cemetery grounds? Now there’s a novel idea!
After getting some advice from local experts and support from then-Bishop, The Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, Bishop’s Vineyard was born. We started planting at three sites that have distinct climates for specific grapes—Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Primitivo at Holy Sepulchre in Hayward; Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel at Holy Cross in Antioch; and Pinot Noir, Merlot and Sangiovese at St. Joseph’s in San Pablo. Once the vines were planted, one main question still remained – what would we do with the wine that’s produced?
Our first efforts yielded bottles of altar wine that were offered free of charge to the parishes within the Oakland diocese and given to various charities to support their fundraising efforts. In 2013, we collaborated with Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Winery in Alameda in order to expand Bishop’s Vineyard and improve the quality of the wine we were producing.
Due to the Lord’s grace and the unwavering support of Oakland’s current Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Barber, what started as simple sacramental altar wine and parish giveaways quickly grew to what is now known as the Bishop’s Vineyard brand, growing many varietals of both red and white wines, available for all wine lovers across the country. A portion of the income from the Bishop's Vineyard Wine Club is contributed to an endowment fund created to provide additional tuition assistance to needy students wishing to attend a Catholic school.
At Bishop’s Vineyard, we believe passionately in the faithful connection of wine and Church, and wish to share the fruit of our labors with wine aficionados, and their families, across the country. Our commitment to quality begins with our sustainable grapes and farming practices; our commitment to service begins with our support of Catholic education, charities and fundraisers; our commitment to satisfaction begins with our guarantee that you’ll love the wine we produce.
Bishop's Vineyard-A Cemetery Parable? by Robert W. Seelig, CCCE-read more here