California Church Embraces Spookiness of Making Wine From Graveyard Grapes
St. Benedict, a Catholic Church in California’s East Bay, produces wine from its own vineyards every year — though the church’s grapes are slightly more unusual than others, because they’re grown in a graveyard.
The practice, which began several years ago on the edges of three local cemeteries, definitely sets these vineyards apart, but that doesn’t bother Father Jayson Landeza.
“I think we celebrate new life in Christ as we bury folks here,” Father Landeza told KTVU, embracing the hallowed fruit. “The new life is brought up and it’s symbolic of the grapes used in mass, which is definitely part of our own ritual used in the Catholic Church.”
Today, the Oakland Archdiocese has grown to include 16 acres of vineyards across a number of cemeteries, and the church has enlisted a local winemaker, Shauna Rosenblum of Rock Wall Wine Company, to make sacramental wine.
Rosenthal, who was surprised to find that the grapes were of “killer” quality, has been producing Bishop’s Vineyard for the archdiocese for the last year.
“Everyone's very positive about it except for a couple of people,” Jim Ryan, a winemaker for Rock Wall told KTVU. “They have this vision maybe of the vine coming out of a headstone or something like that.”