Novitiate Heavenly Wines Devilishly Good

Reads the framed portrait of Brother Norbert “Biz” Korte, SJ., that hangs prominently on the wall leading to the tasting room at Testarossa Winery. 
The Jesuit brother worked in the winery for 33 years in a many capacities including tour guide, tasting room host, sales and public relations.

My good friend James “Jimi” Hunter and I rode our electric bikes up the narrow, winding hillside road to the Novitiate Historic Winery in the Santa Cruz mountains overlooking Los Gatos, CA.

In 2005, by aggreement with the provincial Jesuit order, Testarossa Vineyards reopened the winery with the original Novitiate label. They donated a portion of the sale to
Jesuits retirement facility. For almost a hundred years, the Jesuit novices at the Sacred Heart Novitiate lived, prayed and mindfully worked the vineyards from 1888 until 1986. 

Our governor, Jerry Brown attended Sacred Heart Novitiate in 1958, spending four years of silence, prayer, manual labor and study of the classics. Due to his Jesuit training he believed that the spirit of God can be found everywhere: in chaos and order, intelligence and ignorance, fame and obscurity. 

Built by the Jesuits of Santa Clara College (aka Santa Clara University), the novices harvested enough grapes each fall to produce 150,000 gallons of wine used mostly for altar wine for sacramental purposes. It continued unabated during Prohibition (1919-1933). The winery closed in 1986 due to declining sales competitive pressures in the marketplace, and the novitiate moved to Culver City.

Visiting the Tasting Room at Testarossa Winery housed in the caves and cellars of the Historic Novitiate Winery put me in a reflective mood. I was raised in a Roman Catholic household. Like Jerry Brown, my dad entered the seminary as a young man. He was in the Maryknoll order (see photo of dad in his black cassock on the left) and also decided to leave it to lead a lay secular life. I couldn’t help think that had he not, I wouldn’t be writing this post as priests weren't allowed to marry. He did become an urban wine maker for personal and family consumption, using his tool shed in our back yard as his crush and fermentation room. We always had plenty of stock for my birthday parties. This made me very popular with my friends who thought it was pretty cool. To use the Novitiate slogan, It was “devilishly good.”🙂 Cheers!

In 1724, in his Treatise "The Juice of the Grape: Or, Wine Preferable to Water," Peter Shaw, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, asserted that wine can return patients to their natural state of good health with minimal help from their physician. The cheerful remedy was prescribed to those who displayed symptoms of hypochondria and melancholy.

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