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Stories from the valley

Visiting New Clairvaux

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Winery 2One of my favorite things to do is visit farms and, when I can combine the visit with a winery, that’s even better!  Last week I visited New Clairvaux Abbey  and Vineyard in Vina.  New Clairvaux was established in 1955 by Trappist Cistercian Monks when they purchased land that was part of Mexican land grant awarded to Peter Lassen and then became part of Leland Stanford’s Great Vina Ranch. At one time this was the world’s largest winery, distillery and vineyard.  The order has a strong agricultural and winemaking foundation dating back to the 12th century in Europe.

Winery 3I have visited here several times and always find a peacefulness and serenity sometimes missing on other farm visits.  This trip was special in that I was given a tour of the vineyards, grounds and winery by winemaker Aimée Suneri, a fifth generation California winemaker.  I also had the opportunity to visit with several members of the order, including two monks that were working in the vineyard.

Winery 4They farm over 600 acres of walnuts, prunes and grapes on Vina Loam, an alluvial soil formed by flooding of the Sacramento River and creeks many years ago.  Also the grounds have many native Oak trees.  Sustainability and stewardship of resources are evident in all aspects of the farm and property.

The Abbey has embarked upon The Sacred Stones project  which is a reconstruction of an 800-year old Chapter House from a Cistercian monastery in Ovila, Spain.  William Randolf Hearst’s workmen disassembled the original chapter house and shipped it to San Francisco in 1930. It was never reassembled and the Abbey was able to purchase the stones and ship them to Vina.  When I visit New Clairvaux I go to the Chapter House to see how progress is going, marvel at the workmanship and take photos.

I was smiling on the way home as I had been privileged to spend time with some of the people make the Sacramento Valley such a very special place.