Trinitas Cellars: On Making a Wine for Pope Francis
Trinitas Cellars, a partner of the Meritage Collection, was founded in Napa Valley, Calif. in 2002. The family-owned winery made its first wine for a pope back in 2006, when they created Ratzinger Zinfandel, named for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.
“When Pope Benedict retired, my dad called me up and said we needed to find a wine for the next pope to continue the tradition,” explains Garrett Busch, CEO and proprietor of Trinitas Cellars.
The word trinitas is Latin for trinity. “The inspiration behind the name is the fact that we’re Catholic,” Busch says. “It was our way of giving thanks to all the blessings we’ve had in our life—to dedicate the winery and its name to our faith.”
As members of the Papal Foundation, Busch’s parents, Tim and Steph, go to Rome every April and have an audience with the pope.
“Everyone always brings these incredible gifts for the pope,” Busch says. “A lot of them are religious artifacts. My dad wanted to do something different and unique. He suggested we make a wine for the pope, and that’s how the whole idea started.”
“I fell in love with cabernet franc when I got into the business,” Busch says. “I found a vineyard I really wanted to work with in Knights Valley, just past Calistoga in Sonoma. It’s a hillside vineyard [with] about 700-800 feet [of] elevation. It’s an incredible vineyard for growing grapes and makes an incredible cabernet franc.”
“We make ours a little fuller bodied,” he says of their cabernet franc. “We make sure the fruit is nice and ripe, because cabernet franc typically is a little lighter, greener … varietal. It typically doesn’t have as much body. If you get it nice and ripe, it’s really beautiful. It has [a] fruity flavor like a cabernet sauvignon, but it tends to have a silkier, softer finish, which you find on ours. We barrel age it for almost two years in French oak. It’s one of our favorite wines.”
Tim took a bottle of the first batch to Pope Francis in 2014. “Pope Francis really enjoys wine,” Busch says. “He was very excited to have a wine named after him.”
Hours later, Tim received a call from the Vatican reporting that the pope had enjoyed the wine with lunch that very day and would like to know where to get more.
“When he was here in the United States last fall, we supplied wine to the Holy Father and the people traveling with him for a lot of their lunches and dinners, so it was nice to have some Trinitas wine served for the Holy Father and his group,” Busch says.
While the Cabernet Francis label features an outline of the pope’s crest with the Trinitas Cellars logo on the shield, you don’t have to be a member of the papacy to purchase a bottle: it’s available to the public on Trinitas Cellars’ website.