Wine has always been associated with religion. The ancient Sumerians had many gods of wine. The Greeks and Romans also had gods of wine, Dionysus for the Greeks and Bacchus for the Romans. And then there was Jesus, who turned water into wine. While some religions ban all forms of alcohol, in others, wine plays an important current role in the sacrament and other ceremonies.
Which is why the novices of the California Province of Jesuits decided to produce wine, and did so for almost 100 years in the town of Los Gatos, California. They produced many wines.under the “Novitiate” label. While this was done primarily for sacramental purposes (even during prohibition), much of the wine was sold commercially.
But the Novitiate winery, which made wine starting in 1888, ceased all production in 1986. Competition played a major role here. Today, on the winery property, is a retirement home for the Jesuits.
The Winery comes back to life
The original 19th Century, three-floor, gravity-flow winery is still in use today. In 2005, Rob and Diana Jensen, owners of the well-known Testarossa label, moved his wine to the old Novitiate facility, which was still in reasonable shape. Rob Jensen then resumed production of wine under the Novitiate label as well as continuing his great Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays under the Testarossa brand. Today, this historic winery has been beautifully renovated into one of the gems of the California wine industry.
Located just a short drive up from downtown Los Gatos, Testarossa winery produces fine wines from many appellations and vineyards. Top winegrowers from Santa Barbara, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz, and the Russian River in Sonoma are all eager to provide the high-quality fruit that Bill Brosseau, Testarossa’s incredibly talented winemaker, produces. The vineyards that grow these top quality grapes are some of the most famous in all of California, including Bien Nacido, Fogstone, La Rinconada, Lone Oak, Rosella’s, Sierra Madre, Gary’s, and the world-famous Pisoni Vineyard. There are many others, too.
Both Testarossa and Novitiate wines can be tasted in the caves and cellars of the historic Novitiate Winery. While no appointment is needed for tastings, reservations for the tours including the Artisan Wine and Cheese experience are required. There is also the Testarossa University that offers an extensive series of wine educational classes.
Testarossa is open from 11 am to 5 pm, and is located at 300 College Ave, Los Gatos, CA 95030. 408-354-6150. The winery requests those driving do so slowly, as this is a very residential area.
This photo is of the entrance to the Testarossa Winery which also makes the Novitiate wines.