NAPA, Calif. (RNS) It was a good thing for Trinitas Cellars that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis, and not, say Pope Malbecius.
When the Argentine cardinal became pope in 2013, Trinitas didn’t have any malbec — the famous Argentine grape — in its cellars. But it happened to have a few barrels of cabernet franc.
Behold! Thus was born “Cabernet FRANCis,” a 2012 red wine from Trinitas, a Catholic-owned winery nestled behind the iconic grape crusher statue at the southern foot of the Napa Valley.
“People kept asking me, ‘Why didn’t you make the pope a malbec?’” said Garrett Busch, the 28-year-old CEO of Trinitas, as he spoke in the winery’s book-lined library tasting room, a bottle of the wine before him. “And I’m like, ‘Come on guys, he made it easy on us.’”
Actually, the story is a bit more complicated. Trinitas, which is owned by Garrett’s parents, Tim and Steph Busch, made the family’s Catholic faith a part of business since its founding in 2002. Meetings and special events begin with prayer, winery dinners start with grace, and the winery’s website announces the family’s intention to “serve God in all they do.”
Even its name is Latin for the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Thanking popes with namesake wines began in 2008 when Tim Busch, a trustee of the charitable organization The Papal Foundation, wanted a wine to present to Pope Benedict XVI at a papal audience. Trinitas produced RatZINger, a zinfandel, that Benedict reportedly drank and liked. Another vintage was produced two years later.
When Pope Benedict XVI retired, Tim Busch called his son on the day of the new pope’s election in March 2013 and asked for a namesake wine he could present one month later.
Garrett Busch initially demurred. “I said, ‘Dad, you know how this wine thing works. I can’t make a wine in 30 days. I can’t even get the label approved by then.’ So I said, ‘Take him the RatZINger. He’ll understand.’ And that’s what Dad did.”
But when the elder Busch was preparing for another papal audience in April 2014, Garrett and Trinitas winemaker Kevin Mills tapped a few barrels of cabernet franc that were a sort of pet project of Garrett’s. They hand-bottled and hand-labeled one case of Cabernet FRANCis — 12 bottles in all. The rest of the wine — 250 cases — would not be bottled until the fall.