In a tiny Northern California town called Vina, there’s a winery that’s definitely off the beaten track. That might be because this region’s better known for olive groves and cattle ranches than grapes. For these, vintners, though, it’s spiritual work.
When I visit New Clairvaux winery, two people are filtering wine, getting it ready for bottling. On the surface, they make an odd pair. One is Aimee Sunseri, the winemaker heading up operations here. The other is Brother Christopher Cheney, a monk. He grew up in California’s wine country, but never thought he’d make the stuff, until a religious conversion led him to the Abbey of New Clairvaux in 2004, just a few years after the brothers planted grapes.