new clairvaux


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.

These Vintner Monks Turn Wilderness Into The Divine Gift Of Wine

Photos: Lisa Morehouse for NPR

Sierra Nevada “Ovila Belgian-Style Abbey Quad With Plums” Quadrupel: “Brewed in collaboration with the monks of the abbey of New Clairvaux”. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know I’m a fan of Sierra Nevada. Of the Ovila series, I’ve also had the Belgian-Style Golden and I believe the standard Quad, both on draft. When I saw new releases from Ovila, I had to jump on the opportunity to try some. The nose on this is fairly sweet, with plums, raisins and Belgian candied sugars. Subtle yeasty characteristics with a hint of spice. The taste is almost too sweet. Bright plum notes with some caramel matliness. Smooth mouthfeel. I was hoping for a little more with this beer, but for what it is it’s pleasant. Sixth Glass by Boulevard is definitely better. If you have some bucks to drop, pick up a bottle of Four by Allagash. I’m gonna set a bottle of this aside for a while and hopefully pick up a bottle of Gulden Draak 9000. I’m also very interested in trying the other new Ovila release, Abbey Saison with Mandarin Oranges and Peppercorns.


Sierra Nevada “Ovila Saison”

90 A-

This Belgian-style Saison is brewed with black peppercorns and locally-sourced mandarin oranges of which a portion was grown at the Abbey of New Clairvaux. Aromas resemble gingerbread, white grapes, nutmeg, grass, and honey.

The palate begins with flavors of lemon and black pepper as floral hops arise with a zesty spice. Herbal notes fall in the middle, followed by a highlight of bitter citrus zest as mandarin oranges fill out the finish with a characteristically fresh flavor. The rear-end gives way to dried fruit flavors like green apple, pear, peach, and apricot. Belgian yeast gives a minor addition of banana and clove. A vinous character like white wine creates even further complexity. The mouthfeel is bubbly and crisp, smooth in the middle, then dries out.

I was expecting a typical Saison, but this is anything but ordinary. As you can distinguish by its deep color, the malts are particularly robust in flavor, balanced equally by considerably bright hops. I only mean ‘considerably strong’ in relation to the standard guidelines of the style, of which hearty malts and hops are uncharacteristic. The level of roast is also a little too heavy. Still, it manages to provide a plentitude of enjoyable fruit notes. While this certainly doesn’t compare to authentic Saisons, this West Coast approach is fun and original. If you’re a fan of Belgians, check it out. I recommend it.

Malts: Estate grown two-row Pale, Wheat, Caramel

Hops: Summit, Styrian Golding, El Dorado, Mandarina Bavaria


24 IBU

Chico, California