Ad maiorem dei gloriam ac vinum
2007 Testarossa Novitiate Pinot Noir Rose, Santa Cruz Mountains, 17 dollars U.S.
2006 Testarossa Novitiate Syrah, Santa Cruz Mountains, 19 dollars U.S.
For those of you who noticed a grammar mistake in the title (there has to be one, Latin should easily obsfucate attempts at constructing sentences from the internet) i can explain. You see i was never educated by the Jesuits, with their formidable intellectual prowess, so my knowledge of the classics is lacking.
Perhaps if i had been born a hundred years ago i would have chosen the order, and i could have ended up a novice at the Mission Santa Clara, which operated the Novitiate Winery in the (then) bucolic area of Los Gatos as a way to fund their school. The Novitiate Winery was mostly known for sacramental wine and fortified muscat. This continued all the way until 1968, when the school was shut down. The winery continued to operate in some capacity until 1986, when it was closed for good.
In the year of our lord nineteen-hundred and ninety seven the winery was reborn (i will stop with the religious references. maybe.) as the Testarossa Winery which continues to turn grapes into wine to this day (last one). While Testarossa makes a number of good wines, the ones i was really interested in was their Novitiate line, which as they claim is “continuing the tradition of Jesuit wine.” The phrase “Jesuit wine” brings up a number of purely romantic notions in my mind, the pre-eminent ones being either a deeply philosophical, thoughtful wine capable of conundrums and contradictions, or an earthy throwback that speaks of sun-dappled hills, and aged monks backs laden with grapes to the glory of god (the other wine i had in mind was something thick and luxurious, drunk from golden chalices, something out of Pynchon or perhaps Eco).
So you can imagine my dissapointment when the wine didn’t live up to any of these notions, and in fact it isn’t even grown on the historic land (which is forgiveable given Los Gatos land prices. You can also imagine my further dissapointment when i realized the wine is simply an average, thoroughly modern wine. It has none of the interesting flavors one would expect from a wine that is supposedly backwards looking. Both of these wines are all fruit, the rose especially erring on the side of overly sweet tropical flavors with no finish or structure to hold up to food. The syrah was a little better with some dried fruit notes and black pepper at first, but ended up tasting too much like flabby licorice taffy and butterscotch, something i can’t imagine the staid Jesuits appreciated.
In the final analysis i can still recommend this wine because it is an effort to at least try and reconnect with the past, if not in technique, at least in spirit, and i hope the winemakers start try in the future to emulate old world technique.
Where to buy: here
What to listen to: Something faking the proverbial funk, probably Puccini
What to eat: i can’t recommend anything for the rose, for the syrah, lamb with a berry sauce.