Our Vineyards

New Clairvaux Vineyard has two estate blocks, Poor Souls and St. James.  Both demonstrate the unique and dynamic terroir of Vina. We grow 12 different grape varietals in a climate that closely mirrors well known growing regions in Italy, Spain and France. Our vineyards reflect a dedication and commitment to producing a quality and sustainable product. We believe wine is not just made, it is grown. It is with this in mind, coupled with passion and respect that we endeavor to resurrect this once-famous viticulture region.

St. James Block

Located on the historic Abbey grounds, this 10-acre vineyard provides the majority of our white grape varieties such as Albariño, Viognier, Trebbiano, Assyrtiko, and Moschofilero. This block is also home to some of our flagship reds such as Tempranillo, Syrah and Graciano. Overseen by Br. Raphael Flores, the St. James vineyard is situated on a wide alluvial fan consisting of sand and the famous Vina loam. This amazing vineyard is dry farmed; only receiving water to establish roots during the first few years after being planted. In 2011, the St. James Block acquired Assyrtiko and Moschofilero vines from Plant Foundation Services at UC Davis -- making New Clairvaux Vineyard the first in America to grow and make these renowned Greek varietals.

Poor Souls Block

Once the site of an ancient river bed this extraordinary 10-acre vineyard  has proven to be the perfect site for many red varietals such as our hugely popular Barbera, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and  Grenache. Muscat Blanc, Viognier and Trebbiano are whites that also grow in this special vineyard. Managed by Jose Guerrero and our winemaker Aimée Sunseri, this block offers exceptional viticulture geology with a soil composition of sand, river rock, and both Vina and Molino’s loam (both named for the uniqueness of these soils found in large amounts in this area). It was dubbed the "Poor Souls Block" by those who labored in establishing this vineyard in such difficult and stony ground.

Sustainability

Sustainability is at the core of our everyday life. Cistercian monks have practiced sustainability for nearly a thousand years as they are called to conserve and manage natural resources with great prudence. Sustainability has been essential to successful wine operations for the Sunseri’s as well. As a byproduct of limited natural resources and an obligation to future generations they have pioneered sustainable farming and winemaking practices that are widely used to this day.

We recycle 100% of the winery’s waste water by collecting and dispersing it onto one of the Abbey’s fallow fields.  The winery also recycles the water used to hydrate barrels, up to four times, by reusing the same barrel water to hydrate the next set of barrels. The use of ozonated water and gas also helps to lower the amount of water used, by providing good sanitation without the use of large amounts of water. There are many other small contributors that help us lower our water usage such as low flow nozzles and toilets, as well as recycling our sanitizing water used in the winery. And of course dry farming and deficit irrigation practices also helps us better manage our water resources.

In 2007, the Abbey installed two 75 kW solar modules next to the winery to help reduce our electrical impact on the environment. They also installed another 75 kW solar panel next to their main well and pump that supplies water to the winery, tasting room, St. James Block and many other parts of the monastery. The monastery has been using solar power as a source of power for several of their buildings since the 1970’s. They are proud to embrace new technologies and continue with its development.

We pay great attention to recycling as many of our materials as possible. The waste of our pomace (pressed grapes skins and seeds) is either feed to a local heard of cattle or added to the monasteries compost pile. All of the winery’s waste water is recycled and reused on fallow fields, barrels are re-used as much as possible and glass bottles are recycled. All paper, plastic, aluminum, metal and used vehicle oil are also recycled.

Dry farming is the practice of relying only on natural annual rainfall for growing grapes. We use dry farming for the property’s St. James Block.  The water held in the soils provides the necessary water for these vines to grow.  This aids in water conservation and also leads to high-quality grapes. Because of the sandy, rocky soil in the Poor Souls Block, the natural rain water is not enough to keep this vineyard healthy. However, deficit irrigation practices are used for the benefit of both the fruit and conservation of resources.

Our winery, cellar and tasting room was originally constructed in 1887 as a much larger cellar built to store and age about 2 million gallons of wine. At the time of construction mechanical cooling for such large buildings was not practical, so it was built with natural resistance to temperature fluctuations with 2 and a half foot double brick walls and a 18 inch air space to help the outside temperatures from affecting the inside temperature. Also a large attic space was built on top of the whole building to act as a barrier to help withstand temperature change. This simple but heavy use of material in construction is very important to aging a wine properly, which readily expands and contracts with temperature fluctuations.  Although we have installed mechanical cooling to help better control the temperature and thus ensuring a quality product, the amount that is utilized is minimal, simply from the original design of the building.