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Vineyards Blend Beauty, Savings for a Calif. Diocese

OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) – A decision several years ago to plant vineyards to beautify vacant cemetery land and produce wine for Mass has proven to be a win-win for the Diocese of Oakland and its parishes and schools.

The plan by Catholic Funeral and Cemetery Services of the diocese took root in 2006 when officials were looking for ways to make open grounds more attractive at various cemeteries and reduce maintenance costs. About 16 acres of grapes have been planted.

Production in 2013 totaled about 1,200 cases (12 bottles to a case) of altar wine. The grapes are produced into wine by a contractor, and the bottled altar wine is offered free to diocesan parishes.

About 74 of the diocese’s 84 parishes have sampled the sacramental wine, said Joe Rivello, director of winery operations, and about half the parishes have taken advantage of the offer.

Cemetery wine managers estimate parishes could consume about 865 cases a year. “At an estimated retail cost of $6 a bottle delivered, that is a savings of $52,000 to the parishes of the diocese,” Rivello said.

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