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Sacramental Wine from the Finger Lakes Donated to Pope Francis for NYC Visit

Cork screw and wine bottleJust in case you weren’t aware, Pope Francis has made his visit to the United States. He won’t be heading to upstate and Central New York, sadly, but he’ll still get a taste of the Finger Lakes — literally — when he stops in Manhattan.

On his visit to Manhattan on September 24 and 25, the Pope will get to enjoy some of the wines from the O-Neh-Da Vineyard near Hemlock Lake, which is in the western part of the Finger Lakes.

But O-Neh-Da Vineyard isn’t the same as the region’s many wineries, according to Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It’s reportedly the oldest dedicated sacramental winery in the country and was founded in 1872 by the first Bishop of Rochester, NY, Bernard J. McQuaid. (Rochester residents know that name from the area’s Catholic all-boys high school.)

Since its establishment, O-Neh-Da Vineyard has been producing wine for Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches.

This makes them uniquely qualified to donate wine for the Mass service that Pope Francis will lead tomorrow at Madison Square Garden.

WXXI News in Rochester reports that winemaker Will Ouweleen at O-Neh-Da actually donated the Authentic Sacramental Wine. He contacted Cardinal Timothy Dolan to make the offer.

“In my donation I said I’m looking for no recognition or compensation from the Archdiocese,” Ouweleen told WXXI. “I simply want to make sure that mass actually occurs and that you’re using valid and licit matter.”

In addition to being one of the oldest wines in the region, Ouweleen said that the ingredients have stayed the same throughout the winery’s history.

“I’m the winemaker, chief bottle washer, the proprietor, the steward,” he told WXXI. “And the wine has to be handled specially, because it’s not loaded with preservatives, just natural wine.”

Of the 2.2 million farms in the United States, there are also nearly 9,000 wineries across the country, according to Winesandvines.com. As of 2014, the grand total number of bonded and virtual wineries in the U.S. was 8,287, with 333 in New York state alone. New York is actually ranks number four for wineries by state, whereas California leads the way with more than 3,900 of them.

Although New York may not have regions like Napa Valley in California, where much of the nation’s wine is produced, the Finger Lakes boast a number of wineries and are a popular spot for wine tours.

For Ouweleen, the altar wine isn’t a big moneymaker, but its traditional recipe does follow Catholic Church rules and Canon Law (924). That, he explained, contributes to its popularity for liturgical use.

“The majority of the churches in the Rochester Diocese — which stretches from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border — use our wine,” he said.

In addition to the wine that will appear on the altar during mass, the Pope and other dignitaries will enjoy bottles of premium Finger Lakes Riesling, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc during their meal times. Ouweleen also owns and operates the Eagle Crest winery in the region.