ST. HELENA — One of the top leaders of the Catholic Church worldwide paid a visit last week to Grgich Hills Estate to honor the winery’s role in a global movement of removing landmines in regions of conflict.
On Friday, His Beatitude Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, blessed the Roots of Peace Fountain at the winery and made a symbolic coin toss before going on a private tour and tasting with Violet Grgich, vice president of marketing and sales.
A recent announcement from the White House that the United States will not in the future produce or acquire any anti-personnel landmines makes this visit particularly timely.
Twal, who is based in Jerusalem, is making his way around the Bay Area with Roots of Peace founder Heidi Kuhn to honor the organization for its work to transform minefields into agricultural fields and to help raise $20 million for the Israeli project Roots of Peace is working on.
The project is centered on Qasr al Yahud, an area that encompasses seven monasteries that are inaccessible because of mines that surround altars, doorways, paths and more. The money will help Roots of Peace demine the area while working to shift the mindset of people in regions of conflict from violence to peace.
“It seems it is easier to remove mines from the land than to remove mines from the head and heart of some politicians. It is very easy to remove mines, but not very easy to make a conversion of heads,” Twal said.
Qasr al Yahud is the location where Israelites crossed to Canaan, Mohammed walked the Abrahamic paths, and Elijah rose to heaven, Kuhn said.
“It is where three faiths intersect at one of the most holiest places on earth,” Kuhn said.
And it is chock full of explosive devices, she added.
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a Calistogan, is a longtime financial and philosophical supporter of Roots of Peace, working with Kuhn to turn areas of his homeland of Croatia from being littered with landmines to wine-producing vineyards as part of the organization’s Mines to Vines program.
The next step after demining an area, Kuhn said, is turning Mines to Minds, an educational component focused on changing the mindset of people who learn to hate. Roots of Peace believes that children shouldn’t be taught to hate one another, and they should be free to walk in their community without fear of setting off an explosive device.
“I’m just a mother, it’s all about the children,” she said.
Twal said he hopes that the partnership with Roots of Peace will help to bring “more peace, more justice to the world.”
Kuhn was with Twal in Jerusalem in May when Grgich Hills Estate held its “Day of Peace” event on May 24 when the winery donated 5 percent of the day’s sales to the organization that Mike Grgich has been involved with since 1998.
At the Day of Peace event a white rose bush was planted by the Roots of Peace Fountain, a symbol of peace the organization is promoting globally.
“We’re planting white roses all over the world,” Kuhn said.
Twal and Kuhn were joined on July 11 by other members of the Catholic Church and Roots of Peace on the tour and tasting that started with a glass of Grgich Hills chardonnay.
Violet Grgich led the group through the winemaking process showing them the crush pad and barrel room where she demonstrated turning a barrel for sur lie aging, along the way answering questions asked by Twal and others.
The winery visit included a tasting of Grgich Hills Estate 2012 Fume Blanc, a 2011 Paris Tasting Chardonnay – which was released on the Day of Peace at the winery – the 2010 Zinfandel, 2009 Merlot, and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting was followed by a private lunch at the home of co-owner Austin Hills.