The Fruit of Old Vines

Chris Silva relied on his 100-year-old vines to produce the zinfandel he made for LMU's centennial.
Chris Silva relied on his 100-year-old vines to produce the zinfandel he made for LMU's centennial.

Silva is president and CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa, Calif. The vineyard produces a range of wines: chardonnay, cabernet, merlot and more. When LMU asked if he’d bottle a wine for its 100th anniversary, Silva said yes. He had the perfect idea: use grapes from centennial vines to make centennial wine.

“Zinfandel is my favorite wine,” Silva explains. “For the centennial wine project, we’re using our Old Vines zinfandel. We think it’s appropriate because many of the old vines are 100 or more years old. These wines become more rich, complex and interesting.”

Silva says the benefit of age is something he learned as a young man, when an old man taught him about character and values: Alfred J. Kilp, S.J. Kilp himself had been part of Loyola since the 1920s, as a student. He began teaching biology on campus before World War II. By the 1980s, Kilp was the Crimson Circle moderator and director of Alumni Relations. As president of ASLMU and a member of Crimson Circle, Silva got to know Kilp well.

“I knew Father Kilp near the end of his life,” Silva recalls. “He was seasoned and weathered as anyone at that age would be. But he had a wonderful serenity about him. … Wisdom and depth come with time. They are wonderful textures, but we don’t get them when we are young.”

The Wines

LMU’s centennial wines include not only a zinfandel and a merlot made by St. Francis (where Christopher Silva, above, is CEO) but also a chardonnay made by Brutocao Cellars in Hopland, Calif., whose owner and CEO is Steven Brutocao ’86, and a cabernet made by Robert Craig Winery in Angwin, Calif. Robert Craig, vintner and founder of the winery, is a longtime participant in the LMU Wine Classic. The wines’ labels were designed by Kaitlin Dela Cruz ’13 (chardonnay) and Jessica Wong ’13 (zinfandel and cabernet), studio arts majors who study graphic design.

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