In May of 2022, Trinitas founders, Tim and Steph Busch, had the honor of once again traveling to the Vatican to visit with Pope Francis. Below is a recount of the visit by Tim.
Annually my wife Steph and I have enjoyed, through a Catholic Organization, a private audience with the sitting Pope in Rome. Upon the death of St John Paul II on April 2, 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger, whom I casually knew, became Pope Benedict XVI. My son Garrett and I met him November 3, 2003, to thank our family for a gift to renovate part of his office. Then, I had a chance to meet him as Pope a year later in April 2006. I worked with our winemaker to make a special gift and we decided on Zinfandel which we called RatZINger, a play on Pope Benedict’s surname, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. We presented the bottle of wine to him, and he loved it. He receives numerous gifts from his visitors, but he rarely would retain them. This one he asked for after the audience to take to his room. Never before had he asked to keep any such gift.
In 2013, Pope Benedict resigned — the first Pope to have done so in 600 years. Cardinal Bergoglio was then elected Pope Francis. I had never met him or knew him as he was from Argentina and previously tried to avoid the Rome scene. At the time, Garrett was running the winery so I asked him what wine we could present to him since I was meeting him soon— two weeks after he was elected. Obviously, Garrett couldn’t organize anything that quickly, so we gave Pope Francis the RatZINger and he was fine.
The next year in 2014, Garrett had been blending his favorite varietal, Cabernet Franc, which is rarely bottled as a single varietal wine. So of course, we created the 2013 vintage of “Cabernet Francis” and presented it to the Pope. I brought a case and distributed the remaining bottles to Cardinals in the Roman Curia. The wine was given to the Pope at 11:30 a.m. Rome time, and in the late afternoon, one of the Papal handlers called to inquire if the Pope could get some more of that wine as he drank the bottle and loved it. Since I had none left, I immediately called my Cardinal friends to return their gift on assurance I would ship more to them as quickly as possible. Everyone was very gracious.
Fast forward when the Netflix movie Two Popes was playing. I was struck with the idea to make a wine called Two Popes, blending the current vintage of RatZINger and Cabernet Francis. Initially the idea was 50/50 blend but the Zinfandel overpowered the Cabernet Franc so we dialed it back to about 60/40 in favor of Cabernet Francis wine. Covid then hit so I could not deliver until April 28, 2022. I heard from my Roman Curial friends that Pope Francis was not keen on the idea of Two Popes as he is the Pope, which is true.
On December 12, 2021, we released the Our Lady Guadalupe red wine. That date is the Feast Day of Our Lady Guadalupe and birthday of Sonyia Grabski and Steph Busch. Our Lady Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas and revered by South Americans, like Pope Francis, so I brought that as a backup. Well, that was a good bet. He loved the Our Lady Guadalupe as depicted by the photo but shoveled the Two Popes to his handlers without comment.
Every year, more than 60 people attending the audience wonder what I am going to bring each time. In 2018, I presented Pope Francis with a Vegas Golden Knights jersey “Pope Francis”, with the #1, because we own a small interest in the team. The photo received over 3 million views, the #1 social media post for the team. The Pope loved his “sweater” as he called it and wondered if he could keep it which I assured him he could. Who is going to turn down a Papal request?