Wine with a purpose: Monks get in the spirits at Original Greek Festival (Eric Sandler, 2015)

NOTE: This article is taken from Culture Map: Houston, October 1, 2015. It is interesting to see that the monastics under Geronda Ephraim do not have laypeople sell their products so they can avoid such a worldly and spiritually harmful environment. Instead, the monks rented a booth at this festival, attended it, and sold their alcoholic products.

Thousands of Houstonians will attend this weekend's Original Greek Festival.
Thousands of Houstonians will attend this weekend’s Original Greek Festival.

This weekend marks the return of the Original Greek Festival. Now in its 49th year, the formula should be familiar to most Houstonians: Thousands of people descend into Montrose for their fill of gyros, souvlaki, baklava, dancing and more.

And everyone has a good time.

The monks of the Holy Archangels Winery work with California winemaker John Kongsgaard on their product.
The monks of the Holy Archangels Winery work with California winemaker John Kongsgaard on their product.

Still, organizers are always looking for ways to expand their offerings. This year they’re bringing in the Holy Archangels Monastery and Winery. Based in Kendalia, Texas, the monastery is home to Greek Orthodox monks who make wine.

During the festival, the monks will be on hand at the festival’s gift shop to sell their wine to attendees. Prices are $30 for Chardonnay and $45 for Syrah (plus tax).

“One of the goals of the Original Greek Festival is to share all aspects of our culture and faith with our guests,” wrote festival co-chairs Ted and Pauline Koinis in an email. “Having wines from The Holy Archangels Winery represented this year presents our festival-goers with a unique opportunity to sample award-winning Texas wines made by monks, who in addition to their lifelong dedication to the Orthodox faith, have a passion for winemaking.”

Tending to the wine.
Tending to the wine.

The monastery began making wine in 2001. The process became more serious when Father Michael (the monks do not use surnames) joined in 2003 and brought experience as a professional chemist to the effort. Seeking to improve their product, the monks turned to Napa Valley winemaker John Kongsgaard, who helped them source grapes from California. By 2011, Holy Archangels had achieved commercial status.

“Modern wine making practices were developed by monastics,” Father Michael explained in a telephone interview. “All of the varieties we know and love were cultivated by monks.”

Grapes are grown in California and processed in Texas.
Grapes are grown in California and processed in Texas.

Under Kongsgaard’s guidance, the three-person winery committee led an effort to improve their skills that began to pay dividends in the forms of awards including gold medals at the Finger Lakes competition and TexSom. “We wanted to make sure the wine isn’t being purchased just because of the monastery. We want something someone would be proud to order in a restaurant,” Father Michael explained.

Asked about what makes their wine stand out, Father Michael cites the purpose they bring to their work. “I think, for us, because we’re not paid employees it’s more something we do with love. It’s for the glory of God and not for ourselves. We’re not buying Ferraris or vacations. We’re doing our duty here.”

If all goes according to plan, the monastery will begin construction of a facility that will allow it to produce more wine.

Stored product a2011 Chardonnay made in the Holy Archangels monastery a

“We want to get to 60 barrels of wine,” Father Michael explains. “Then we also plan to expand to around 10,000 square foot winery eventually, but you know, small steps. I think our goal is not just to get to 5 or 10,000 cases per year, but also to produce the highest quality we can. We think it will grow naturally on its own.”

The Original Greek Festival takes place October 1 through 4. For details about hours, tickets and parking, consult the festival’s website.

https://binghamfamilyvineyards.com/2015/09/07/texas-viognier-harvest-2015/

Winemaking @ Holy Archangels Monastery, TX (January 2013)
Winemaking @ Holy Archangels Monastery, TX (January 2013)

“We have sent Viognier grapes or juice this year to Lost Oak Winery, Duchman Winery, Landon Winery, Hye Meadow Winery, Spicewood Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, Becker, McPherson Cellars, Whistling Duck Winery, Holy Archangels Monastery Winery, Houston Winery, Blue Lotus, Woodrose Winery, and even Dave Potter.

That is what we use all these micro bins and food grade totes for. To send wonderful grapes and juice to Texas Wineries around the state. Our proces is allowing us to meet the needs of large wineries such as Becker or Duchman, but also the smaller ones such as Holy Archangels Monastery.”

http://houston.culturemap.com/news/restaurants-bars/10-01-15-wine-with-a-purpose-monks-get-in-the-spirits-at-original-greek-festival/

What goes better with wine than souvlaki?
What goes better with wine than souvlaki?
Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery Merlot 2010.
Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery Merlot 2010.
Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery Chardonnay 2012,
Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery Chardonnay 2012,
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Geronda Dositheos, Abbot of Texas Monastery, Mentioned in a Book (2012)

The following is taken from Julian Chitta, IRS Secrets from the Nation’s Cash Register, Strategic Book Publishing, 2012, p. 156

IRS Secrets from the Nation's Cash Register (Front Cover)
IRS Secrets from the Nation’s Cash Register (Front Cover)

…That December, a wave of cold, arctic air, hit Central Texas and the temperatures dropped into teens.  There was frost and ice everywhere. In Texas, because no one knows how to drive on ice or snow, the schools and businesses close, as soon as they see a first snowflake. One night, the electricity was interrupted in the hospital, while the emergency generators refused to kick in. It got extremely cold. It was a pathetic scene to see how helpless everybody around was, without electricity. The only things still working were the emergency exit signs and the patient monitors with batteries. The power was restored after some six hours. That period of time was enough to throw me a curve. I got pneumonia with all its assorted symptoms: fever, shivering, water in the lungs.

Julian Chitta, Author.
Julian Chitta, Author.

I was placed on an aggressive antibiotic regimen and twice a day I would be rolled down the hall, into an operating room to undergo a “pneumothorax” procedure. The surgeon would insert the needle of an oversized syringe into my chest, through the side, between two ribs, and would extract water from my lungs. My ability to inhale and exhale, seriously impaired by now, was to be measured every few hours. There was no progress. I was placed on oxygen and my family was keeping their fingers crossed. It was under these circumstances that Father Dositheos, the Abbot of the “Holy Archangels” Greek Orthodox Monastery, in Kendalia, TX, came to take my confession and to give me communion. I was enraged. Everyone was thinking that I was a goner and those were my last rites. Not so fast! Reluctantly, I went through the whole religious thing.

Geronda Dositheos Maroulis, Abbot of Holy Archangels Monastery, TX
Geronda Dositheos Maroulis, Abbot of Holy Archangels Monastery, TX

About the Author

Julian Chitta, a retired electrical engineer and a former US Merchant Marine Captain, lives in Kingsland, a small Texas rural community, where he enjoys hunting and fishing. His motivation in writing the IRS Secrets was to impart critical information to the American taxpayer, the most important person in our political system. His respect and admiration for American taxpayers permeates every single page of this book, as he suggests practical ways to deal with federal tax problems and how to avoid them.

http://sbpra.com/julianchitta/

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