Wine grapes could soon take root adjacent to headstones under a plan to convert part of the vast St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in southeast Sacramento into a 9-acre vineyard.
The plans, disclosed by city officials on Thursday, call for using future burial lands at the urban cemetery’s eastern edge to grow cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, malbec and merlot grapes with the idea of eventually producing sacramental wines that local parishes can use during celebrations of Mass.
The land ultimately would be used as burial sites when space runs out at the existing cemetery area, according to a narrative filed with the city as part of a request for a conditional use permit for the vineyard operation.
That might not be for 30 to 50 years, according to the application.
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In the meantime, the vineyard “establishes a beautiful landscaping feature at the cemetery and for the surrounding neighbors,” according to the narrative.
The 70-acre cemetery, which was dedicated in 1929, is located about a half-mile south of Hiram W. Johnson High School, along 65th Street Expressway between 21st Avenue and Fruitridge Road.
It’s currently the site of major construction activity, with a new funeral home and chapels nearing completion at the corner of 65th and Fruitridge.
The city filing outlines a five-year plan to grow the first grapes, which would be taken off site for processing.
The operation is described as “sustainable,” with a drip irrigation system and minimal use of chemicals and the planting of barley and clover in rows between the vines to produce natural soil nutrients.
The vineyard proposal is not a first for the church in Northern California.
In recent years, the Diocese of Oakland has planted 16 acres of vineyards at three different locations, according to the application with the city.
“We have been very successful ... by being able to farm and produce some very high quality wine grapes with minimal or no negative impact to the surrounding area,” the narrative states.
Diocese officials were not available Thursday to provide additional details on the local project.