Greetings again from the darkness. Fantasizing about owning and running your own Winery is perfectly natural, and impossible to avoid, while on a weekend escape to Napa Valley, California. Director Nicholas Kovacic opens with a helicopter tour of the 30 mile long area courtesy of Heidi Barrett, winemaker extraordinaire, and wife of Bo Barrett (of Chateau Montelena and Bottle Shock fame). The terrain below is so beautiful, that when it’s combined with the industry it supports, a romantic vision is understandable.
The patchwork quilt of individual parcels falls in a geologic epicenter with near perfect conditions for growing the grapes that lead to the marvelous wine. Of course, Mother Nature is still in control, and that’s one of the points to the film (which could have been titled “Starting a Winery for Dummies”). Of course, Ms. Barrett is no dummy, and neither are any of the other winemakers we meet during the course of what’s probably a too long 82 minutes. These folks pour love, sweat, worry, and money into a once per year product that can go wrong at any of the numerous steps prior to having a glass poured as you settle in for a juicy steak of plate of pasta.
Much of the time is devoted to Texan Mike Martin as he shops for a new winery, and settles on one in Coombsville. His Italics Winegrowers makes the point, that it’s probably wiser to buy an existing enterprise, than wait the 4 to 5 years for the first crop if starting from scratch. The established Reynolds Family Winery provides another example of the complexity to this business; and just how much nurturing goes into farming and production, and the incredible variances experienced from year to year.
Napa Valley is described as still in the “Wild West” stage since the tradition goes back only a couple of decades (instead of centuries like in Italy and France). Creativity abounds as new winemakers thrill us with the discovery of new blends and varietals. A perfect example is Ms. Barrett’s 6L of 1992 Screaming Eagle sold at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction (now called Auction Napa Valley), which nabbed a record $550,000 for a single bottle at the Premiere Napa Valley tasting event/auction.
The film does a nice job of talking about how the industry has evolved to one that pays attention to farming the vines and the full process … not just what happens when it hits the barrels. There is even mention of how branding plays a key role these days, yet is still sometimes overlooked. Beautifully filmed, with some gorgeous shots of the area, Mr. Kovacic’s project is bit more artistic than most documentaries, but might have benefited from a shorter run time … or better personal connection to the players.