We’ve been following the story of Jim Day for a few years now. He started out making his wine in borrowed corners of Corvallis-area wineries. He had his garage bonded as a storage facility last year, and now it’s a full-fledged production facility.
If you drive past this unassuming garage in a suburban neighborhood, you might not guess that it’s the home base for Day’s Panache Cellars label. The only clue is the sign warning that kids can only enter accompanied by an adult.
Inside, you’ll find a simple table, some cheese, a few friends and curious winery hoppers, and a flight of Jim’s Willamette Valley Pinot and Washington Sangiovese.
In a global industry rife with power players, you might think it’s somewhat hubristic to think you can compete by making wine in your garage and selling it in your driveway. But when we interviewed Dick Erath, we learned that that’s exactly how he began. Erath told us how he sold his first wines by unfolding a card table at the end of his driveway and selling wine to friends invited down from Portland and any other curious passers by.
And also like Erath, Day offers a line of excellent Pinot Noirs, Oregon’s signature varietal.
Will Jim Day follow on the heels of the Oregon wine pioneers and move production beyond his suburban driveway? Right now he plans to stay small. But you never know.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in talking with seventy-something wine industry people: anything’s possible.
Vintage is a feature project we’re developing as a follow-up to our wine documentary. We’ve cut together a teaser, working with talented actors Seth Allen and Chuck Skinner, and are now moving onto the development and financing process. Anyone interested in the project should let us know as we look for cast, crew and production partners.
Here’s the final version of our video for “The Wind Kept,” by Brave Julius, directed by Santiago Uceda and starring Matthew Joel Flood and Dominique Valodovinos:
Our music video collaboration with Brave Julius and Santiago Uceda will premiere during a concert tomorrow night at the gorgeous Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis. Should be a great show, and what an amazing opportunity.
Thanks to the Gazette-Times for providing coverage of the event. The theater is a local treasure and an amazing creative space. I hope it continues to inspire creative spirits for another hundred years. If your in Corvallis, please come by for the show. It’s only seven bucks!
Launched our Kickstarter campaign to finish the music video for The Wind Kept and put on a concert for its premiere at the Whiteside Theatre in Corvallis. Great working with Glenn Alexander and Santiago Uceda on this project.
Tad Seestedt of Ransom Wines & Spirits was told that he was crazy when he talked of leaving New York City and heading to Oregon without knowing a soul, with a vague notion of returning to an agricultural lifestyle in the wine industry. But after three years of planning, he headed west in 1993, and now his plans are finally coming together.
We recently interviewed Tad for our documentary project and learned that slow and steady can really sometimes win the race.
Ransom now produces gin and whiskey from barley he grows on his certified organic farm on the edge of the Coast Range, and he also produces a line of Oregon wines from area vineyards, with his own vines in the ground on his 40-acre farm outside the small town of Willamina, Oregon.
It’s been a long road paved with credit card and bank loans, but Ransom has arrived and Tad’s mother has stopped calling him to ask when he’s planning to start law school. With distillery dog Lucy by his side, Tad spoke to us about his path to independence in the wine and spirits business.
And my favorite quote from the conversation: “Making good wine involves science and focus and love…and maybe a little bit of superstition.”
We recently spoke with wine writer Katherine Cole to help us frame some of the larger themes in our current documentary project. She took some time away from her current book project to meet us at the Southeast Wine Collective, an urban winery that fosters some up-and-coming winemakers in an urban space that borders the lively restaurant scene on Division street in the Southeast Portland neighborhood.
Katherine’s voice combines the authority of an expert with the passionate of a true aficionado…on camera she shares that same spark that many of the winemakers we’ve talked to who’ve jumped into this business.
Tom Monroe is one of those who took a leap of faith. Along with his wife, Kate, he founded The Southeast Wine Collective as a home for not only their own Division Winemaking Company, but a number of other incipient brands, winemakers who might lack the capital necessary to plant their own wine estates in Yamhill County, but who’ve got no shortage of enthusiasm and commitment. A few of them were hanging out in the tasting room while we talked with Tom about leaving behind his career in the financial industry in New York, heading for some manual labor gigs in the Loire Valley before deciding to settle in Portland to launch a vision for an urban winery he first conceived in graduate school.
We find fascinating wine people at every turn, and it’s tempting to keep on shooting, but we’ll soon be settling into the editing phase of the project.
We put in another day of shooting on a teaser for Vintage which is the project we’re hoping to tackle after Vino Veritas. The story follows the exploits of Bruno Tannenbaum, a washed-up wine writer who’s got one last shot of resurrecting his career. We filmed at a few locations across Portland with talented actor Seth Allen, whose Verona Studio is a new presence in Willamette Valley live theater.
We’re hoping to have a solid teaser/trailer and some other production material in January, so we’ll soon be able to head out for financing and show potential investors what we can do on a budget. I’m really happy with what we’ve captured so far, and the performances of our local talent have been amazing.
Last Saturday we shot the live motion portions of our upcoming music video project, ‘The Wind Kept,’ with guitarist Brave Julius. With an amazing, cinematic song to work with, our hard-working crew and artist Santiago Uceda directing, we’re looking forward to an amazing final product. We hope to debut the video on March 16, 2013 at a benefit concert for the restoration of this amazing theater.
Here are a few production stills:
We took a break from harvest shoots on the doc to shoot some teaser/trailer material for Vintage a feature project we’re developing. We were fortunate to work with a pair of talented Oregon-based actors at some pretty amazing locations that also happen to be in our back yard.
We’ll be taking this project on the road and working the usual channels with a goal of raising funds to produce a solid indie feature.
We’re trying to cover as much of harvest this year as possible, with shoots at Rex Hill, Cardwell Hill, Brooks Winery and more. The weather’s been great this season, though the rains have started and winemakers are eyeing the weather. It’s an exciting time of year to be in the vineyard and on the crush pad.
Like any good suburban neighbors hatching a scheme over beers and barbecue, Thomas Jefferson hatched a scheme with Filippo Mazzei, an Italian patriot living on the next hill over from Monticello. Mazzei was an Italian patriot from a well-known wine family. They decided that they’d form a company to produce fine, European style wines on American shores.
But a revolution intervened, and though grapes were planted, they were either trampled by British horses or died due to disease and neglect. Wine was never made.
But now there’s a flourishing wine industry in Albemarle County. We traveled east to connect some of the dots and gather more footage for the film.
For the next set of interviews for Vino Veritas, we traveled east, to Virginia, to learn a little about the birth of the wine industry in America. Most think of the West Coast as the original home to American wine, but in truth early colonists were required to plant vinifera, and Thomas Jefferson even was a partner in a fledgling wine company with his Italian-born neighbor, Filippo Mazzei.
Andy Reagan is now winemaker on Mazzei’s former estate. The vineyards are new…now grafted on disease resistant American rootstock. But Jefferson’s dream of fine wine production in Virginia lives on after a hiatus of a pair of centuries.
And another Italian vigneron now tends the vineyards on Monticello. Gabriele Rausse helps to produce an estate wine at Monticello while also consulting with area wineries and producing his own label of Virginia grown wine. Gabriele’s connection to Jefferson goes well beyond horticulture, though, as he’s found a philosophical resonance in the words of the founding father.
And yet another Italian-born winemaker is heading production at Barboursville Vineyards, one of the oldest and most recognized wineries in the state. Luca Pascina grew up in Italian wine country and knew he wanted to be a winemaker at a very young age. And he’s settled into the lifestyle and landscape of Virginia, where the challenges of weather and excess rain don’t keep him from producing award-winning wines, or even deciding that they should skip a poor year if that’s what it takes to maintain their reputation of excellence.
We captured interviews and and tried to uncover the early roots of American winemaking in an effort to connect this story to what we’ve been covering in the Midwest and West Coast. We’ll share a video of extras from the trip soon.
Back in February we captured a fantastic pair of interviews from different vantage points on the wine industry. So far we’ve been mainly talking to winery owners, growers and winemakers, but the oenological universe is much bigger. We stopped at Cork, an innovative bottle shop on Portland’s trendy Alberta Street where we talked with owner Darryl Jonnides and PDX-based wine writer Katherine Cole.
Katherine brings a fresh voice to wine writing. From her column in the Oregonian to her book on biodynamic wines, she covers wine with the eye of a trained journalist, but with a passion of the oenologically obsessed. She’s not afraid to admit that some wines even reduce her to tears. We talked about how she found her way to the food beat and also discussed the state and future of the Oregon wine industry.
Darryl talked about his path from environmental attorney to restauranteur and now owner of a wine shop with a sustainable bent and a customer-driven mindset. We discussed the role of the retailer in the industry as well as trends and Cork’s unique organizational model where wines are arranged by price rather than varietal or style.
I can’t believe it’s taken me four months to get a blog post up, but we’ve been busy shooting and planning for the home stretch on the documentary, plus a few other projects. Look for a few more posts on recent interviews, including a trip to Monticello and Virginia’s wine country, plus an overhaul of the website. Cheers!
Our latest interview for the documentary took us to the technical side of winemaking. Elizabeth Clark didn’t set out be a winemaker. A lifelong wanderer with a background in Math and Russian, she’s almost surprised to have found herself in the wine industry since 2000. After working for a catering company in Oregon’s wine country, she was herself drawn to the cellars of the numerous wineries in the Willamette Valley, and eventually convinced legendary Amity winemaker Myron Redford to give her a shot.
She’s now worked her way up from cellar rat to winemaker for Airlie Winery in Oregon’s Coast Range. And in a state where pinot noir is the dominant variety…and in a business where red wines are often given preferential treatment over their pale cousins…Elizabeth isn’t afraid to unabashedly pledge her allegiance to white varietals, in whose subtlety and variety she finds more intrigue and challenge.
Elizabeth knows blending…and her biggest challenge is Airlie’s Seven, which combines seven different Willamette Valley whites. The goal is a balanced wine where no single variety dominates, and all of the flavors play nice together in an ideal combination of food friendliness and drinkability.
We had a chance to talk about the science of blending for Vino Veritas. Wine is blended for any number of reasons, not just to produce new creations like Airlie’s Seven. On the day that we spoke, Elizabeth was combining different lots of pinot gris. Blending is a painstaking process where science meets instincts, and an Excel spreadsheet is only there to augment the winemaker’s judgement.
Elizabeth’s blog is an approachable and interesting conversation about winemaking where she teaches customers and others in the industry about her craft. Blending is only one of the winemaking processes we hope to cover in the finished film.