April 14, 2014

Corvallis, Ore. – The locally produced feature documentary American Wine Story will premiere at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival on Saturday, April 26. Selected from more than 2,000 submitted films, the documentary will screen three times at the festival, which attracted more than 50,000 film fans in 2013.

American Wine Story follows the stories of dozens of people who left behind past lives to pursue their winemaking dreams to various degrees of success. Much of the film follows the story of Portland native Jimi Brooks who passed away in 2004 at the age of 38 just as his business was beginning to take off. The Oregon wine community rallied to help save Brooks’s winery as a legacy for his eight-year-old son.

Other noted winemakers in the film include Oregon wine legend Dick Erath and former NFL star Drew Blesoe of Bend. The filmmakers interviewed winemakers and industry insiders from six different states.

The film was produced by Corvallis residents David Baker, Kegan Sims and Justin Smith, and also Truen Pence of Portland, who met while working in University Relations at Oregon State University and decided to pursue an independent project.

“We wanted to make a film that drew inspiration from the landscape around us,” said Baker, who directed the film.

“Since we’re in wine country, the concept was a natural fit. But it took us four years of travel and investigation to finally find our core story.”

After Newport Beach, the film will screen at the Mendocino Film Festival in May and as part of the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon in July.

“It’s still amazing to me that a film we produced on a shoestring budget here in Corvallis is going to screen at some of the more reputable festivals on the West Coast,” Baker said. “We’re just starting our festival run, so we’re excited to see where it goes from here.”

Contact: David Baker, dave@threecrowsmedia.com, 660.537.5009
Media Kit: http://bit.ly/1jEkeIY
Website: http://thewinemovie.com

We’re thrilled to announce the world premiere of American Wine Story at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It’s a great venue with lots of energy and should be a fantastic compliment to our sneak preview at the River Bend Film Festival and our wine country debut in Mendocino.

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You can now buy tickets for screenings on Saturday, April 26 at 3:15, Monday, April 28 at 12:30 and Wednesday, April 30 at noon.

If you’re in Southern California, pick up some tickets and we’ll see you in Orange County!

We’re thrilled to start sharing our documentary American Wine Story with audiences around the country a little shy of four years since we began the whole journey. In June of 2010, Truen Pence and I came upon a realization during a lunch break at our job: winemakers are great storytellers and vineyards are gorgeous. There had to be a film tucked somewhere in the lush, vine-laden hills of the Willamette Valley.

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Camera technology had just taken a leap, with cinema-quality footage more accessible than ever before. Having made shorts and commercials, designed a few things and written some scripts, we were itching to shoot something. We rounded up some fellow filmmakers and started shooting. What we discovered was a revelation and a surprise to us, and we hope it is to the audience as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

After four years, seven states, seventy interviews, three name changes and what seems like an endless process, we’re finally nearing the home stretch. Now we’ve got a rough edit of the film and we’re raising some finishing funds to help us launch the film in 2014.

After more than three years of roaming American vineyards and wineries, we’re finally on the home stretch of our feature documentary, American Wine Story. We’re closing in on 100 interviews, and we expect to take our very last trip this weekend, heading back to where it all started in Walla Walla and Washington’s wine country.

There’s plenty of work left, from audio mixing, to color correction, final edits, motion graphics and more. But look for the film in early 2014.

While making this documentary, we accumulated so many more stories than we can use in one feature documentary, so we’ll be posting clips from time to time that help show off the amazing personalities we met along the way. Mary Olson of Airlie Winery in Monmouth, Oregon is someone who always makes you feel at home. It’s the first Oregon winery I visited after moving here from the Midwest.

Aerial of Airlie Winery

I remember that visit well. It was a lovely, bright spring day, and we were the only guests. We walked into the tasting room, and Mary came in to meet us. “It’s too nice to stay inside,” she said. “Go out and have a seat, and I’ll bring you some wine.” We sat under a trellis, watching her Irish Setters splash in the pond, while she brought out wines, four at a time, sitting down and chatting with us between pours. Read the rest of this entry »

Had one of those magic moments today when things just fall into place. I was digging through the Oregon Wine History Archive at Linfield College (home of the International Pinot Noir Celebration), looking for whatever I could find in the collection of Oregon Pinot pioneer Dick Erath. I found a number of fantastic documents and slides.

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I’d gathered enough good material that I was all ready to call it a morning and start copying and scanning when I spotted a small, worn, aged notebook in the bottom of one of the boxes. I stopped short a moment. I knew it had to be something good.

When we interviewed Dick Erath, he described in detail his first shot at garage winemaking. It was a Semillon he bought from a local vineyard in California before he moved up to Oregon. A number of the slides I found showed him at work on a home rig from around that time. But the notebook held an even bigger surprise: his handwritten notes from making that vintage.

Dick Erath's notes

This is where the winemaker was born. Right from the start, you can see his meticulous attention to detail. On the back, he wrote down a long list of hydrometer readings, being beyond thorough. I recognized it right away…I use the same format in my own garage winemaking, though I’m a lot less precise and my handwriting is undecipherable. I guess that tells you something about why he founded one of the largest wineries in the Northwest and I’m still making wine in my garage.

In any case, I know right where, in the latest edit, a scan of this page will go. Making that discovery was a thrill. I felt like the wine geek equivalent of an enological Indiana Jones. The crackle of the old paper, the splotches that just might have been the must of a wine pioneer’s fledgling vintage: all of this is as exciting to me as Harrison Ford dodging some Mayan death traps. It’ll be a great addition to the story we’re telling.

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.

Jim Day's Panache Cellars

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!

Still depicting theatre and animation

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.

Tad Seestedt of Ransom

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.

Lucy the distillery dog

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 Cole in the cellar at the Southeast Wine Collective

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.

Thomas Monroe behind the bar at the Southeast Wine Collective

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.

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:

Actors Dominique Valdovinos and Matthew Flood

Glenn Alexander

Glenn Alexander