Film Review: decanted: A Winemaker’s Journey
I first heard about this documentary while listening to a Grape Nation podcast that featured three of the main winemakers who were featured in the film: Steve Reynolds, Heidi Barrett and Anthony Bell. All three are well known in the industry, and to hear they all collaborated on a film that aimed to provide an inside glimpse into the winemaking process in Napa had my interest piqued. The podcast is worth a listen too.
So on top of the already interesting main characters we knew we’d meet throughout (Ms Barrett is one of the most sought after winemakers in the valley having crafted legendary wine at prestigious Screaming Eagle), I was impressed with the film from its opening aerial scenes of Ms Barrett circling the vineyards in a helicopter. And the beautiful photography continues throughout the film, making Napa Valley clearly the central character in the film.
Interspersed among these shots is a story of the agriculture and art of a select group of people sharing similar passions for high quality wines and a similar desire to experiment, innovate and hustle to bring out the best of the Napa terroir and deliver it to all of us consumers.
The film sheds light on the winemaking process, the crucial decisions that are made, the sales and marketing of the wines and the finished product, both for the established winemaker, and a new winegrower, Italics, who sets up shop in the newly designated Combesville AVA, located just east of downtown Napa.
We learn about the challenges of staying on top of everything that’s in the winemaker’s control, but also the more immense challenges of managing the elements outside their control, namely the weather. This film hits in the middle of a string of excellent vintages in Napa, and you can feel the emotion, happiness and relief reverberate from everyone involved. I can only imagine the stress of running a business where the primary factor determining your success, revenue and reputation is Mother Nature.
I actually had the privilege of visiting Mr. Reynolds’ Reynold’s Family Winery in Stag’s Leap last year during a visit to Napa. We not only enjoyed the experience at the intimate tasting room, but the wines were spectacular, especially their Reserve Cabernet that is memorable on several accords but unique in that each bottle features a handpicked white mustard flower from the estate. I was astonished a few months later to find a handful of Reynolds Family wines at my local wine shop in the Atlanta area. I’m sure this film will only bring more attention to his wines.
In addition, the film follow other prominent Napa winemakers including Aaron Pott, and Anthony Bell of Bell wine cellars as well as Julien Fayard and Philippe Melka of Melka Vineyards, whose excellent Cabernet I enjoyed last year to celebrate the Cubs winning the World Series (so will never forget that bottle).
In conclusion, the film provides an inside look behind the bottle, deep into the craft and art of the wine making process, which we sometimes forget begins with dirt and a sprout, and the influence of a team of people wearing many different hats, to bring us the juice we love in a bottle purchased near our home that is representative of so much more than just a liquid inside a bottle.
decanted: A Winemaker’s Journey is an amazing journey. It’s one that has it’s own pulse and vibrancy, which you can get a loose feel for when you visit a Napa vineyard in person. But a film like this really takes you deep inside, where you want to be. Maybe a place where you wouldn’t mind staying. Highly recommended for all wine fans.
The film is available on digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play beginning Tuesday, February 28th.
Have you seen decanted? What did you think? Do you have any other wine films to recommend?