Apart from the Oscar-nominated 2004 film “Sideways,” wine’s never gotten much of
a starring role in movies.
Maybe its sensual properties just don’t translate. Maybe it’s been too
obscure a part of American culture until now.
Three North Bay filmmakers
think it’s time to give wine its due, at least in documentary form. They
recently released a fun and informative 60-minute film on the California wine
world, an overview called “A State of Vine.”
“It isn’t every day that
Fred Franzia, the father of the notoriously and deliciously affordable “Two Buck
Chuck,” agrees with the philosophy of pricey Silver Oak winemaker Daniel Baron,”
said Christine Scioli of ZAN Media. Scioli shot, directed and produced the film
with her husband, Don, and daughter, Niki.
Both Franzia and Baron are
interviewed, Franzia’s presence giving the Sciolis good reason to cut to a
hilarious YouTube video of bar band The Fresh performing “Two Buck Chuck.”
The inclusion of Two Buck Chuck — and Franzia — was Niki’s idea, borne out of
the experience she had bringing a bottle of the inexpensive elixir into her Wine
Business Studies class at Sonoma State University, a program from which she
“They wanted to sever her head,” Christine recalled.
Added Niki, “The idea that 300 million bottles of his wine have been sold and
one person will say they hate it and one will say they love it —we all felt we
needed to include it.”
“A State of Vine” abounds with familiar scenes
(goats roaming, mustard growing) and familiar folks, from Franzia to car-racing
legend Mario Andretti (deemed “the legend”), wine publicist Harvey Posert (“the
pragmatist”), Hagafen Winery kosher winemaker Ernie Weir (“the naturalist”),
farmworker-turned-vintner Reynaldo Robledo (“the patriarch”), with his daughter
Vanessa, and former mayor of Santa Rosa Mike Martini of Taft Street Winery.
“It preaches to the choir a little bit,” Don Scioli said. “But it’s also for the
uninitiated — there’s enough information there — while people who are into wine
will know the personalities.”
Indeed the film does a good job of
providing a primer on wine, providing stats on the California wine industry
(jobs created, bottles produced) and describing such concepts as appellation,
acidity, barrel aging, toasting, bulk wine, sustainability and the millennials.
But it also lets its subjects expound on weightier concepts.
the winemaker for Pride Mountain Vineyards in St. Helena, is allowed to opine on
mountain-grown grapes being the best, citing a vintage TV ad for Folgers coffee:
“Didn’t you listen to Mrs. Olsen in the ’60s? Mountain grown is the richest;
there’s more expression, intensity of color, intensity of flavor.”
Another highlight: winemaker Randy Pitts of Harvest Moon Estate Winery in Santa
Rosa explaining how his dad first developed their vineyards in the 1970s
“powered by Budweiser.”
Then there’s the charismatic Andretti, who surely
could have been a movie star, explaining how he first came to the Napa Valley in
1976, “looking for God’s country.”
The racing legend uses his past to
further describe his present, saying, “I never knew how to work on a race car.
I’m not a mechanic, so I rely on someone else to do that job. With winemaking, I
rely on someone else to do that job and I enjoy the finished product — that’s my
Meanwhile, the film has fun pitting Napa against Sonoma
and calling out the contrasts still in evidence throughout Wine Country — where
on a given day you may find guests at the Sonoma Mission Inn, still in their
comfy robes, enjoying an afternoon wine tasting and 4-H kids competing in the
county’s annual swine auction (where, the film instructs, the going rate is $8
per pound of pig).
Don and Christine Scioli have been in the film
business for 27 years, Don an alumnus of USC’s fabled film school, where he
roomed with future Oscar-winning director/producer Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the
Future I, II and III”, “Forrest Gump”). The couple, natives of Philadelphia,
decided to base themselves in Northern California after landing a gig to shoot
commercials for Sacramento-based Weinstock’s department stores.
to California because we watched ‘Falcon Crest’ on TV and thought it looked
much, much better (than Philadelphia),” said Christine.
visiting wineries all over Sonoma and Napa as a kid, part of her parents’
self-orchestrated wine education.
“For years after we moved here we
wouldn’t order gewurztraminer because I didn’t know how to say gewurztraminer,”
Christine remembered. “The first time our local deli was having a wine tasting
we almost dropped our drawers. How civil is that — there’s a wine tasting on a
Thursday afternoon and they give you wine?”
Based in Novato with their
three kids (Niki, in addition to twin brother-sister Zack and Alex, for which
ZAN Media is named), the Sciolis did commercial work for years before segueing
into shooting software game videos and then political campaigns, which is still
their bread and butter.
In fact, “A State of Vine,” which they finished
shooting in September, had to be put on hold for a few months while the Sciolis
worked on political campaigns for candidates throughout Marin, Sonoma and
Mendocino counties. Don started editing the documentary right after the Nov. 4
election, taking about two months to get the film where he wanted it to be.
Though it’s not a world he had covered before, Don found the wine industry had a
lot in common with the film world.
“There’s an entrepreneurial aspect
because it’s usually one family, one winery,” he said. “Everybody thinks they
know something about wine and everybody thinks they know something about
For now, “A State of Vine” can be ordered online or found
locally at Wine Hardware Stores. Further distribution is still being worked out,
though Don had a somewhat encouraging phone call a few weeks ago after sending
an old classmate of his, now at Warner Bros., a copy of the film.
guy from Warners calls — they never call,” he remembered. “I called him right
back and he goes, ‘Hey, I love the documentary, I’m a boozer, I loved it.’ Of
course, they’ve only done one documentary in the last 10 years - ‘March of the
Let’s see, here’s the pitch: A group of merlot-hating
penguins walk into a tasting room
You can reach Staff Writer Virginie
Boone at 521-5440 or