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California Winemaking, Circa 1978

Growing up in Colorado, I readily acquired a reverence for the work of a filmmaker named Warren Miller, whose quirky, campy, and inspiring ski films were shown a few weeks before the first snows of the season to packed auditoriums of locals. It's been years since I've seen one of his films, or even thought of the delight I used to take in his work, so imagine my surprise when I came across a film he made about wine.

OK, perhaps calling it a film may be a bit charitable, as it's essentially a 23-minute infomercial for Simi Winery, but as opposed to today's standards for such things, it's got a lot going for it. Not the least of which is significant footage and narratives from California wine industry pioneers André Tchelistcheff and MaryAnn Graf. Tchelistcheff joined Beaulieu Vineyards in 1938 as winemaker, and in the fifty years that followed he was instrumental in shaping almost everything aspect of post-Prohibition winemaking in California. Graf, the first female graduate of the U.C. Davis Viticulture and Enology program, was pretty young at the time of this film, but not only embodied a significant gender milestone in her career, she made some darn good wine before founding Sonoma County's first enology lab, which she ran for nearly 40 years.


Viewing the film requires the following password: time

Of course, the film is highly edited and highly scripted, so there are no great insights or profound moments captured, but its still kind of fun to watch, if only for the fashions and a mustache or two.


Thanks to Mel Knox for tipping me off about this, and to Mo Morris and Marc Romano, to whom we also apparently owe thanks for this blast from the past.

Comments (6)

Mel Knox wrote:
08.13.12 at 1:37 PM

The clean shaven guy with the Simi t shirt is Rick Sayre. In 1979 he took the winemaker's job at Rodney Strong and has been there ever since. The older balding man is Michael Dixon, who came over from the UK when Scottish and Newcastle bought the winery and then stayed through several changes of ownership.

I got this video from Phil Burton of Barrel Builders.

Natalie wrote:
08.13.12 at 3:00 PM

That was so awesome, thanks for sharing! Apparently Simi was ahead of the times with social media - that's a pretty great video!

John wrote:
08.14.12 at 9:18 AM

Thanks for sharing this, Mel, and to Alder for posting it. It's marvelous to be reminded how much has changed, and how little - including MaryAnn!

Mark wrote:
08.16.12 at 3:21 PM

Heard the mustache was going to make a comeback any minute~ Anyway, yeah that was pretty cool on a few levels. Just seeing the barrels sitting along the floor like that was pretty interesting in and of itself. Seems space is more at a premium these days

08.17.12 at 1:23 PM

What a fantastic story! It goes to show that relationships and connecting with people is what it's all about. Social media, social parties, networking, etc.; life and business is about connecting with other people. What better way to connect than with a good bottle of wine!

Robert Larsen wrote:
08.20.12 at 8:52 AM

Good eye, Mel. Rick spread this around the winery weeks ago to many fun comments from his colleagues.

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