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.