Monday, March 26, 2018

"André -- The Voice of Wine" is a rare wine documentary of interest to novices and experts alike

André Tchelitscheff is arguably the most important man in modern California wine history, but that doesn't guarantee that a documentary about his life will be interesting.

Fortunately, his grand-nephew Mark Tchelistcheff, who spent 10 years working on the film "André -- The Voice of Wine," enlists eloquent wine people from around the world to tell the story of a man who went from fighting on the losing side in Russia's Communist revolution to teaching all of Napa Valley about the importance of hygiene.

"My point was to bring out the terroir of André, but not necessarily to focus on the dirt," Mark Tchelistcheff told me. "There were many stories that did not make the film. 70% of the winemakers I interviewed didn't make the film. I have over 300 hours of interviews that didn't make the film."

What he chose, with some advice from three-time Oscar-winning sound editor Walter Murch, are snippets that allow winemakers to tell not just the ups and downs of André Tchelistcheff's life, but also how he affected them.

"André -- The Voice of Wine," which has its Wine Country premiere on Apr. 7 during Festival Napa Valley's new Springboard Series, is a rare achievement: a wine documentary that isn't boring for either wine experts or novices.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Wine tasting in Napa Valley is like taking an international flight

I love visiting Napa Valley. It's beautiful, and the food in good restaurants may be even better on a world scale than the wine.

I love many of the wines. Napa Valley has such good terroir that it can always surprise you. I'm not a fan of high-alcohol overextracted Cabernets, which the valley is famous for, but there are so many other great (and usually cheaper) wines there that I could drink Napa Valley wine every night for a month and not get tired.

But there's a usually unstated reason I like Napa Valley and it's a little dishonest of writers not to 'fess up about it.

When I visit Napa Valley, I'm a minor VIP. I'm not in first class: I'm not LeBron James (this is my favorite wine sports story ever), I'm not Robert Parker, and I'm not a billionaire, so I don't know exactly how good it is in first class.

But I'm solidly in business class, and it's good. It's very good. I get appointments for just me. Winery owners buy me lunch and ask if I have written anything lately. People hand me bottles of wine to take home. Usually (not always) I stay for free and often I eat for free. Always, I drink for free. I love visiting Napa Valley. Who wouldn't, in business class?

So when one of my non-wine-geek friends asks for a recommendation on where to visit in Napa Valley, I always tell them, go somewhere else.