17.04.2023|By Daniel Mendoza|14 Minutes

In late April of 2019 we returned to Napa, California once again to film with the LOLA agency for Total Wine & More. This trip had two video components and would involve a full week of filming throughout region. We would be showcasing ten vineyards through interviews, B Roll as well as Product shots. Throughout the trip we would also be crossing paths with a wine tour group made up of Total Wine & More team members. We were tasked with filming testimonials with some of those team member as well as the group experiences. We would be joined by the talented photographer Tony Garcia and his assistant, Adam, for this project. They were both so great to work and just to be around.

Our crew was made up of our Producer, Production Assistant, Director of Photography, Camera Assistant and Sound/Drone Operator. Typically on production trips we would all stay at a hotel but this time we opted to go with an AirBnB/VRBO to get more of a family style experience. Since the vineyards were scattered all across the region we found a great home that was centrally located. After settling in and unpacking gear we met up with the agency for a pre-production meeting to go over the week’s itinerary as well as production details for the following day.

Gear for this project included 2 Canon C200 Cameras; Canon Cinema Primes; Canon L Series Glass; Inspire 2 with X5 Camera; RED Scarlet W; Rode NTG3 Microphones; Kino Celeb Lights.

Day 1 was a single vineyard to film and it was with Plata Wine Partners where we interviewed Alison Crowe, the Director of Winemaking. Alison really set the bar for the production as she was not only incredibly knowledgeable but she also had such a great energy that fueled everyone on set. After filming Alison’s interview we began to capture B Roll footage with her in the vineyard as well as product shots. Our Producer and PA soon arrived and joined the rest of the team just as we were wrapping up at Plata Wine Partners. We stopped to eat at one of our staple dining locations Gott’s before heading to the AirBnB to back up footage and charge batteries for the following day. Since we had an earlier finish time we took advantage of the basketball hoop at the house we were staying at as well as the hot tub.

Day 2 took us to Ram’s Gate where we would be featuring O’Neill Vintners. We set up for our interview with proprietor Jeff O’Neill in a lovely outdoor garden area before filming B Roll of the vineyard team tending to the vines. Next up was aerial footage of the property which provided some spectacular shots. This would be our fist day meeting up with the Total Wine & More team member tour so we captured some of their beautifully staged lunch experience as well as testimonials. The lavish set up for the Total Wine & More team members was something any production designer would be proud of so we made sure to capture some great shots of it as well as the architectural elements of the tasting room as well. With an earlier end time once more we made the most of our free time to get some relaxation in as we knew the 2 a days ahead would take a toll. Another great meal, a game of HORSE and the hot tub while backing up footage and charging batteries.

Day 3 began at another Total Wine & More team member tour event. This time with Copper Cane at a unique outdoor space that seemed part adult summer camp and part lavish resort. We had a limited window with owner and winemaker Joseph Wagner so we quickly headed to his estate for our interview with him. Unfortunately there was no opportunity for us to film any B Roll with him so we would need to rely on stills and footage provided by their team. We packed up our gear and made the journey to River Road Family Vineyards. There we would interview proprietor Ron Rubin as well as winemaker Joe Freeman. We had plenty of time for B Roll at the vineyard before the Total Wine & More team member tour was to arrive for a special event that included a small orchestra. It was a long day so we couldn’t wait to get back home to shower, dump footage and charge batteries in preparation for the next day.

Day 4 started out at Baldacci Family Vineyards where we interviewed proprietors Thomas and Brenda Baldacci as well as their son and Director of Operations Michael. We opted to interview the three of them as a group to capture the family essence of their brand which included their dog. After capturing some great B Roll with Michael in the vineyard and in the cellar, we packed up and made our way to Chappallet. This vineyard definitely provided us one of the loveliest backdrops as we interviewed proprietors and brothers Cyril and Dominic Chappallet. We then interviewed winemaker Philip Titus before following him to the vines and cellar for some B Roll. After wrapping up for the day, we nearly ran out of fuel on our way back to the AirBnB but we just managed to make it to a gas station. To this day we still bring up the anxiety of driving down the mountain from Chappallet watching the gas gauge wondering how we could possibly make it to a gas station but the universe made it happen. We made it back to the house and the ritual of backing up footage, charging batteries and a hot tub continued.

Day 5 began at Titus Vineyards with an interview with Proprietor Eric Titus and winemaker Stephan Cruzan. After some filming in the vines, they then led us to a creek that runs through their property which provided some great footage as well as a great backdrop for the product shots. We loaded up and then headed out to Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery. Inside the cellar we set to interview proprietor Courtney Benham and Director of Winemaking Bill Batchelor. We captured some wonderful B Roll and product shots before hitting their shop to purchase some wine to take home with us as we were all impressed by their products. Most memorable from this day is our team getting to taste their Laguna Chardonnay directly from a concrete egg. Leading up to this everyone aside from our Producer was certain that they did not like Chardonnay but we all certainly had a change of heart after drinking the perfectly chilled Laguna as it came straight out of the spout and into the glass.

Day 6 started at Caymus where we interviewed the Wagner family consisting of Proprietor and Winemaker Chuck Wagner as well as his kids Charlie and Jenny Wagner who were also winemakers with the brand. The oldest son just happened to be Joseph Wagner with Copper Cane who we had filmed with just days earlier so it was great to see that winemaking was such a big part of their family heritage. After B Roll and Product shots we began making our way over to our final location for the trip which was also one of the most memorable. Blankiet estate was a French inspired castle in the heart of the Napa region sprung from the vision of Claude Blankiet whose personality was just as wonderful as the estate he had built. Of all the interviews we had filmed, this one was easily the most intriguing. The setting, the decor and the backdrop just made for such a unique visual. After the interview we filmed our B Roll which included aerial footage of the property as well as some great shots with Claude in the cellar. Shortly after the Total Wine & More team member tour arrived for their chance to meet with Claude and enjoy a wonderfully catered meal so of course we filmed some of that for the client before officially wrapping up production on the trip.

While our Producer and Camera Assistant set off for Oakland to catch their flight back to Arizona, the rest of us headed over to Amici’s lovely property where they were hosting an evening event. We were at Amici just weeks prior while filming for Total Wine & More’s Napa Wine Summit which you can read more about here. It was a wonderful way to cap off the trip and it gave us all a chance to collect ourselves after a long week. We met some incredible people, ate some wonderful food and drank great wine while sharing laughs and great conversations.

Throughout the trip we learned so much about the brands, the colorful characters behind the wines as well as our own capabilities when working in such a fast paced and demanding setting. Overall the agency and the client were pleased with our performance as well as our attitude throughout the trip. Something I have always held at high esteem is the importance of bringing the right attitude on set. For me, attitude and emotional intelligence is actually more important than the technical skills. Nobody wants to work with egotist and having the right energy on set can really help fuel great things from the rest of the team.

After making back home to Arizona, we began to receive scripts for the edits from the agency and the post production began. Over the next few weeks we cut together a total of 13 videos from the trip. The coverage of the Total Wine & More team members on the tour was provided as raw footage for their internal team to work on. Overall, we were very pleased with the outcome of the videos but even more impactful was the experience we had while in Napa. There are so many great memories and moments we will always be able to look back on and relive. To me that is ultimately what filmmaking is all about. Creating time capsules that are both internal and external for the production team and audiences to relive time and time again.