story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 2/10/16
For Wil Fernandez, watching a film while sipping on wine is pretty natural.
“It’s something people do and love,” he says. “You can passively appreciate things going on in the glass while being visually and audibly involved with the film.”
He calls it, actually, a “full sensory experience,” and it’s the impetus behind his latest creative venture, the first ever Wine + Film Festival. The three-week fest, which will feature several events throughout Santa Barbara County, will launch on February 14th, the day after the lights on the high-profile Santa Barbara International Film Festival dim. It’ll end with an awards ceremony on March 5th, during the highly popular World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) tasting event at Bacara Resort & Spa.
|SOMM: Into the Bottle, with Brian McClintic, is among the fest's featured films|
Mr. Fernandez, 38, says more than 30 films have already been submitted. A handful are longer-format or full-length features, including the new "SOMM: Into the Bottle" documentary, which stars Santa Barbara sommelier Brian McClintic and which has seen major success since its release through iTunes earlier this month. "Barolo Boys," a film about the revolutionary rise of wine from Italy’s Barolo region, and "A Year in Champagne," which explores the making of the world’s most famous sparkling wines, will also be screened.
Most of the submissions to the Wine & Film Festival, though, are short, innovative dramatic works – some as short as three minutes – that range from music videos to vignettes shot on mobile phones. The main character in all the films is the same: wine. And the festival’s events will give audiences the chance to taste while they watch, often sipping on the very wines spotlighted on the screen.
“It’s about making that full-circle connection – learning about wine while experiencing it in a variety of different ways,” Mr. Fernandez adds.
|A sunset toast in Larner Vineyard kicks off the International Wine Film Festival|
The February 14th event is, naturally, inspired by Valentine’s Day. Set on the beautiful Larner Vineyard estate in Ballard Canyon, “Wine Country Date Night: Dinner & a Movie” begins with a Champagne toast in the vineyard at sunset and moves into the barn for an intimate upscale dinner designed by Argentinian celeb chef Diego Felix. Just 20 two-top tables will be served multiple dishes, including a six-course dessert, while the new 90-minute SOMM doc plays on screen. Nearly sold out, tickets to this event are $125.
The festival continues on February 17th and goes online, as Mr. Fernandez hosts a live screening event on Twitter. A variety of video shorts will roll during the one-hour digital chat as 25 wine writers from around the country tweet out commentary. The public is encouraged to join in, starting at 5:30pm PT, using the hashtag, #WineFilm. “What’s in your glass is up to you,” says Mr. Fernandez.
Cabernet sauvignon comes into focus on February 20th, when Grassini Vineyards hosts an “Afternoon Vineyard Screening & Tasting.” Set in Santa Barbara’s Happy Canyon – a sunny spot on the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley where warm-weather wine grapes like cabernet flourish – this event will screen various wine films produced in Australia. The audience will sip cabs produced in Australia (and featured on screen) and compare them to their Santa Barbara-made counterparts. Tickets are $45.
A VIP event on March 2nd is primarily a media and trade event, with a guest list that includes a slew of high-profile industry personalities, from vintners to sommeliers to journalists. Set at the spectacular new Presqu’ile Winery in the Santa Maria Valley, this evening soiree will feature films produced by wineries, including a music video parody by Sonoma’s Jordan Winery and a short by Sonoma’s Martinelli Winery that won Wine Spectator Magazine 2015 video contest. Among the food purveyors are Bob’s Well Bread and Far West Tavern, with tickets at $75.
The curtain falls on the festival on March 5th during the wildly popular WOPN, or World of Pinot Noir, a gathering of celebrated pinot noir producers from around the world that’s an annual sell-out. As wine fans attend seminars and tastings, all set at Bacara Resort & Spa, films will be screening on a loop inside the hotel’s high-tech and intimate theater, allowing guests to watch on their schedule. A comprehensive awards ceremony will be hosted by famed Master Sommelier Fred Dame.
For tickets and information on the first International Wine Film Festival, go to winefilmfestival.com.
|Cameraman Jonathan Baudoin gets footage for Fernandez' "Vintage 2014"|
This is not Mr. Fernandez’ first foray into highlighting wine on film. The former ad exec from L.A. who moved to Santa Barbara three years ago made a big splash with his “Vintage 2014,” a groundbreaking multimedia project that involved video, podcasts, webcasts and gourmet tastings and that captured Santa Barbara County’s 2014 wine grape harvest from bud break to bottling. “The Wine + Film Festival is really a result of all the cooperation that I found within the local wine community,” he says, “and the relationships I formed with many local wineries.”
The Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, which represents the majority of local wineries, is not involved.
“There’s definitely an increase in demand for wine-related video,” Mr. Fernandez says, “from the internet to cable TV to Netflix.” So plans are on to bring back the International Wine Film Festival next year.