Thursday, December 5, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Wine under the stars: The second annual International Wine Film Festival showcased the best at Presqu'ile


Santa Maria is going Hollywood.

Don’t worry; I don’t mean that our traffic is going to get worse (is that possible?) or we’re suddenly going to be hosting huge movie premieres attending by thousands of people. But our region is home to one particularly unique event that took place from June 22 through 30.

The International Wine Film Festival, which just wrapped up its second year, featured a total of 26 wine-themed films in various genres. The festival screened at several area vineyards, allowing participants to watch films while sipping wine under the night sky.

Presqu’ile Winery’s backyard screening area served as the setting for the second annual International Wine Film Festival, which featured films such as Merlot, an animated short from Italy.

Wil Fernandez, who launched the festival in 2016, is also the director and producer of Vintage 2014: The Stories Behind The Vines, an interactive film series on the growing season in Santa Barbara County. He wanted the films to show while people enjoyed good local wines, the product of what they were watching on-screen.

“The idea was to sip the wines on-screen while watching the wine being grown,” Fernandez explained. “When I went to submit the project to film festivals, I was frustrated to discover that there weren’t any festivals that brought together audiences of wine lovers to celebrate wine films like I had intended.”

The solution was simple—create one that did. That’s how the Wine and Film Festival was born. In 2016, the inaugural festival debuted in February, featuring categories which included Best Wine Movie, Best Winery Produced Video, Best Wine Review Short, and Best Wine Region Video. Food and Wine magazine even took notice, pointing out the distinct need for a festival that celebrates the appreciation and craft of wine.

“Our first year we simply reached out to film producers that we liked and curated the lineup of about a dozen films,” he said. “This year, we used a film festival submission platform and received over 400 entries from all over the world.”

The second annual International Wine Film Festival featured local winemakers sharing wines with attendees as they watched international wine-themed films.

Stop everything. Four hundred films from all over the world were clamouring to be shown in our backyard? I’m calling it now—Santa Maria is the new Sundance (for wine-themed films, anyway).

Fernandez, who was surprised at the outpouring of response, served as the initial screener, curating the films and inviting local winemakers, journalists, and others to serve as judges.

“We were looking for interesting projects to spotlight that may not have otherwise been seen by wine lovers taking into consideration things like budget and theme,” he said.

When we arrived at the festival, dusk was barely beginning to settle in at Presqu’ile Winery. We started by enjoying glasses of Presqu’ile’s rosé, which felt trendy and fresh. There is something addictively magical about being in a vineyard at sunset. High atop the fields outside Presqu’ile’s main tasting rooms, viewers are afforded a unique glimpse of Santa Maria; on clear days you can even see down to the beaches. We watched the sun go down and then meandered to the outdoor screening area for the special presentation.

The first film was an animated short called Merlot, a twist on the Little Red Riding Hood story, and an Italian student film project written and produced by Giulia Martinelli and Marta Gennari. The film, which used wine bottles and corks to make some of the sound effects, won Best Animated Short at the Tirana Film Festival in 2015.

Wines served during the second annual International Wine Film Festival included several pinot noirs, all made from grapes grown at Presqu’ile Winery’s vineyards in Santa Maria, as well as the winery’s signature rosé (pictured).

The festival also featured Uncorked Potential, a documentary on the famed Finger Lakes wine region in New York, produced and directed by Jack Kauffman. One of the biggest delights (and one of the most clever shorts I’ve seen recently) was Chateau au Go Go, by Steve Gentile. Gentile, a Professor of animation at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, created an inventive narrative, telling a story entirely through stop-motion animation, using nothing but the images printed on wine corks.

On to the really good stuff, aka the wine: Each short was paired with a variety from a local winemaker. In addition to tasting wine from Presqu’ile, Marc Piro of Piro Wine Company and Kevin Law of Cotiere Wine both offered pinot noirs that were made from grapes grown on Presqu’ile Estate vineyards. 

As for the future of the event, Fernandez said fans could count on a repeat in 2018.

“There’s no doubt that we’ll be hosting the third annual Wine Film Festival,” he said. “I just hope to collaborate with more wineries and hospitality partners to make it better every year.”

Rebecca Rose is fascinated by stop-motion films. Contact her at


Wontons from Hang Out in Orcutt.

• We recently checked out the Hang Out, a Thai restaurant in Orcutt that is small but very inviting. I ate way too many fried wontons (pictured) mostly because theirs are very light yet crispy (even as leftovers, they held up). Try those or their famous pad thai at 4869 S. Bradley Road, suite 122, Santa Maria.

• Thursdays at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. celebrate “locals night” with drinks ranging from $3 to $6 at their Los Olivos taproom. The First and Oak food truck also stops by to get rowdy with the locals at 2363 Alamo Pintado Ave., Los Olivos.

Weekly Poll
What do you think of the wind energy project the county Planning Commission approved just south of Lompoc?

It's great. We need more renewable energy sources.
I'm concerned about all of the birds that'll die.
I'd rather the county focus on oil and gas projects.
Visually it's going to ruin a beautiful landscape.

| Poll Results