It wasn’t the wine that lured me to Wine Country. It was film. At the time, this seemed like an inexplicable state of affairs, since I lived in Los Angeles, then the mecca of film production. As filmmaking has scattered to the four corners of the earth, or at least those places with access to digital technology and tax incentives, Wine Country has steadily been vinting its own film culture.
By 2005, I was happily ensnared, sloshing through our local film fest and behind the camera producing more shorts than Fruit of the Loom.
Long in the lead among those cultivating this trend are Brenda and Marc Lhormer, film producers themselves, who once upon a time grew Sonoma’s own film fest into a world class affair and have since improved upon the concept with their Napa Valley Film Festival, now in its third year. What kind of wood did they use for its rootstock? Hollywood, of course.
This year, a cavalcade of stars will invade Napa’s various environs, from Colin Farrell to Adam West, TV’s iconic Batman (they seemed to be ranked by their relative wattage according to the size of their mugshot on the fest’s Tumblr page – West is wee, though a cult favorite). Suffice it to say, the Lhormers know how to put on a film festival. It’s essentially Wine Country’s answer to Cannes, Sundance and Disneyland all in one. And a river of wine runs through it.
Back in the day, I wrote an annual article on the Sonoma iteration of their festival, which occasioned my pilgrimage from Los Angeles while stringing for the San Francisco Chronicle. These were back in the relatively flush dot-com days when the publicity team would wine and dine you and make sure you made it safely back to your hotel room. And sometimes they’d be there in the morning to hold your hair while you filed a column of puke into a publication of pure porcelain.