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"Decanted" - the latest Wine movie comes out this week on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

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A film about a California startup should be of interest to wine drinkers.

By W. Blake Gray 

Heidi Peterson Barrett opens the new documentary "Decanted" in spectacular fashion, taking filmmaker Nicholas Kovacic II on a helicopter ride over Napa Valley. It's wish fulfillment for those of us who have only ever driven through California's most famous wine region.

"Decanted" comes out this week on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. It will be most attractive to fans of Napa Valley wines because Kovacic gets Barrett and fellow cult winemaker Philippe Melka to speak on camera at more than cameo length. It also has a terrific anecdote from well-known winemaker Aaron Pott, who says he decided on his career path at the grand old age of nine, when he was in a bistro in Paris and ordered a glass of milk. "The waiter looked at me and said: 'Milk is for babies'," Pott said.

Most of the film focuses on the efforts of Texans Mike and Ken Martin, who made their money with a large produce-distribution business, to start a winery from scratch in Napa Valley with the help of winemaker Steve Reynolds. It's interesting at times and at other times feels like an advertisement for their fledgling brand, Italics winery. The interviews with winemakers not affiliated with Italics help a lot, and besides, the film is only 78 minutes long.

I spoke on the phone with Kovacic, a fellow Baltimore native, about the film. Kovacic makes his money from commercials. "Decanted" is his second intoxicating documentary, after "Brewmore Baltimore," about local beer breweries.

How did the movie come about?

I really didn't know much about wine before getting involved in this project. I met Reynolds in Washington DC. He had shot some footage with his GoPro of harvesting in 2012. He asked me to look at it to see if there was anything I could do with it. It was like looking through a periscope, but I'd never seen anything like that before. I thought it would be really cool to show more. People go to these wine dinners and they see the bottles and that's the end of it. I met Steve and talked a little bit more about it. He invited me to California.

How did you get the famous winemakers to participate?

We spent the 2014 harvest in Napa Valley. We had a very small crew. We went across the valley filming everyplace. I met Philippe (Melka) at Premiere in 2015. We were there to get more behind the wine, and less, why this wine costs this much money. It was more to talk about the passion behind the project.

How did you decide to focus on Italics winery?

The first film that I did, Brewmore Baltimore, I wanted to do a story that had the beginnings of a new brand. So you could visually see it all the way from the beginning to the end. I wasn't able to really do that with Brewmore. With this, we had good timing. We were filming harvest 2014 and we were at Premiere at 2015 and we were just getting these pieces. The timing was just perfect for how it came into place. It's kind of a nice thread throughout to bring together the seasons and the thought processes of the winemaker.

There are so many places in America where people start wine brands. Why Napa Valley?

When you think about wine in the United States, the first thing that comes to my mind is Napa Valley. The history that's there. It goes all the way back to pre-Prohibition. Outside Napa, you had Gallo making the big industrial brands. Napa was this little sleepy town. The history that came together ... it's almost poetic. The place is so beautiful you look. Everywhere you look, there's inspiration everywhere.

Can you make money on a film like this?

I don't make the documentaries to make money per se. You have a good time doing it. I've never set out to make these films with the goal of making money at the end. To be able to work on projects that are meaningful to myself and everyone else that's involved in it. I own a postproduction company. I was able to finance the majority of the film with sweat equity. I was able to get a little bit of sponsorship through different partners. The last film I paid for the entire film myself and paid everyone in beer.

How did making the film change your feelings about wine?

When we started out the film I had a zest for wine but I didn't understand there's a thousand steps that go into making a wine. In the deleted scenes on the DVD, when that comes out, it's very much more technical. I have a greater understanding and I understand the subtle complexities more.

What's your next project?

I'm not going to do another one about wine right now. I'm producing a film about monastery brewing. Different abbeys brewing in the United States, including one of the first Trappist abbeys brewing in the United States.

 

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