Whenever I discover something new and interesting, I become consumed by the desire to learn more about that subject. For the last few years, I've been practicing photography as a hobby. During my college years, I was fascinated by wine. I was lucky to live near Chapel Hill Wine Company, which is, in my opinion, the best wine shop in the country. The owner, Todd Wielar, would spend hours patiently answering a myriad of questions about why I liked certain wines and didn't like others. I read books, attended tastings, and scoured auctions for odd and interesting bottles. One of my better finds was a particularly obscure bottle of 1980 charbono which also happened to overlap with my interest in filmmaking.
The wine was produced as a Christmas gift from the Coppola family in 1982. For me, the label was a fascinating piece of film history. Francis Ford was arguably at the height of his career as a director. Eleanor, Sofia, and Roman would all eventually direct feature films. Sadly, Gian-Carlo died in a tragic accident just four years later.
There isn't a huge market for 25 year old charbono, so I was able to pick it up for about $20. I drank the bottle the next Christmas, which seemed fitting, and really enjoyed it. I kept the empty bottle and it always occupied space near my editing desk. That year, I started making documentaries and as a result, the time I devoted to wine dwindled.
This last year, my wife Emma and I moved to Napa. I remember looking at the Coppola bottle with new eyes and wondering if we could do something similar. The connection between film and wine in the bay area is stronger than you might imagine, with Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and John Lasseter all making their own wines. Why not give it a shot?
I've been directing videos for a few wineries and have gotten to know lots of people in the wine industry, and so I started asking questions. The result of all of these questions is ALBATROSS, a 2011 vintage Napa Valley red wine blend. The juice that went into this wine was blended from a high-end winery's declassified barrels and, as a result, I'm not allowed to go into too much detail about exactly where the grapes were grown and who the winemaker was (to all involved- you know who you are. Thank you!) However, that won't always be the case. This is just the first of what I hope will be many collaborations with winemaking friends to create small production wines for friends and family.
One of the most exciting parts of the process was designing the label. One of my favorite artists, Manfred Krankl, also happens to be one of the greatest winemakers in the world. Manfred and his wife Elaine own and operate the boutique winery Sine Qua Non. I've always loved that Manfred changes the names and labels of his wines each year, following whatever creative path he chooses. As the saying goes, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." I stole quite a bit from Manfred, as well as Bond's Matriarch and Herb Lamb Vineyards.
I collaborated with my talented sister-in-law, Jen Kruch of Shipwright & Co., on the label art. The label is based on a favorite poem of mine, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, which is available to read online at The Poetry Foundation. A Gustave Doré woodcut of an Albatross served as the main inspiration for Jen's illustration. The labels were letterpressed at Ligature in Berkeley, CA.
I told a few friends about the project and most had questions about the wine- what varietals were used in the blend? What did it taste like? When should it be opened? As a solution, I thought it would be nice to have an informational card to go along with the wine. When Emma and I were in Florida for a wedding, we spent a night in Winter Park and stopped by Rifle Paper Co. to see our friend Anna Bond.
Anna's a highly accomplished artist and a wonderful person. She created the logo for my business cards and this website, and I couldn't help but think it would be funny to replace the film camera with a glass of red wine. Fortunately, she had time and I love the result. Rifle's wedding project manager, Brittany Stephens, did a brilliant job perfecting the layout of the card.
Luckily, my buddy Jake was in town when the wine was ready to be picked up after labeling, and helped me transfer it to storage in my office.
I'm still working on getting bottles to friends and family, so the timing could have been a little better, but I'm thrilled with the result and the sheer fact that something like this was possible so soon after moving to Napa. Over the last few years, so many people have helped me in so many ways, both professionally and personally, that it's a privilege and a pleasure to be able to give them a bottle of wine as a small token of appreciation.
I've already begun to plan for next year, which should be even more exciting...
ALBATROSS 2011 RED WINE
Winemaker Notes: ALBATROSS offers sweet black currant intermixed with smoky oak, loamy soil, licorice, and vanilla. Medium to full-bodied with a silky texture, low acidity, and ripe tannin, this luscious 2011 can be enjoyed over the next decade.
Composition: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 5% Malbec
Appellation: Napa Valley (50% Calistoga, 45% Oakville, 5% St. Helena)
Barrels: 60% New French Oak
Cases Produced: 15