Next Steps

Doug Frost, MS/MW during interview at Mid-American Wine Competition. Footage being reviewed.
Doug Frost, MS/MW during interview at Mid-American Wine Competition. Footage being reviewed.

Right now we’re reviewing the footage we shot during the Mid-American Wine Competition and afterwards at the two vineyards we visited.  Reviewing the time-stamped video from all of the videos takes a good deal of time, but it is really interesting.  The interviews yielded some outstanding moments that we can’t wait to share in our pitch-piece – the  upcoming short video we’ll be releasing in October that will explain in greater detail what we’re planning to accomplish with this independent documentary film on the Iowa wine industry.  We’re still trying to decide which crowd funding site to base our fundraising efforts from, and whether that’s Kickstarter or Indiegogo or another platform that’s still up in the air.

In the meantime, we’ll be reviewing the footage, meeting to discuss and finalize the budget (yes, this is a work of love, but it’s going to cost a good deal of money to make an exceptional feature length film – don’t worry, we’ll ask for your help later 🙂 ), and begin to nail down locations and dates for shooting the film.

We’ll be heading to Fireside Winery soon to visit with the owners, Bill and Rona Wyant and their daughter Cassie and her husband Zach Bott to interview them for our story.  Bill is a fifth generation Iowa farmer who farms more than 3,000 acres of corn and soybean and in early 2000’s he and Rona decided to start a vineyard and winery, in addition to their regular farming operation.  Working in concert with Cassie and Zach, who at the time were living away from the farm, they returned and began building one of Iowa’s most successful family winery businesses.

iPick iStomp iDrink
iPick iStomp iDrink

This August we’re planning to attend their annual harvest event called: iPick, iStomp, iDrink.  More than 400 volunteers descend into their Brickyard Hill Vineyard to pick more than 12 acres of Iowa grapes.  It’s a lot of fun and makes harvest go super fast.


In Vino Veritas Vineyard and Winery

After we spent the day filming the Mid-American Wine Competition we visited a former wine-school friend of mine who just planted a brand new vineyard this spring.  We stopped by to visit, shoot some footage and see how things were going.  Here are a few of the shots.

Suzie at In Vino
Suzie Berregaard is one of the owners of the new vineyard called, “In Vino Veritas Vineyard and Winery” located near Grimes, Iowa.
First year vines reaching to the high wire at In Vino Veritas Vineyard and Winery (Grimes, IA).
Team at In Vino
At the vineyard Suzie boards horses for local enthusiasts. After shooting some footage of the vineyard our team admires the beautiful horses.

Iowa Wine Film – New Insights Gained in Interviews

We are already beginning to pour over all of the timestamped video Kirk shot this past Saturday at the Mid-American Wine Competition and it’s incredibly encouraging.  Talking with the judges and organizers it only re-doubles my passion for the Iowa wine industry and what’s happening all across rural Iowa.

Here are a couple take-away messages from two members of the Iowa wine industry. Randall Voss, PhD (Horticulture Chair and MAWC organizer at Des Moines Area Community College) mentioned to us that viticulture (grape growing) is creating a new perennial agricultural crop, something quite rare in a state known for corn and soybean production.  This idea was echoed by Dr. Murli Dharmadhikari, PhD (Director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute and ISU Extension Enologist) when he discussed how grape growing is expanding the agricultural diversity and adding to the rural economy of Iowa.  We’re interested in learning more about these important issues and look forward to future conversations with industry leaders.

Below are some additional photographs taken at the Mid-American Wine Competition.  Enjoy!

This cart contains wine samples for a table of three wine judges. Volunteers busily prepare for each round of wines. This is an incredibly important part of the competition.
Bob and tonya
MAWC Director, Bob Foster and Tonya Wheeler (Volunteer and DMACC employee) discuss the order of wines to be delivered to the judges.
Doug Frost2
Chief Judge, Doug Frost (MS/MW) at his judging table taking notes on a wine he just tasted.
Brad (left) and Kirk (right) quickly review some footage pretending that their photo isn’t being taken. 🙂

Filming Day 1: Mid-American Wine Competition

Yesterday we traveled from eastern Iowa to observe, interview and film the Mid-American Wine Competition one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the country.  With internationally acclaimed wine makers, talented wine directors, established sommeliers, skilled enthusiasts, wine scientists, program directors and a top-tier wine expert.  This competition is close to my heart because when I was an enology student at Des Moines Area Community College several years ago I had the opportunity to sit with these highly skilled and knowledgeable wine professionals.

On Saturday, July 12th our team was welcomed in to the mix by Bob Foster (MAWC director), Doug Frost, MS/MW (chief judge), Jim Stick (Dean), and Randall Voss (Program Director and MAWC organizer).  We began filming by 8am and shot until nearly 4pm.  In between wine flights, during lunch and after the end of judging for the day we were able to obtain interviews with many of the judges, organizers and volunteers.

There is an obvious passion for the wines coming out of Iowa and the Midwest and we look forward to sharing excerpts with you later, but in the meantime and over the course of the next couple of weeks we’ll share some photographs of the day of shooting.  After we left the competition at 4pm we visited a brand new vineyard (In Vino Veritas Vineyard) and on the way home stopped at JEV winery and shot some additional vineyard footage.  All in all it was a 15 hour day and we shot a ton of footage!

Thank you to the MAWC team, organizers, people behind the scenes who didn’t want to be filmed (that’s you, Michele :)), and the dedicated volunteers whose work is definitely appreciated and makes this competition flow very smoothly.  Cheers!

Volunteers and Judges
Judges are separated by panel as volunteers pour specific wines for a particular flight of wines. Judges never see the bottles, labels or have any idea of the winery represented. Blind tasting.
Each judge receives several wines to sample during a given round.
Each judge receives several wines to sample during a given round.
Kirk capturing the interactions between judges.
Kirk capturing the interactions between judges.

Filming the Mid-American Wine Competition

Judges take a break during the competition.
Judges take a break during the competition.

Tomorrow is an exciting day because we’ll be in Ankeny, Iowa shooting for the first time at the Mid-American Wine Competition.  On the campus of Des Moines Area Community College some of the worlds most prestigious and knowledgeable wine people will come together over the weekend to swirl, slurp, and spit some of the most exciting wines in the country.  Featuring Bob Foster as the competition director and Doug Frost, MS/MW (one of three people in the world to hold the distinction of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine) along with a whose-who in the wine world, including some of our own from Iowa.  It’s a big deal and  many of these judges come from afar to experience the new and exciting wines coming from Iowa and the heartland.

Our goal is to interview competition organizers, judges, and volunteers (it takes a lot to put this event on) to gain a better understanding of what excites these wine pro’s about what’s happening in the Iowa wine industry.


The Origins of Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked

The initial conversation about creating a documentary film happened by chance during dinner after shooting a television commercial for one of my clients.  My name is Brad Johnson and I’m part of the team that is making an independent documentary film about the Iowa Wine Industry.  After shooting a holiday spot for a joint client the filming crew (MVP Video Productions) and me and my wife, Jill, went out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

We’d been first acquainted several months earlier when filming the first of several TV spots and this time we decided to go out for dinner afterwards.  During dinner we all were talking about photography, filming and it was by chance that Kirk Monson (MVP) and I (Brad) got on the subject of bucket-lists and we’d both talked about documentary film making.  For me it was just a dream but for Kirk, who’d been a film maker for his adult life, it was something he wanted to devote more time on.  That’s about as far as the conversation went that night.

One of the early meetings (Brad and Kirk (l-r) with Jeff on speaker) where we are talking about the upcoming shoot at the Mid-American Wine Competition.

A few months later when we were working together again for a mutual client I brought up the idea again to both Jeff and Kirk (both from MVP) and I mentioned my knowledge and interest in the Iowa Wine Industry and that it’d make a really interesting subject for a documentary.  You see Iowa is a lot like California wine industry was in the early days.   Currently there are about 100 wineries in Iowa and winemakers are growing grapes that you won’t find in traditional wine growing regions.  Growing grapes in the heartland is tough, with hot and humid summers and wickedly cold winters.  Traditional grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay couldn’t make it through our winters.  Alas, there are hybrid grapes that allow wine growers the benefit of grapes that have a historical and genetic relationship to the famous grapes but are hybridized with grapes that can tolerate extreme temperatures.

Making wines from these “cold-hardy” grapes is a game changer for the region.  The grapes we grow here are fantastic but also challenge winemakers in ways that making wine from traditional grapes don’t.

The story we’ll ultimately tell will evolve as we gain new and additional insights from the families that are growing grapes and making wine, from the industry leaders in academia, and the professional wine judges who’ve noticed the wines coming out of the heartland and are excited.  We invite you to follow us on our film making journey, ask you to contribute when we launch our crowd-source fundraising effort, and tell your friends about us.