Labor Day Weekend is Grape Picking Time!

corridor_business_journalEvery spring I have the best of intentions when planting my garden, always cognizant and optimistic about being there for my garden, but almost without fail my lovely tomato plants take a back seat to my love of grapes.  Labor Day weekend is when all the good things happen – my tomatoes are ready to be canned and Iowa grapes are ready to be harvested.  So far the grapes have won out and with Labor Day weekend at hand it seems as though not much will change this year.

This year, instead of picking grapes or processing grapes I’ll be with Kirk Monson filming volunteers picking grapes and the Fireside Winery team processing.  For me it’s extra special going back to Fireside because nearly 8 years ago I began volunteering with Zach, the winemaker, learning from a pro how to make wine – which really meant cleaning a lot of wine tanks 🙂 and over the years I joined the team.  One of the really special things I helped create was their iPick iStomp iDrink harvest days.  Recruiting, training and working with upwards of 400 volunteers from around Iowa was a hoot and is something I fondly remember.

So, we’ll be back to Fireside Winery tomorrow to shoot, interview and get the total grape stomp vibe on film.  Then, we’ll turn our cameras toward other wineries and vineyards for a while.

In the meantime, we’re excited to have been contacted by the Corridor Business Journal for an upcoming story about our film.  Can’t wait to share our story and help get the word out!  In the near future we’ll be releasing our “pitch-piece” for our fundraising appeal — yes, you can help us make a movie! 🙂

See you in the vineyard!


Harvest Day – Re-do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ll be back filming again (weather permitting, of course) this Saturday at Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard.  Last Saturday’s harvest day had to be cancelled due to storms.  You really don’t want to be in a vineyard filled with metal wires in an electrical storm!

Our goal is the same as last weekend: to shoot the harvest, interview volunteers and staff, film the processing of wine grapes back at the winery, and capture the fun of the grape stomp.

Can’t wait!

Bad Day for Filming…

StormsWoke up this morning at 4:30am and peeked through my curtains and my windows were foggy due to the thick summer humidity of Iowa, the ground outside was wet from an overnight storm, and I soon found myself checking the weather radar.  An early morning line of thunderstorms were near Des Moines and looping the images it seemed somewhat possible that they storms would hold off until late morning.  I was hopeful.

Kirk picked me up at 5:20am and we were off.  Just out of town the air, thick as water, velveted the road in an increasing dense grey-white cloud slowing our progress.  We chatted, discussed the filming day ahead, and caught up on filming business and drove the final twisting roads that approach Marengo, our destination.  In the rich, warm humid air thick with low clinging fog flashes of lightening, illuminating the cloud-filled atmosphere, off in the western distance were a portent of the near future.

Only moments before we were joking about having the day canceled because of thunderstorms — you really don’t want to be in a vineyard (full of metal wires) in an electrical storm — and turning onto the road (within 1/4 mile of our destination) we were called by Cassie (Fireside Winery) to let us know the harvest was being cancelled because of the approaching storm.  Smart move, for sure.

The grapes will have to wait.  We did an about-face, turned the vehicle around and decided to call it a day.  Instead, we’ll be spending time inside reviewing the footage we’ve already shot, preparing to get our “pitch-piece” (a fundraising appeal video) ready.  We’re hoping to return to the Brickyard Hill Vineyard next weekend for the harvest.


It’s Harvest Time!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the coming weeks vineyards all over Iowa will be filled with people, a lot of times volunteers, helping to harvest the 2014 wine grape crop.  After such a brutally cold winter there was a lot of concern this years harvest wouldn’t be so good, but early reports are showing a good crop, thanks to a pleasant summer.

The Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked™ production team will be heading out to the vineyards this weekend to film the harvest, the fun, and the processing of grapes at Fireside Winery (Marengo, IA).  Fireside Winery is still seeking volunteers for this weekend and for 3 other weekends.  Click here to connect with them.

Our team will be filming grape pickers, the work going on in the vineyard, interviewing some of the volunteer harvesters and Fireside crew, and heading back to the winery for the Stomp portion of the day.  We’re also planning to film Zach, the wine maker, and his team as they process the grapes that were picked in the morning.


Fireside Winery owner, Bill Wyant.
Fireside Winery owner, Bill Wyant.



Winery at Kirkwood Community College

For more than a decade Lucas McIntire has been a force in the Iowa wine industry working as winemaker for some of the most well-known wineries in Iowa. Within the past few years he joined Kirkwood Community College, as faculty and program lead, to put his passion and energy behind the viticulture and enology certificate program on the main campus in Cedar Rapids.

We met with Lucas last night to interview him, tour the Kirkwood vineyard and winery, and as a bonus we were able sample some of the best sparkling wines of the region, his new “La Madeliina” Sparkling Wine.

Kirk and I arrived at the Winery at Kirkwood around 6:45pm and Lucas welcomed us to the facilities and shortly thereafter we were in the vineyard. It quickly became apparent how well managed the vineyard is, with 20+ varietals (more in development), by the healthy condition of the vines and the bird netting covering the ripening berries. Lucas was a fountain of wine growing knowledge going into great depth, yet explaining the more technical aspects so it was easy for anyone to understand.

To the benefit of the Iowa wine industry, Lucas’ passion and enthusiasm for Iowa grapes and wine is contagious and the hour and a half we spent interviewing him in the vineyard just flew by. His personality and effervescence for the wines being made in Iowa made this filming especially enjoyable.

We were running late so by the time we returned to the Kirkwood Winery our time was limited; however, before we left Lucas demonstrated the process of “disgorgement” – the removal of the yeast capsule from a sparkling wine bottle – that would happen prior to bottling sparkling wine. We were in for a treat. Lucas poured us samples of his award winning “La Madeliina” Sparkling Wine, made in the traditional French Methode Champenoise, this wine is naturally fermented in its bottle. The wine was a delicious treat, a lovely and lively sparkling wine that could go head-to-head with most any bubbly wines I’ve enjoyed. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Thanks for your time, Lucas, and for what is obviously something you deeply care about. Enjoy of few of the snapshot from last night (and find the complete album on our Facebook page). Cheers!

Lucas, standing in front of the bird-netted La Crescent grapes, and explaining the growth habit and why it’s important to net the vines in Iowa.
Lucas showing Kirk the sparking wine he is about to disgorge.
Lucas showing Kirk the sparking wine he is about to disgorge.
Describing the wine we are about to enjoy.
Describing the wine we are about to enjoy.
Perks of filming a wine documentary.  Actually, this was the first time we've tasted wine since working on the project. Cheers to great Iowa wine!  Thanks, Lucas!!!
Perks of filming a wine documentary. Actually, this was the first time we’ve tasted wine since working on the project. Cheers to great Iowa wine! Thanks, Lucas!!!

Busy Saturday – Part 2 at the Iowa State Fair

After filming the sunrise we left Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard just before 9am and headed toward Des Moines and the Iowa State Fair Wine Experience.  Of course, by now we’d been up for about six and a half hours (with only about 4 hours of sleep the night before) so we were dragging and hungry and on the recommendation of Zach Bott (Fireside Winemaker) decided to stop for breakfast at the Pine Cone Restaurant near Brooklyn, IA.  Seeking and finding a hearty breakfast that included three of the largest pancakes I’d ever seen, or attempted to eat, we had a filling and delicious breakfast before heading back to the freeway (I-80) with it’s heavy traffic.

We’d coordinated with Emily Saveraid, Marketing Coordinator for the Iowa Wine Growers Association the night before and she arranged to have press passes for us at the volunteer center of the State Fair for us when we arrived.  Pulling into the parking space just outside of Grandfathers Barn (the exhibit building for the Iowa wine industry) we prepared our gear, and began exploring the area.  The Grandfathers Barn was filled with interested wine fans, a wine tasting bar (complete with the gold medal winning wines being served), information, wine competition winners, and lots of positive mojo.

Outside was a platform where presenters talk about wine and where the wine stomp competition takes place, a seating area for the audience, and several tables and chairs for wine lovers to relax, enjoy some wine and chat.

We met and interviewed several Iowa State Fair visitors and representatives from industry.  Below are a few photographs from our time at the Iowa State Fair and you can see the entire album on the Iowa Wine Film Facebook page.

State Fair1
Suzie Berregaard, In Veritas Vineyard and Winery, gives a talk about sparkling wines.
State Fair4
Emily Saveraid, IWGA Marketing Coordinator, fires up the audience for the upcoming grape stomp competition.
State Fair5
Teams of grape stompers and “muckers” at work!
State Fair14
The Iowa State Fair 2014

Sunrise Over Brickyard Hill Vineyard

We’ve been talking for a while about getting out into a vineyard, pre-dawn, and set-up for a time lapse of the rising sun over a vineyard.  Of course you’re never quite sure what the weather will have in store for you when planning such an shoot.  Kirk and I were talking last Friday afternoon about heading down to Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard the next morning to shoot the sunrise and capture other vineyard footage.   While we were talking on the phone I also mentioned the Iowa State Fair Wine Experience was happening as well and that being there to interview Iowa Wine and Grape Association marketing director, Emily Saveraid and others, as well as wine fans would be a good idea.

Waking up at 2:30am seemed like a good idea at the time! 🙂

Actually, it was a great idea!  We departed Vinton, IA at 3am and arrived at the Brickyard Hill Vineyard at 3:50, set-up, and waited for the sun to rise (and hoping we’d guessed correctly where they sun would actually break).  The vineyard was completely blanketed in darkness when we arrived,  temperature cool, the sky was mostly clear, and on the western horizon a nearly full-moon was getting ready to set.  In the pre-dawn darkness we could hear raccoons chatting in the nearby woods, and slowly the sky began to lighten and warm, and song birds announced revelry noting the beginning of a new day, and we were already shooting the time lapse and just about to film, with a second camera, the rising sun through and over the vineyard with our jib (a device that allows a camera to move toward and above objects (more than 10 feet above) and gives the feeling of flight.  Very cool!

We filmed, scrambled to reset shots, ran back and forth, reset, and by 7:30am we had our complete sunrise time lapse shot (from complete darkness, to rich warm hues, to bright sunshine); and then we walked through the 13 acre vineyard shooting additional footage for the documentary.

The following photographs will help you experience, vicariously, our early morning filming.  Enjoy and remember, if you haven’t yet, please share our project (Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked) with your friends.  Check out our complete photo album on our Facebook page.  Thanks!

Brickyard Hill Vineyard: pre-dawn
Brickyard Hill Vineyard: pre-dawn
Kirk (Cinematographer) uses the jib to gain altitude and fluid movement while capturing the sunrise.
The rising sun over Fireside Winery's Brickyard Hill Vineyard.
The rising sun over Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard.
Kirk shooting through the LaCrosse grapes.
Kirk shooting through the LaCrosse grapes.
Brianna grapes back lit by the early morning sunshine.
Brianna grapes back lit by the early morning sunshine.

Busy Saturday Ahead

Iowa State Fair 2014I was going to say we are going to get up bright and early tomorrow morning, but  in all honesty it’ll be dark and early when we leave the house tomorrow for a busy day of filming.  Our day will begin somewhere around 3am with a trip to Fireside Winery‘s Brickyard Hill Vineyard where we’ll be set up to catch a beautiful sunrise over the vineyard and pond.  By 8am or so volunteer walkers will be gathering at the vineyard for a Vines to Wines charity walk.

After we finish at the vineyard we’re off to the Iowa State Fair to the Wine Experience area around “Grandfathers Barn” to video the competitive grape stomps, meet and interview Iowa wine fans, winery and vineyard owners, and officials with the Iowa Wine Growers Association.

It’s going to be a fantastic and busy day…and we can’t wait to watch the richness of the early morning sun brighten the sky, film the vineyard, and meet the fairgoers!

If you see us at the Fair stop by and say hi!


Iowa Winery Families Wanted

cropped-header-1280-x-426-copy1.pngWinery/Vineyard Families Wanted
The producers of Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked™ is looking for winery and/or vineyard families to be a part of a feature length documentary being filmed from August 2014 to August 2015. The focus of the film will be on Iowa winery/vineyard families that have returned to Iowa to start a winery or vineyard operation (or members of the family that have returned to help start or run an operation). The producers will select 4 to 6 Iowa winery/vineyard operations and conduct in-depth interviews over the course of the year, visiting periodically to film winery/vineyard operations, events and tape interviews with family members and others. It is the producers hope to show a diversity of operations (e.g., scale of operation, size of family, and location in Iowa).

In addition to documenting the family-run wine operations the producers are also interested in understanding the impact the wine industry is having on the rural economy of Iowa, how grape growing is beginning to affect agricultural diversity, and the role of state university and extension programs have on a growing industry, and talk with governmental and industry leaders.

If you’d like to be a part of this independent documentary film about the Iowa wine industry and have a family that has come back to Iowa to start a winery, or has family members that have returned to Iowa to help in a winery or vineyard business, or would like to recommend your winery or vineyard as a site the producers should consider visiting and filming, please send a note of interest to

Tentative Timeline

Phase 1: Preparation and “Pitch” Video (July-Sept. 2014)
We’ve already filmed a portion of the Mid-American Wine Competition and have conducted interviews with organizers and judges, and observed/filmed the process of wine judging. Our goal was to understand why some of the most regarded wine judges in the country are excited about Iowa wines. The July 2014 shooting will be used for a 3-5 minute “pitch” or promotional piece (and portions will be included in the final documentary) for the lead-up to our funding campaign effort beginning in October.

Phase 2: Documentary Filming (Aug. 2014 – Aug. 2015)
We are seeking to identify 4-6 interested and willing winery families to follow over the 2014/15 calendar year. We plan periodic visits for interviews and filming of vineyards and production facilities, and special events during the yearlong filming process.

Phase 3: Post-Production (Sept. 2015 – Mar. 2016)
Throughout the documentary filming the team will meet to process and edit video footage. However, once all of the production objectives have been achieved we’ll begin post-production work, including: editing, voice over, sound (recording a sound track) and graphics.

To learn more about the project, follow along with our progress, and meet the team visit:
Facebook at
Questions? Contact Brad Johnson at