Iowa Wine Trail

We visited three Iowa Wine Trail wineries during the day yesterday (November 1st) for their 10th annual Fall event.  Our day began early (and cool, about 20 degrees) and we visited Park Farm Winery, PromiseLand Winery, and Eagles Landing Winery.

Our goal was to meet with the families, get interview footage if possible, shoot some b-roll, and work on our “Pitch” piece.  We had a very good day!  After spending 12 hours away from home we were able to get some amazing interview footage, taste some exceptional wines and food (bonus!), get some beautiful b-roll images and we even made progress on our pitch.

Here are a few photos from yesterday:

Park Farm Winery
Dave Cushman, winemaker, takes the little ones to his nearby home.
Everybody pitching in!
Kirk shooting the exterior
PromiseLand Winery (near Guttenberg, IA)
Busy tasting room.
Pouring a sample.
Seasonal wine (Oktoberfest) coming soon!
The delicious Oktoberfest at Eagles Landing Winery (Marquette, IA)

Corridor Business Journal – First to Report on Wine Diamonds!

Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked™ crew (Brad & Kirk) interview Fireside Winery winemaker, Zach Bott during annual iPick iStomp iDrink harvest event.
Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked™ crew (Brad & Kirk) interview Fireside Winery winemaker, Zach Bott during annual iPick iStomp iDrink harvest event.

The Corridor Business Journal, serving the business news needs of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, met with Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked™ in the early morning hours at Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard during their first harvest weekend.  Reporter (Angie Holmes) observed the crew filming, met with winery owners and volunteer pickers, and chatted with us.  A week later the Wine Diamonds team met again with Angie Holmes (CBJ) for an in-depth interview at the offices of Monkeytown in Vinton.

We’re grateful for being noticed so early by the Corridor Business Journal and hope you enjoy the article:  Click to Read.


Come Fly with Me!

Being avid winery/vineyard fans and movie-makers one of the things we quickly decided we wanted for this film was to fly a drone over some vineyards.  There is a magical sensation you get from watching footage taken from a drone (or helicopter) as it buzzes over a vineyard and last night our hopes came to fruition.  We arrived at the vineyard around 5:30pm, took a walk around the Fireside Winery’s Brickyard Hill Vineyard to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land, set up the monitor and transceiver, and fired up the four-propeller drone.   A nice, new Go-Pro camera was mounted on the gimbals connected to the drone which allowed us to move the camera, in flight, and to give us a very crisp and smooth filming experience — no vibration at all!

Our skilled drone pilot (Jeff) accommodated our long list of must-have shots and was incredibly adept at capturing each of them.  From slowly walking behind the drone as it flew 5 feet above the ground between rows (not an easy task for a pilot) to flying it on 1/4 mile trips that took the drone over trees and over farm fields and out of sight.   We periodically reviewed the awe-inspiring footage back at the car.  Incredible!   Can’t wait to share it.  In the mean time here are a few behind-the-scenes photos I took last night.  You can visit our Wine Diamonds Facebook album to see more.

Please share us with your friends and follow us on Facebook.  Thank you!


Drone pre-flight checks
Drone pre-flight checks
Slowly walking behind the drone down a vineyard row
Slowly walking behind the drone down a vineyard row
Flying low and slow over the vineyard.
Flying low and slow over the vineyard.

Tassel Ridge Winery – Marquette Harvest

I’ve never been called a morning person before but more and more often I’m waking up for early morning shoots.  Actually, there is something special about these early morning filming opportunities and yesterday our alarm clocks woke us up before 2am for a trip to Tassel Ridge Winery.

The owner, Bob Wersen, and his staff have been incredibly patient and helpful as we’ve tried to coordinate our two schedules.  Grapes are ready to harvest when they are ripe and have no consideration for our busy schedules, but fortunately, yesterday, the grapes were perfectly ripe and schedules were open.  So, it was with a bowl of cereal in our bellies that we left Benton County and drove for nearly two hours to reach the Meadowcreek Vineyard of Tassel Ridge Winery.  Located just north of Oskaloosa, Iowa (south east of Des Moines) the vineyard takes up more than 9 acres of land surrounding Mr. Wersen’s Interpower business.

A bright moonlit night sky welcomed us to the vineyard and the crew was already busy harvesting.  Tassel Ridge Winery has one of only a few mechanical harvesters in the region and we had amazing access to their operation.  We set up our cameras and began shooting night time footage of the harvest, bright lights of the harvester and the following tractor with trailer containing three macro bins and two sorters.  These two hardy souls, bent over sorting out leaves and stems and other detritus from the delicious grapes, were giving their detailed attention to this pre-wine.

Warm, friendly and accommodating staff provided us with unparalleled access and, as a result, we obtained some amazing footage.  We left the vineyard for the winery (located 15 minutes away) by 7:30 and interviewed Bob and some of his team.  Great interviews!   Later in the morning we shot some additional, crazy-awesome, footage in the vineyard.

Here are a few of behind-the-scenes photos.  If you support our film, please follow us here, like us on Facebook (you can see our full Tassel Ridge photo album), and tell your friends about Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked.










Tassel Ridge Winery – Next Stop!

We’re excited and pleased to announce we’ll be visiting Tassel Ridge Winery this coming Monday to film the harvest of their Marquette grapes (red wine grapes).  We’ll be joining Adam, their vineyard manager, as he and his crew mechanically harvest their 9 acre Marquette block.  Our plan is for us (Brad & Kirk) to leave our base around 3am and arrive in time to film the harvest in the dark (they begin harvesting at 3am and will go for about 12 hours) and for a few hours into the morning until they load up their grapes and get them back to the T.R. crush pad.  We’re planning to follow them back to the winery, shoot some footage in the cellar, on the crush pad, and hopefully get a chance to interview the winery owner and his winemaker.  All-in-all we’re thrilled to be filming their harvest!  Okay, not so thrilled with a 2am wake-up call…but that’s documentary film making! 🙂

Tassel Ridge Winery cellar photo.
Tassel Ridge Winery cellar photo.

iPick iStomp iDrink – Harvest Day!

Harvesting wine grapes in Iowa can be a challenge: electrical storms, high temperatures, sticky humidity and competing for attention from potential grape pickers — and for many people who are fans of Iowa Hawkeye or Cyclone football, football tends to win out.  The good news is the grapes somehow get picked (i.e., wine vs. football — wine wins!) and the juice becomes wine.

Picking2This past Saturday we joined almost 100 volunteer grape pickers at Fireside Winery‘s annual iPick iStomp iDrink harvest event.  Volunteers meet at the vineyard at 7am, receive a briefing and tools, and are directed into the vineyard where a orchestrated event unfolds.  Five gallon buckets are filled with grapes, staff collects full buckets and leaves fresh buckets behind, several buckets filled to the brim are hauled via Gators back to a large macro bin, and later a tractor retrieves about a ton of berries in the bin and takes them to an awaiting trailer.  The trailer, when filled with the morning harvest heads back to the winery and those bins are placed in chilled refrigerator semi trailer to stay cool.  When needed the cool bins are removed and delivered next door to the crush-pad where the winemaker crushes, destems and presses the juice.

Around noon the volunteer pickers are back to the winery (about 6 miles from the main vineyard) and relax, have lunch and then enjoy a grape stomp.

Throughout the day we filmed the process, met and talked with volunteers, chatted and interviewed both staff and volunteers, captured the crush (even a brief breakdown of equipment), and the grape stomp.

Here are a few of the photos (below).  Click to see the entire album visit our Wine Diamonds: Iowa Uncorked Facebook page (and remember to “like” us).  Thanks!

Kirk films a volunteer
Kirk films a volunteer
Grape Stompers!
Grape Stompers!
Zach moving macro bins of wine grapes
Zach moving macro bins of wine grapes
Kirk filming the unloading of LaCrosse into Crusher-Destemmer machine.
Kirk filming the unloading of LaCrosse into Crusher-Destemmer machine.

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!

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!!!