“2016 Outstanding Industry Partner Award”


Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America’s Heartland™ is a feature length independent documentary film about the struggles and opportunities of creating a new wine region in the upper Midwest.

This past weekend we attended the Iowa Wine Growers Association’s annual conference to talk to industry about our film, show a clip and the trailer and were surprised and honored to be recognized with the 2016 “Outstanding Industry Partner Award!”  Thank you Iowa!

Watch: Wine Diamonds Movie Trailer

UPDATE: We began filming in July 2014 and for the past 18 months we’ve driven more than 3,000 miles, filmed in four states (IA, IL, MN & WI), interviewed more than 200 wine industry people, and cataloged more than 100 hours of interview footage.

Right now we are in the final stages of editing the movie and need your help. This last phase is a time consuming and expensive stage. We need to raise several thousand dollars to help us pay for the movie soundtrack composition and production, entry into film festival competitions (to help us get picked up by a national distributor), and attendance at film festivals across the country.

We’re at a critical point right now and need your help today. Your help means so much to our successful completion and if every local wine lover (or fan of independent film) gave $10 we’d be well on our way to achieving our goal of making a beautifully filmed and compelling story.

Your donation will help us tell this important wine story. Please give now:  https://www.gofundme.com/WineDiamondsFilm


IWGA “2016 Outstanding Industry Partner” Award
Mike White presents Wine Diamonds Producer, Brad Johnson, the 2016 “Outstanding Industry Partner” Award for the Wine Diamonds Team
Brad Johnson, film producer, talks with IWGA members about the film.
Iowa Wine Growers Association members watching Wine Diamonds clip.



Fundraiser Begins in 2 Days!

Fundraiser2days copyThe Wine Diamonds film team is excited to launch our major fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo (a crowd funding website) on Thursday, April 2nd. We hope you will join us by making a contribution to our independent feature length documentary film about the new frontier of wine, the Midwest!

We’ll be filming in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. If funding goes very well (and there is enough interest) we may add to the number of Midwestern states and include Michigan or Indiana or Kansas. If you’re from one of these states and feel strongly that Wine Diamonds should film there we’d love to hear from you. It costs about $10,000 to take the team on a major filming road trip..but we’d love to be able to film all over the heartland.

Pause in Filming and Expansion?

After a very busy start to our filming calendar we’re in a bit of a lull right now.  We’re busy doing many behind-the-scenes activities that don’t translate well into pretty photographs or necessarily interesting stories.  For example, I’ve been spending a lot of time reviewing the footage we’ve already shot (e.g., review, coding – trying to make sense and catalog everything that’s been recorded), preparing a fundraising campaign that includes gifts to those who donate, and preparing to shoot the “pitch-piece” – the video we’ll place on our crowdfunding site, Indiegogo, in the coming weeks.

After meeting with David O’Shields we’ve been thinking seriously about expanding the scope of our film to include neighboring states as well.  One of the reasons is the Iowa wine industry has benefited significantly by the work done by individuals and academic institutions (located in adjacent states) in the development of the many of the grapes we grow and enjoy in Iowa.

Our main focus (families coming together to build a wine industry) would remain the same we’d just increase the breadth of the film.  Here are a couple of the stories that we feel are important to the overall story: 1) Elmer Swenson , pioneering grape breeder from Wisconsin and 2) University of Minnesota grape breeding program.

What are your thoughts and who else should we consider?  Thanks!

Eagles Landing Winery

My wife, Jill, and I made an impromptu visit to Eagle’s Landing Winery (Marquette, IA) last weekend on our way for a quick camping get-away.  As one of the six wineries we’ll be following over the year it was a pleasure to reconnect with the winery owners, Jay & Cindy.  Eagles Landing Winery’s winemaker Jay Halvorson was selected as the 2013 Iowa Winemaker of the Year after re-sampling their wines it is clear why he earned this important distinction — consistent delicious wines!

Though we were unannounced and Jay was in the middle of bottling some of his famed “Campfire Hootch,” a blend of several types of fruit wine, he paused and gave us a tasting from one of his new wines, direct from the tank.  It’s a red wine made from Iowa Marechal Foch, Frontenac and to round out the flavor profile a little Syrah.  Probably one of the very best dry red wines I’ve ever tasted in Iowa…hell, just a great red wine no matter where you are!

After a tour and taste in the cellar he took us out front to the tasting room where he proceeded to give us several delicious samples of wine.  Both Jay and Cindy are such incredible hosts and are the kind of people who really take care of their customers.  Eagles Landing Winery in Marquette, IA (only blocks from the Mississippi River) — HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Seasonal wine (Oktoberfest) coming soon!
Seasonal wine (Oktoberfest) coming soon!

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!

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.



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!
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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!