Chagrin Documentary Film Festival – Official Selection

CONGRATULATIONS to the Wine Diamonds Film team for being chosen as an OFFICIAL SELECTION to the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. The Chagrin Documentary Film Festival is “named to MovieMaker Magazine’s prestigious list of “Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee”, the Festival takes place at venues in and around the lovely century village of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.”

We are excited and honored to be chosen as an Official Selection to this important documentary film festival and thrilled to share the story of growing Midwestern wine industry with audiences across the country.


“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:


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.


Special Screening Helps Producers

Hi Wine Diamonds Friends!

The Wine Diamonds film team brought together a group of people last night to help us critically review our progress with the film. This audience test (or focus group) was a great way for us to get actionable audience information that we can use to make adjustments. As a result of this group we’ve got a much better understanding of how potential audiences may view our film and as a consequence we’ll be making some changes. We are so thankful to our group for helping us fine-tune our film and can’t wait to show you the next iteration.

Coming up… On February 28th we’ll be at the Iowa Wine Grower Association’s annual conference in Des Moines, IA to show our trailer and a sneak peek at one of our clips. Always great to reconnect with wine industry folks!

We’re hoping to make a quick trip to Colorado on March 16th to meet up with The Sweet Lillies at a show in Fort Collins. They created a brand new song just for this film called, “In My Blood” that really captures the way many of us feel about our ties to the land and family. More to come about this and one of their other songs.

Thanks for following our progress and for sharing our film with your wine and independent film friends.

Brad (and the Wine Diamonds Team)

Focus group (audience test) watching the first 60 minutes


Focus 5
Focus group participants and Wine Diamonds team


Hello Wine Friends!  It’s been one of those summers where one minute we’re going 90 mph and the next we’re on vacation and selling a house.  So, you get the picture.  We’ve been processing the film we’ve shot and organizing our last couple locations before we call it a wrap.  Here are a few photos we’ve taken from this past summer.  Thanks for following our progress and we’ll keep ya updated.  Cheers, Brad.

The team revisited Elmaro Vineyard earlier this summer for more interviews and b-roll footage.
We returned to Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery for a full day of interviews.
We returned to Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery for a full day of interviews. (Mike Drash pictured in front of their new still). 
We met Illinois Sparkling Co owner Mark Wenzel in Galena and later visited him and his crew at his winery.
We met Illinois Sparkling Co owner Mark Wenzel in Galena and later visited him and his crew at his winery.




Road Trip to Minnesota & Wisconsin

OnTheRoad2The Wine Diamonds film crew will be hitting the road soon to spend a few days in Minnesota and Wisconsin filming at wineries and vineyards. We reached out to our wine industry network of friends to help us connect with some of the industry’s leaders, pioneers, up and comers, and a range of big and smaller operations. Big thanks to Mike White (Iowa State University, Viticulture Field Specialist) who provided an exhaustive list of exceptional contacts. Thanks Mike!

Our list is still coming together but we’ve got a great range of visits planned. The following locations are confirmed:

Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery (Kasota, MN)
Indian Island Winery & Winterhaven Vineyards (Janesville, MN)
Northern Vineyards Winery (Stillwater, MN)
Alexis Bailly Vineyard (Hastings, MN)
Great River Vineyard & Lake Pepin Winery (Lake City, MN)
Elmaro Vineyard (Trempealeau, WI)
Danzinger Vineyard (Alma, WI)

Depending on the amount of time spent at each winery we may add a few more stops during our 3 days of filming. Our goal is to be able to spend at least 2 hours with each winery (more at some, less at others).

We’re thrilled to be able to meet, interview and film at these wineries. Please show your support to those wineries that allow us access and show support to our film.


NEWS RELEASE: Wine Movie Fundraiser Begins!

April 2, 2015

Documentary Film Production Launches Crowd Funding Campaign

(Vinton, IA). Many people don’t realize the Midwest is emerging as one of the hottest new frontiers of wine. A new feature length documentary film will explore the challenges, opportunities and struggles of building a new wine region in the heartland and producers are excited to launch a major fundraising campaign today, lasting through April and May.

Watch Appeal Video: Wine Diamonds Film

They call the kinds of wine grapes that grow in this part of the American Heartland, cold-hardy grapes, grapes bred to withstand extreme temperatures that would kill traditional grapes common in California or France. These grapes, the farmers and wine makers of the Midwest are pushing the envelope of viticulture and enology, growing grape varieties that not only survive but thrive at temperatures as low as 40 below zero. This feature length documentary film is about the birth of a new wine region, the grapes, and the pioneering families dedicated to growing and making wines in America’s Heartland.

“The story of this burgeoning wine region is unfolding throughout the Midwest,” said Brad Johnson, Producer and wine industry insider. “The scope of the film quickly grew to encompass the upper Midwest region because of how interrelated the wine industry is, with grapes being developed in Minnesota and Wisconsin, knowledge of wine growing and production being openly shared, a continued trend in quality wines, and increased customer interest in the these new wines. There is an important story to share and we’re thrilled to be able to tell it,” said Johnson.

Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America’s Heartland is a feature-length documentary film about the challenges, opportunities and struggles of developing a new wine region, showcasing the economic and agricultural diversity brought about by the wine industry, and how families are returning to and reuniting to grow wine grapes and build a new wine region in the Midwest.

“This fundraising effort is an appeal to all of us who value locally grown and made wines and recognize that something special is happening in the Midwest,” said Jeff Zahrt, Wine Diamonds Producer and award winning documentary filmmaker.

Filming began in July 2014 and will continue through the fall of 2015. Release is planned for spring 2016.

“We’re passionate about what’s happening in new frontier of wine and creating a compelling story, beautifully filmed, with interesting and informative characters allows us to make a movie that not only is appealing to a regional audience, but a national one,” said Kirk Monson, Producer and Director of Photography and award winning documentary filmmaker.

This documentary film is an opportunity for wine fans, winery and vineyard owners, industry supporters, and wine enthusiasts from around the country to demonstrate their support for this exciting time in the wine history and to be a part of this movie.

Donations to the production of Wine Diamonds: Uncorking America’s Heartland may be made on the crowd funding site, Indiegogo. Check out the movie trailer, view the donation perks, and make your contribution today:

Corporate sponsorships are available; please contact Brad Johnson, Producer at


Brad Johnson, Producer
JMZ Productions
612 E. 4th St. Vinton, IA 52349

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!!!

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.