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The Gritty Truth about Harvest

John Beck's new film is a look at the people who pick the grapes and make the wine suffering through the "disaster" of the 2011 crush.

With the 2012 grape harvest well underway, winemakers are cautiously optimistic that this year's wines will prove more plentiful, and of higher quality, than those of 2011.

For many, last year was a disaster: untimely rainstorms and widespread grape rot. Local winemakers like Reynaldo Robledo and Dave Rafanelli call it “the worst harvest” in their lifetimes.

Now there's a movie that began as a promotion for WineRoad.com and turned into an accidental documentary of that dreadful season.

Shot over the course of three months during Harvest 2011, the film follows five family wineries – Robledo, Rafanelli, Foppiano, Harvest Moon and Robert Hunter, along with an amateur home winemaker and an extremely rare all-female picking crew – made up of women from Michoacán and Oaxaca, Mexico.

The majority of the film was shot around Sonoma Valley at the Robledo and Robert Hunter wineries. As a video blogger for Sonoma Patch and other local sites, Beck previewed a clip of what became the movie on this site in late August of 2011.

A one-time entertainment reporter for the Press Democrat, Beck left the PD about three years ago, and while continuing to deliver freelance articles on music and other arts, he has focused much of his energy on  becoming a filmmaker. His first feature-length effort was Worst in Show, a look at the annual Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma.

His second is something entirely different. Harvest reveals the blood, sweat and tears that go into every bottle of wine. There is no swirling, no sniffing, no sipping or quaffing. This is all about back-breaking manual labor and night picks at 2 a.m. with only tiny headlamps to illuminate the vines.

Unlike the fictional Bottle Shock, Sideways or the satiric Corked, Harvest is an intimate and gritty  look at the wine-grape harvest such as has never before been captured on film.

The finished film premiered at the Sonoma International Film Festival this past April, and then made the film festival rounds from Manhattan to France to Santa Cruz. 

The documentary is currently playing at the Sonoma Cinema,  and opens Sept. 28 for a week-long run at the Raven Film Center in Healdsburg. You can learn more about the movie at www.harvestmovie.com.

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