Last summer we told you about a local resident who was seeking funding for a documentary film on Merlot. Fast-forward to today and Rudy McClain is set to debut his film, dubbed “Merlove”, to a sold-out crowd at Copia this evening.
Earlier this week we caught up with McClain and ran a few questions past him. Read on to learn how the idea for a documentary on Merlot came about, some of the trials and tribulations he faced during the past year and be sure to check out McClain’s recommended Napa Valley visits if you’re seeking some killer Merlot.
CB: Like me, you grew up in the Napa Valley, where Cab is king. Talk to me about how the idea for Merlove came about. What was the inspiration? Where were you and what were you doing when you decided ‘I want to do a documentary about Merlot’?
McClain: I was at a party for a friend of mine when I heard Chris Phelps talking about a someone shooting a movie about Merlot in response to sideways. I went to IMDB.com to check it out and no one was doing a movie about merlot. Chris Phelps was my first interview. I had been writing screenplays and wanted to get out of the house.
CB: Tell me a bit about the process you’ve gone through to get this project off the ground and now so very near the big, public premiere.
McClain: It’s a weird. I just plowed ahead not really knowing how everything would turn out. I just kept shooting, even if I was just getting shots of vineyards or the “Welcome to Napa Valley” sign. Then I got a couple interviews then a couple more. Then it became a “Thing” and I was able to get Larry Stone and Tom Rinaldi in the movie. The huge turning point was a phone call I received from Chris Phelps. He said, “The main man from Petrus is going to be in town (Jean-Claude Berrouet: winemaker for Petrus) and we may be able to get an interview with him!” We got the interview. That’s when my personal belief in the project really manifested itself into reality.
CB: Was there ever a point, after you started the process, where you thought to yourself ‘maybe this wasn’t such a great idea’? What would you say was the low-point?
McClain: Only at the beginning. I think it just before my second interview. I was on my way to interview Kirk Venge of Venge Vineyards and I had the overwhelming feeling of “what the H-E double hockey sticks are you doing?” But I showed up and just started shooting. It made me feel comfortable to just get out of the car and film his vines or the dogs or vineyard workers or his barn. Just getting going I’d get some really cool unexpected shots and that would give reinforce my confidence and keep me going. Then it was much easier to head into the interview. You have to remember. I didn’t know that much about wine and that is a huge fear of many people but I pushed forward. Ready, FIRE, aim.
CB: What’s been the most surprising or shocking or outrageous thing you’ve experienced as you’ve traveled around doing interviews, meeting winemakers, etc.?
McClain: The craziest thing was one of our first days in St. Emilion, France. Again we had some interviews lined up but we didnâ€™t have anything for the day and we were just going to get some shots around the village. We were in the Web Bar internet cafÃ© and this crazy English guy strikes up a conversation with us. Turns out he knows this really cool wine bar. He told us to get our camera running and he took us to L’Essentiel wine bar. From there we met Carlos (he’s in the movie) and it was a springboard for meeting all the famous garage winemakers from St. Emilion. Super huge. These people took us around, we filmed, the gave us 4-6 hour lunches and dinners. Some of the most love I’ve ever received in my life!
CB: So, the premiere of your film is tonight (6/27) at Copia in Napa. What do you expect and how are you feeling about everything as we sit here just days away from showing off your work to a wider audience?
McClain: I am completely blown away. It makes me want to cry with tears of joy. It is completely sold out. Then they added more seats and it sold out again. This is huge. I am excited and looking forward to seeing the movie with an audience. We were there yesterday and I dropped off a copy of the movie and the receptionist said, “oh! Merlove? Look (to her co-worker) I’m touching it. I’m touching Merlove”. She was so fired up. My heart grew three times that day.
CB: Finally, if people reading this have 24hrs to spend in the Napa Valley and want to taste some killer Merlot, where would you recommend they go?
McClain: Go visit Provenance, Swanson Vineyards, Clos Du Val and most importantly go visit Kelham Vineyards. The folks at Kelham will absolutely treat you like family. Spend an afternoon there and you will become family. The wine is awesome and the experience is unforgettable. These are the kind of people you want to spend your precious time with. In the valley visit Kelham. One more here. Everyone must visit Darioush Winery. They are super wine lovers and very knowledgeable about wine. It’s a wonderful, gorgeous place with spectacular wines. Definitely. Great place. Great experience. The people are so nice and down to earth that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy.
CB: Cheers, thanks much Rudy!
Stay tuned to The Cork Board for full coverage of the Merlove premiere in the coming days.
[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, Merlove, Merlove movie, Rudy McClain, Merlove premiere, Merlot, Merlot movie, Copia, Larry Stone, Tom Rinaldi, Chris Phelps, Jean-Claude Berrouet]