Some thoughts on the documentary “Merlove”

by TrevR on June 30, 2008

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Last Friday night we made it out to the world premiere of Merlove, a documentary about Merlot. The premiere featured an hour-long Merlot tasting–with wines being poured by local vineyards–followed by a screening of Rudy McClain’s never-before seen documentary.

We arrived at the tail end of the Merlot tasting–having had our limit of wine during day-trips to Cliff Lede and Judd’s Hill just a few hours before. The parking lot, just like the inside lobby at Copia was absolutely jam-packed. There were people everywhere, most with a glass (or two, or three) of Merlot in hand.

Merlove world premiere at Copia in Napa

World premiere of Merlove documentary at Copia

We quickly made the rounds and headed for the theater–as we attempted to find two seats next to each other, we saw Art and Bunnie and said hello. Plopping ourselves down in the very top row we settled in, in anticipation.

After some opening remarks, McClain entered to an impromptu standing ovation. After taking the stage and saying hello, he asked the vocal crowd to observe a moment of silence in honor of Robert Mondavi. It struck us just how quiet everyone got–you could hear a pin drop in the theater, despite the fact that just minutes before the crowd was acting if it were at a sporting event.

Rudy McClain talks to the crowd before screening of Merlove

Now given the fact the film had not previously been seen by the public, we’re not going to go into the nitty-gritty details. Instead, we’ll just share a few thoughts and observations–here they are, in no particular order:

The premise of Merlove, which is that no grape varietal should be singled out as superior or inferior to another, is a strong one and comes through loud-and-clear.

The film shows a nice balance between scenes of silliness and humor and serious, intellectual bits on winemaking and life.

It was quite interesting to hear how French winemakers view the American wine consumer. Quotes along the lines of “they all like wood” and “we are not beavers” were common, as the French winemaking style aims to be more subtle, understated and ultimately showcasing the terrior first and foremost.

We really, really wanted to have at least one underlying ‘story’ carry us from start to finish. For us, we thought that ‘story’ was going to be John Sorensen (“momma said no”) and Vincent who were off to make Merlot in a local garage. Unfortunately, we can’t recall them appearing at all in the final quarter of the film.

The winemaker quotes, from both Europe and North America, about Robert (“Bobby”) Parker and his contributions to the wine industry were absolutely amazing. [Ed. note: We wine bloggers often think we're the only ones who, while appreciating what Parker has done, refuse to blindly follow his recommendations. Not so!]

McClain and his team have shot some 150 or so hours of film and condensed it into roughly two hours, which is no small task. That said, we left thinking there was room for quite a bit more tightening.

If the ultimate goal of the documentary is to have the audience leave thinking they’ll give not only Merlot, but a wide-range of other varietals a shot next time they’re purchasing a bottle of wine, then we’d say mission accomplished without a doubt.

Anyway, the next public screening is already scheduled for September 5th at Copia–we’d encourage anyone who’s reading this to get out and see it at that time!

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, Merlove, Merlot, Merlot documentary, Rudy McClain, Rudy McClain Merlove, Judd's Hill]

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About the Author

has written 725 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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