Three years ago, I set out to make the film that became Cement Suitcase, a movie about a tasting room manager in Washington State’s wine country. Unlike Santa Barbara’s vineyards and Napa Valley, which had already been profiled in the films Sideways and Bottle Shock, Washington was bursting with wineries that had never been featured on film before. I wanted to be the first.
We started, of course, by going wine tasting. My lead actor, Dwayne Bartholomew, and I visited the Red Mountain and Columbia Valley AVAs, and then toured the Yakima Valley and the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail.
The wineries ranged from the impressively designed and manicured Vintner’s Village of Prosser, to the quaint Paradisos del Sol winery in Zillah—so rustic that chickens chase each other in the front yard.
Our tasting guides were more colorful than I expected. Some told dirty jokes, some loved dialing in on food-and-wine pairings and others had personal stories to share with each wine. We ended up using a lot of these details in the film.
We also found the winery where we decided to set our film: the Airfield Estates tasting room and winery in Prosser. The owners gave us a tour of the old airport they were named for, and even taught us how they hand-sealed their wine bottles with wax. We ended up getting real insight into the whole winemaking process.
At first, I wanted to make a movie, and wine was just mere storyline. But now, I can truly say that I’ve fallen in love—and there’s no going back. The taste, the color and especially the stories people tell about wine all feed my newfound passion.
But mostly, I’m smitten with the discovery wine offers, how each new bottle and winery is a new adventure. And from what I’ve come to learn from winemakers and wine lovers alike, this quality will never fade to black.