What’s the connection between film and winemaking?
ML: Making wine is more like independent filmmaking, rather than a movie coming out of the big studio system, where no one’s original vision ends up on the screen. In the Napa Valley, many wineries are small, family-run operations. They have unique vision, perseverance, ability to rally a team, collaboration, and they never lose sight of what their original intent was, all the way through [to] the finished product.
What synergy do you see between wine country and a top film festival? What makes it work?
BL: We want to take everything the Napa Valley is known for—art and natural beauty, food and hospitality—and integrate it into the film festival. I don’t know any other film festival that has culinary demonstrations with famous chefs and wine tastings, with 150 wineries working with us. It shows off what Napa Valley has to offer.
How is the wine country location an advantage for attracting top talent to attend the Napa Valley Film Festival?
ML: Wine country is a bucket-list destination. It enables us to produce a festival that doesn’t look like anybody else’s. Experiences are richer, with the conversations going down with the fantastic wine and the food.
BL: Publicists are calling us to see, will we take their film? The stars are not just on a red carpet. They’re on a red carpet in the Napa Valley, showing their films to a very appreciative audience right when the nominations for the Oscars and the Golden Globes are starting to occur.
Any wines you’re excited about? What’s in your cellar?
BL: We’re not wine snobs or collectors, but we buy as much as wine as we can and then we drink it. We just got back from Australia—all I care about now is a case of Australian Shiraz in our cellar. In Napa, B Cellars makes a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc [and] Viognier blend—Blend 23—[incorporating] my favorite white wine varieties. For special occasions, Annie Favia and Andy Erickson do an innovative red blend, Leviathan. Elevage Blanc from Chimney Rock is superelegant. And Reynolds Family Winery Cab is on our top list.
Anything else to add?
ML: Wine is like film in that there are different price points, the low-budget movie and the big-budget movie. When you have more money, you can afford something better. With wine you wonder, “If I spend twice as much, will it be twice as good?” Just like the movies.