Short Documentary Films
Making RAEN by Carlo & Dante Mondavi
For generations the Mondavi’s have looked for new ideas to carry their wine into a each era, their exploits have risen and fallen, and above all else they have found success as innovators.
The creation of wine abides with time. The slow growth of a vine to maturity takes years and can test any individuals capacity for patients. This very strength of perseverance and commitment carried those producing Napa Valley wines out of the prohibition and into a multi-billion dollar industry. At the helm of that industry was a family, the Mondavi’s. For generations the Mondavi’s have looked for new ideas to carry their wine into a each era, their exploits have risen and fallen, and above all else they have found success as innovators. Time again has led us to a new generation, one that must start from the roots and grow outward.
We first collaborated with Carlo Mondavi on our Prohibition tour with Harley Davidson. A year later in the spring, he invited us to follow him through his family’s vineyard. During a sunset he explained his theories on winegrowing and we captured that philosophy with two Red Epics adorned with Red Cinema Glass. Slowly that conversation in the vineyard transformed into the creation of RAEN wine, an unbenounced to us, we were capturing the first run of a new short documentary.
“Your destination is Oakland International Airport, arriving 11:30pm.” Collecting our equipment at baggage claim, each crew member is responsible for three pieces of gear, that’s the drill. Time is against us once again while we rush to location, this time, near the sonoma coast. It’s late summer and the harvest will start when the cool air of the sonoma coast has lowered the grapes temperature to 52f degrees. As we cruise through the Sonoma Valley, spotlighted vineyards start to appear through the darkness. We can see trucks hauling away grapes, workers filling buckets- did we mention we’re running late.
Carlo and Dante started learning the family business in their early years. Does that mean they were drinking under age? Probably, but it’s California, they’re fine. The Mondavi family continues to innovate through the decades and the two brothers have been nipping at the vines to use what they’ve learned. “To make a good wine, one must start with good fruit”- A simple fact repeated throughout their youth, to acquire the good fruit is a secret not many can obtain. Through generations of handshake deals, the two brothers acquired the land to grow the grapes and they’ve used their well known lineage to help produce their first yield.
Trying to keep up with the Winegrower’s truck through a woodland road while simultaneously prepping the cameras is testing our patience. We seem to have lost our flathead in the rental car, as camera bags migrate around dispersing equipment. The Mondavi’s slow down ahead of us, dropping below the speed limit to turn up a dirt road (ending the high speed pursuit). We break a tree line to see the vineyard, the large spotlights are silhouetting the field workers as they rush to collect the grapes. It’s 2:17 am, we arrived just in time.
This was our first outing with the 24mm, 50mm, and the 80mm Canon Cinema Lenses. We we’re sceptical of the glass at first glance, but after working in the low light situations around the vineyard the ability to shoot wide open at a 1.3 f/stop was proven to be beneficial. It wasn’t until post production when the glass sold us, the color grade brought out the final look. We found lens satisfaction, thank you Canon.
The grape harvest moved quickly, forklifting out six tons of grapes in less than an hour. We were in constant movement following the the grapes, so we had to pack lite and respond quickly. It wasn’t until the drive to the cellar in Napa Valley that we got a moment of rest…which ended at 4:08am for vinification. All this wine and we’d kill for a cup coffee.
Following the brothers through the entire processes introduced us to the subject and allowed us to grasp the tone of the story. Our interviews with Carlo and Dante were minimal. To elaborate, our lighting package was an open door to the cellar, our audio specialist was professional snowboarder Aaron Bittner. The interviews were captured with two Red Epics with the 24mm and 80mm Canon cinema lenses. We position the cameras as close to each other as possible, allowing the object distance to change, but keeping the two angles as similar as possible.
Carlo & Dante expressed their desires for the future of RAEN to camera, their goal of creating exceptional wine to not only sit among the wine of their families but to bring appreciation of wine to a younger and more diverse demographic. Breaking away from their family to grow RAEN is a youthful risk, which could come at a great personal cost (the expectations to run the established family business still looms over them). These two ambitious winegrowers have a specific product in mind, a Pinot Noir created from the Sonoma Coast, something the Mondavi family has never produced.
We arrived for our last shoot in the fall to catch the final weeks before winter. The vineyards were now weather-stripped and the smell of rotting grapes was ripe in the air. We accompanied Carlo & Dante to the cliffs on the Sonoma Coast to capture the last aspect of the story and the influence of nature. The aerial cinematography was created with a Freefly Systems octocopter with a Movi 10 attached for stabilization. We used a canon 24mm still lens to reduce the weight of the Red Epic. Lighter equals safer. Filming on the coast means wind speeds varied by the minute, we’ve practice enough that the shoot was a breeze and we were able to capture what we needed. You could say…we blew right through it.
The Sonoma Coast is a unique terrain, a influence of elevation and climate, variables that are special to winegrowers, but also filmmakers. Different seasons offering vast amounts of tones and textures. These elements offered Carlo and Dante a special site for the genesis of Raen. A idea of a wine that influences a youth movement. To show that young winemakers can still have a harvest, and that the estate model isn’t the only method.
- Director Skylar Nielsen
- Camera Operator Lance Clayton
- Camera Operator Josh Fletcher
- Camera Operator Ian Rigby
- Producer Vita Brevis Films
- Music Midas Whale | Apparat