Culinary Films Sizzle at the Newport Beach Film Festival

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A Perfect Vintage

The culinary arts have become more popular than ever thanks to The Food Network and consumers’ growing expectations of quality cuisine.

Those are just some of the reasons that the Newport Beach Film Festival launched a Culinary Film series several years ago to meet the demand for films about, well, food.

Add wine and spirits to that equation, because filmmakers have branched out to explore all facets of the food and wine industries.

This year, the Newport Beach Film Festival has five films as part of its culinary series.

“Backstreet to the American Dream” is a modern-day look at the classic American Dream done through the quintessential 21st Century entrepreneurial endeavor—food trucks—and their birthplace, the City of Los Angeles. This deep dive into the $2 billion global industry profiles two trucks and juxtaposes the experiences of American entrepreneurs and Mexican immigrants.

In “Chef Antonio’s Recipe for Revolution” this uplifting feast of a film goes behind the scenes of an Italian hotel-restaurant staffed by youngsters living with Down Syndrome.

“Come Back Anytime” presents a window into the lives of self-taught Japanese ramen master Masamoto Ueda and his wife Kazuko, who have run their tiny Tokyo ramen shop, Bizentei for more than 40 years. Ueda serves his legendary ramen to scores of devoted customers who have joined him over the decades in making the restaurant an intimate place of community. For Ueda, it’s more than just a livelihood, but his life. And his die-hard regulars are more than just customers, but true friends.

“Another film, “The Master Sake Brewer,” is about the Father of Ginjo Sake (high-quality) living in the 19th Century and his descendant who lives in the present, highlighted through their passion for sake brewing.

“Michelin Stars II – Nordic by Nature” was filmed over an 18-month period and follows the endearing yet brutal destiny and everyday life of the Faroe Islands and its culinary pearl, KOKS, helmed by Chef Poul Andrias Ziska.

A Perfect Vintage

And finally, there, is “A Perfect Vintage,” where some of the world’s finest winemakers dance to the unpredictable rhythms of Mother Nature. Watch as they take advantage of the most epic vintage in years and the rare opportunity to ‘call their pick’ based solely on taste.

I watched “The Perfect Vintage,” and for me it was not about a particular year, but how winemakers strive to create perfect wine every year and the challenges they have in doing just that.

As Timothy Milos, of Vino de Milos winery, notes in the film: “it’s a combination of science, chemistry and biology—every lesson from years past gets poured into the next vintage to try and understand how to make the best out of that vintage.”

Intersected between stunning arial footage of Napa Valley and scenes in and among the vineyards are interviews with a handful of winemakers who strive to make the best wines they can for every vintage.

As Christy Harper, assistant winemaker at Milos, says, “It’s a perfect marriage of art and science. You spend all your time crafting it, putting it together, and then you set it free into the world.”

A Perfect Vintage

Every year has its own challenges for winemakers. As one winemaker stated, “Winemakers are control freaks. We want everything the right way, but mother nature often has other ideas. It’s a partnership but mother nature has the final say.”

Something one of the winemakers points out: “It’s still farming.” True, but the crop is a lot less forgiving than say lettuce or apples.

The film offers fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses of winemakers sampling wine, checking the grapes, and other nuances most wine drinkers never see.

One of my favorite quotes from the film had to do with when to pick grapes: “It’s the decision you cannot unmake.” A day early or a day later can make a difference in the taste of the grapes, and the wine.

As Timothy Milos notes, “We are running a five-ring circus driven by factors beyond our control.” One of those factors is Mother Nature, to which one winemaker wisecracks “Sometimes nature is just a mother.”

Another favorite quote: “Wine is a crafted thing that someone has poured their intention into.”

There’s a lot of talk about the various viticultural areas of Napa, and their distinct nuances, especially the terroir—soil, climate and sunlight that gives wine a distinct character.

Another quote from the film: “Wine’s main function is to bring joy, but some rise to the level of art.”

Among the many memorable moments in the film is a humorous segment of vintners slurping wine, aka inhaling air to oxygenate the wine in their mouths.

With stunning cinematography and upbeat wine personalities, “The Perfect Vintage” is a perfect culinary film and well worth seeking out.

For more about the film, visit https://aperfectvintage.com.

“A Perfect Vintage” screens Friday, Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. at the Starlight Triangle Cinemas. Visit www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com for tickets.

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