Off the Menu: Culinary Cinematic Creations at NB Film Fest

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By Christopher Trela and Catherine Del Casale | NB Indy

We love writing about food and wine, so it stands to reason that we love movies about food and wine.

This year’s Newport Beach Film Festival offers a cinematic feast for food and wine lovers. There’s a film about wine, a film about champagne, and several films focused on food, including the closing night film, “Chef,” and an adorable animated short film called “Swan Cake.”

We were able to screen several films in advance, and quickly discovered why they were accepted into this year’s festival.

champagne 1A Year in Champagne

“A Year in Champagne” is billed as “the story behind the world’s most famous wine,” but “stories” is more accurate as six different Champagne vintners are profiled in this fascinating documentary that’s full of exquisite cinematography and endless enthusiasm for its subject.

From the opening scene of a group of French winemakers taking a leisurely hot air balloon ride over their vineyards while “The Blue Danube” plays in the background to the final credits, “A Year in Champagne” captures the viewer with a combination of humor, drama, and personal stories that offer a rare glimpse into the centuries-old art of making champagne.

“Having visited Champagne, I reminisced when the film focused on Moet & Chandon,” said Catherine. “The film really gives you an understanding of what goes into making a vine growyear in champagne 1 into grapes and eventually create the delicious drink we call Champagne. You don’t only hear and see what goes into growing the vines, but the impact that the elements and insects have on the vines.”

“I was interested to learn about the competition between the boutique houses and major brand, and the history behind some of the names, such as Bollinger, which has been the champagne of choice for the British Royal Family for more than 100 years,” noted Christopher.

“I also loved some of the clever quotes sprinkled throughout the film, such as ‘Champagne people can’t be too serious because their wine is made for celebrating and telling jokes. But perhaps when you visit the cellars and see all the hard work, you realize it’s only one aspect of their personality.’ It is indeed hard work,” added Christopher. “The film really makes you appreciate the time, effort, expertise, struggles, hardships, and ultimate joy that goes into making a bottle of champagne.”

year in champagne 2For those who crave a glass of champagne after seeing this film, you can actually “drink the film” by visiting one of these restaurants or retail outlets to purchase champagne made by one of the wineries (Bollinger, Diebolt-Vallois, Gonet-Médeville, Gosset, Champagne Saint-Chamant, and S. Coquillette) profiled in the film: The Cannery, Mastros Ocean Club, The Dock, The Bungalow, The Resort at Pelican Hill, Montage – Laguna Beach, ARC Food & Libations, Hi Times Wine Cellar, Whole Foods Market, and Pavilions.

“A Year in Champagne” screens Sun., April 27 at 5:30 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinema 6, and Tues., April 29 at 11:15 a.m. at Fashion Island Cinema 5. A Q&A with Director David Kennard follows the April 27 screening. For tickets, visit

American Wine Story

“There are plenty of obsessions in the world, but few endeavors attract as much devotion as wine. ‘American Wine Story’ is a documentary about oenological aficionados who have taken their obsessions to the extreme, chasing their dreams with a bottle in one hand and a corkscrew in the other.”

That’s the basic premise behind “American Wine Story,” which offers a glimpse into the passions (and obsessions) of those who leave traditional safe careers for uncertain futures in their pursuit of making wine.

“American Wine Story is an 80-minute documentary that tells the inspiring tale of those who followed their dreams and passions into the world of wine, and the challenges they faced American Wine Story 2along the way. With interviews of winemakers, writers, collectors and aficionados from seven states and all walks of life, this film pulls at the threads woven into the national fabric of American wine,” states Director David Baker, who eschewed Napa and other familiar winemaking regions to focus on other areas, including Oregon and the east coast.

“The film follows the story of Jimi Brooks, who passed away at the age of 38 right before his wine business took off, and Janie, his sister, who wanted to keep the legacy alive for his eight-year-old soon,” said Catherine. “I like how this main story is interspersed with other interesting stories of those who choose the wine industry for a fresh start.”

“The film shows the uniqueness of every winery, and how you can look past a pretty label or funny name and finds a real story behind it all,” added Catherine, who hails from Napa Valley. “I grew up surrounded by these unique stories of starter winemakers or old families who had the vines passed down for years and years. ‘American Wine Story’ captures the real essence behind each bottle of wine and gives the viewer a greater appreciation for what goes into making a great bottle of wine.”

“American Wine Story” screens at 3:15 p.m. on Sat., April 26 at Fashion Island Cinema 6, 12:30 p.m. on Mon., April 28 at Fashion Island Cinema 7, and noon on Wed., April 30 at Fashion Island Cinema 7. For tickets, visit


The Newport Beach Film Festival ends its eight-day run on Thurs., May 1 at the Lido Theater with the west coast premiere of “Chef” starring Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., and Scarlett Johansson.

“Chef” tells the story of a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. Following the screening, a closing night celebration will take place at Via Lido Plaza, featuring 20 of Orange County’s top restaurants, plus entertainment.

Tickets are $75 for film and gala celebration. For tickets and more information, visit


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