Shot entirely in Sonoma County, the feature-length documentary Harvest reveals the blood, sweat and tears that go into every bottle of wine.
There is no swirling, no sniffing, no sipping or quaffing. This is all about back-breaking manual labor and night picks at 2 a.m. with only tiny headlamps.
Over the course of three months during Harvest 2011, the film follows five family wineries – Robledo, Rafanelli, Foppiano, Harvest Moon and Robert Hunter, along with an amateur home winemaker and an extremely rare all-female picking crew – made up of women from Michoacan and Oaxaca, Mexico.
Director John Beck (Worst in Show) is not interested in massive corporate wineries. Instead he casts his intimate DSLR lens on salt-of-the-earth, tight-knight family farmers and field workers who are the backbone of the wine industry.
Along the way, we meet Reynaldo Robledo, the first migrant worker to own his own winery. There’s Wayne Rogers, who loses 80 percent of his zinfandel crop to wild pigs. In his early 70s, Rudy Rodriquez has devoted more than half his life to Robert Hunter Winery. The women pickers share their border-crossing stories, showing how much they sacrificed just to get to Sonoma County, much less do a job that most Americans wouldn’t even consider.
The narrative builds to a third act of untimely rainstorms and widespread grape rot. Many winemakers like Reynaldo Robledo and Dave Rafanelli call it “the worst harvest” in their lifetimes. Many report losing more than 50 percent of their crop.
Boasting an original soundtrack by musicians Joni Davis and Steve Pile, Harvest is a rare, intimate glimpse of the wine-grape harvest that has never before been captured on film.