Life on the Douro, Short Films and Friends

I met Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of somewhere in cyberspace after finishing my first wine documentary, La Bobal, which started out an idea for a short film but ended up absorbing my life. We met in person in London at the beginning of 2009, and gradually became collaborators and friends.

Through Ryan and Gabriella, I met Robert McIntosh who in turn introduced me to the Rioja winery Dinastia Vivanco. That led to the idea of doing a short on their history which, five trips, three versions, and more than a year later, became the hour long film “Dinastia Vivanco: Giving back to wine what wine has given us”

The Opai – the plural, they claim, of Opaz – also introduced me to Oscar Quevedo with the idea of doing a short film on his family’s winery, but as always, a first trip led to a second. Then, at a famed Catavino barbecue, I also met Roy Hersh of For the Love of Port, and we subsequently made arrangements for a third trip to film the FTLOP Harvest Tour of the Douro last October.

Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, that was scuppered at the last minute, so I wandered the Douro by myself, camera in hand, for 12 days. Roy, realizing the value of the documentary, organized a very special tour with his FTLOP partner Mario Ferreira in February just for my film, getting me in to interview the major figures in the region’s wine production, and giving me the space and time to do my thing. There were concerns about the light and weather, but the gods smiled and the sun shone upon us, and I had just the right combination of fog in the morning, and mostly warm sunshine the rest of the time.

Now I’ll be going back a fifth time, as young Oscar is getting married, but after the wedding cake, I’ll be staying ten more days to film more material and get two or three interviews that the film needs to be completed.

If I hadn’t met the Opai, I’d be getting into trouble elsewhere, but neither film would have been made, and they have been supportive of each of my projects different ways, the latest with this post – I count on my friends to get me into trouble, and to get me out of trouble.

They invited to the EWBC in Lisbon in 2009, where I met Luiz Alberto who later came with us on the FTLOP tour, where we talked about doing a short film on Italian wine, art, and tourism in a single trip in October, but there’s already an understanding that the first trip will lead to a second.

I’ve also been filming and interviewing Ryan and Gabriella on and off over the last year or two – a project I’ll resume once Life on the Douro is done – with plans to make it into a short film.

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