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Case Number 05489: Small Claims Court

The Winemakers: California Liquid Gold

Land's End // 2004 // 42 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // October 29th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Eric Profancik will write no review before its time.

The Charge

We will sell no wine before its time.

The Case

Paul Masson has nothing to do with this disc, but there is no more memorable wine tagline than that one. Too bad there's nothing memorable about The Winemakers: California Liquid Gold. This is purportedly a little documentary to educate the random viewer about the winemakers of Amador and El Dorado counties in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. It wasn't until the final minutes ticked by that the true intent of the disc became apparent: It's a subtle infomercial crafted to entice wine lovers to venture beyond the Napa Valley to this region to try some local vintners.

On the positive side, this short documentary is moderately well-paced and isn't too big of a burden on your time. As you watch the piece, you will most likely learn a few things about the region. I did like the brief history lesson of the California gold rush, prohibition, and the renaissance of the region in the past few decades. Meeting a few of the local winery owners made it a very warm and engaging experience. And getting a quick technical overview of "microclimates" and grape harvesting was also appreciated. I always like to have a chance to pick up a few new potential Jeopardy nuggets.

On the negative side, I was set back a pinch when I got that infomercial vibe. Maybe that wasn't the disc's true intent, but it cheapened what I had just watched. There's nothing wrong with an infomercial, but in this context it seems out of place and rude. Granted, there are no overt signs that was what they were up to—no "come visit us" or "visit our website" or "for more info call us at…"—but what was the point of the disc? I asked myself that question almost the entire time. Why did they feel compelled to tell this tale about these winemakers? What is so special about them to warrant a mini-doc? Of course there are innumerable niche interests out there, but I still don't see the benefit of the disc to someone already interested in these vineyards and wineries. All I could deduce was that they want you to visit them the next time you are on vacation.

This is a completely bare bones disc, with nary a bonus item or even subtitles. The full-frame transfer is actually pretty solid, with bold colors and solid details. About halfway through the disc, there was a little bit of compression artifacting. The audio is very nice, with many of the background sounds coming though quite clearly (e.g., birds chirping), but there was some back miking, picking up some rough wind noise and "popping" when the interviewees used hard consonant words.

I just don't see any solid value in this disc. Yes, I learned a couple of things, but that's just me—someone who knows nothing about wine and its history. Would a wine connoisseur be as ignorant? What would they learn? Is there any reason to keep this disc and watch it again? No. There's no reason to keep the disc, and there's no reason to buy it or even rent it (if that's an option). Go out and buy a nice bottle of wine instead of this disc. You'll get far more satisfaction.

Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Land's End
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 42 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Independent
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• None

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