With his film-meets-wine project Vintage 2014, Wil Fernandez reshaped the movie-watching experience by interspersing short vignettes on-screen with walk-around tastings of the brands featured. Now he’s rethinking the entire festival format with his International Wine Film Festival. “When most people think of a film festival, they think of it being in one specific place and a few days of films,” he explained. “I’m taking that and drawing it out over a three-week period and having it in vineyards all throughout the county.”
The festival’s inaugural run includes a screening of Somm: Into the Bottle and a Valentine’s Day dinner in Larner Vineyard ($125), a February 20 afternoon of Australian films and wine at Grassini ($45), three films paired with wine and food on March 2 at Presqu’ile ($75), and a red-carpet culmination during the World of Pinot Noir’s (WOPN) afternoon event at the Bacara on March 5 (free to WOPN pass-holders).
Despite the nontraditional fest format, which he developed in part because he had trouble convincing other festivals to screen his Vintage 2014 in the desired format — “I hit a wall, so I carved my own door,” said Fernandez — his new idea has been warmly received. “I am not pushing a boulder up a hill,” said Fernandez. “I tell someone the idea, and they say, ‘How do I get involved?’”
He was surprised nothing like this already existed and plans to make it an annual affair, likely in other wine countries around the world. Fernandez is also convinced that the wine industry will quickly learn how important these films can be to their business. “Of course, every winery wants to get someone on their property to show them their wine, but how do you go beyond that? How do you tell someone around the world and country about your wine?” he asked. “I feel like video is it.”