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1999 vintage makes for a juicy tale

Filmmaker's own tale is compelling, but the vintners are a bit smug

Ever dream of cashing in your Intel shares and starting a little pinot noir operation?

The short documentary 'Life in Vine' shines a light on one of Oregon's favorite fantasies. Director Matt Giraud took his video camera out into the Dundee Hills in the Yamhill Valley for a year, talking to grape growers and winemakers as they worked on the 1999 vintage.

That summer was cooler than expected, and the film's climax concerns the harvest. The growers, most of whom wear glasses, Nike watches and Friday-casual clothes, fret about whether the crop will ripen before the arrival of the cold, mold or hungry birds.

The four-seasons structure of the film doesn't make for many surprises, and the only thing more predictable is the received wisdom squeezed out of the growers. Yes, nature is capricious, despite what arrogant humans think.

'I used to worry É but it didn't stop the rain coming,' says one grower. 'If you're working against (nature), what an unhappy person you'd be,' says another. 'You have to get into the realm of metaphysics when dealing with this product,' a third person says about grapes ripening.

This screening is a benefit for the Northwest Film Center, which Giraud says has been helpful to him. That means you can compare notes afterward with your fellow viewers over a few glasses from wineries such as Brick House, Cameron, Eyrie and Westrey and listen to the film center's house jazz ensemble.

Giraud also is showing a short and, by his own admission, hilarious trailer for 'Juice,' which became 'Life in Vine,' as well as a work-in-progress sampler of 'Next Harvest: Life at the Last Frontier of the Small Farm,' his next documentary, which is about an urban organic farm.

But back to the kitchen-table philosophers who make up the wine industry. The old 'You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!' humor is expanded on in an additional 20-minute work of Giraud's called 'In Their Own Words.'

This viewer found Oregon's vintners to be the sort of insufferably smug people you find featured in Real Simple magazine, and that can't be good for the state's image.

At least Giraud is to be applauded for getting his hustle on. He's got Web sites, he's got soundtrack CDs, he's got the promotional wheels in motion. Despite the coarse video imagery, jumpy editing and irritating fiddle and guitar soundtrack, if the film doesn't pop up on the Food Channel soon, it won't be for want of trying. His is a tale of persistence in the face of elemental forces that could make a good documentary.

Contact Joseph Gallivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..