The natural wine movement in the U.S. is about 25 years behind the organic food movement, and Living Wine follows innovative natural winemakers in Northern California who stay true to their disparate and unique artistic and ecological visions, while managing to save their businesses during the worst wildfire season on record.

We meet our three main subjects and learn about their inspirations and techniques: In Sonoma Country, we follow Darek Trowbridge, a regenerative farmer and winemaker who comes from a legacy winemaking family in California but rejects their modern corporate winemaking ways. Megan Bell is from Santa Cruz, also formally educated (UC Davis wine program) and groomed through the conventional wine industry, but she started her own business to escape the misogyny common in the corporate industrial wine complex. And, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Gideon Beinstock is a master winemaker who farms his vineyards with techniques he learned from artisan winemakers in France – Gideon makes wine as a pure expression of place.

As we start to learn about farming grapes naturally – no chemical inputs of any kind – our experts: Dr. Tim LaSalle (Center for Regenerative Agriculture) and Elizabeth Candelario (Mad Agriculture) explain that chemicals used to make ammunition for bombs during World War II became repurposed as synthetic fertilizer after the war, and that agriculture is a major cause of climate change as the tilling of soil causes carbon release and soil degradation, and the use of chemical inputs (fertilizers pesticides, and herbicides) contaminate our waterways. We later learn about the processes used to make conventional wine – lots of additives and manipulation of flavors in the production process.

We delve into farming techniques, philosophies, and spirituality: Darek has developed a unique form of compost which eliminates the need for irrigation and commercial fertilizers, while capturing carbon and increasing crop output. Megan farms and makes wine from lesser-known materials not pushed by the corporate industrial wine complex, and we see Gideon teach and make wine with a group of interns, as he is devoted to passing his knowledge and craft onto the next generation. All three find spiritual meaning through their work – through farming the land and making a product with a greater purpose.

As summer and harvest arrives, conditions take a dangerous turn. Following a damaging heatwave, fire erupts throughout Northern California, the result of record high temperatures and unending drought. All of our winemakers are forced to harvest early under difficult conditions. As they pick grapes from sunrise to sunset, and throughout the night to avoid smoke taint and remove grapes before they “raisin” too early, we feel their exhaustion and determination. After harvesting, they stomp, taste, press, and taste again, and we witness both the joy and heartbreak of making wine the all-natural way.





85 min