Anderson Valley: A Coastal Love Affair of Wine Documentary

Recap: Producing Anderson Valley: A Coastal Love Affair With Wine

by Courtney DeGraff

When I took the helm as Executive Director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association in 2019, I found a gap: the lack of accessible histories and personal stories from the association members. Since arriving, I’ve slowly been able to capture stories through the development of our Press Kit, our first regional appellation webinar, a series of mini-webinars for 2021 Pinot Month, and the launch of our blog on Determined to prioritize storytelling through formal video production, I faced the challenge of funding, especially as a nonprofit in rural Mendocino.

By 2023, with persistence and some savings from the non-event COVID era, the first steps toward capturing these tales began. In March, a recorded media roundtable discussion at Handley Cellars sparked such rich conversation that it birthed the idea for a documentary. In collaboration with Barbara Barrielle, our Media Relations Manager and Editor for Palate Press, we saw its potential and I decided to allocate 75% of our modest $2.5K annual video budget to a documentary project. 

In the Fall of 2023, amidst the harvest season, interviews commenced. Partnering with local cinematographer Kellen Lim of Twin Giants Media, we managed to capture the stories of some of Anderson Valley’s post-prohibition “modern wine pioneers.” Both Barbara and Kellen have had films appear in film festivals, so the goal of the team was to create something that would be eligible for entries in various festivals, combined with a marketing opportunity to share our region’s story with new audiences and help to sustain support to our vintners and community.

Pictured from left to right: Courtney DeGraff, Barbara Barrielle, Kellen Lim

The 2024 documentary features:

  • Brad Wiley, one of the first vineyards planted in 1971, and who foresaw Pinot Noir as the region’s future.
  • Norman and Theresia Kobler, whose family founded Lazy Creek Vineyards in 1973. They share their path from Europe to San Francisco to Anderson Valley.
  • Ted Bennett & Deborah Cahn of Navarro Vineyards planted their first vineyard in 1974. Their story was especially important to us to capture due to some health challenges Ted has had in recent years, which, thankfully he’s recovered from.
  • Zac Robinson, the third-generation farmer of Husch Vineyards which was planted in 1968, shared his family’s history and memories, including the appellation’s formation in 1983.
  • Allan Green of Greenwood Ridge, who planted in 1980 and played a pivotal role in establishing the appellation and supporting Riesling in the appellation.
  • Lula Handley, who shared her memories of growing up in Anderson Valley and some of her mother’s legacy of establishing Handley Cellars in 1982, and planting their estate vineyard in 1986.
  • Long-term wine journalist, critic, and friend of the Valley, Dan Berger.

2024 Mendocino Film Festival Featured Film


The focus of this documentary was on the early grape plantings of Alsatian varietals and Pinot Noir, intentionally leaving out the sparkling wine chapter. However, our team does have aspirations to continue the series, delving into the sparkling wine era of the 1980s, followed by the Pinot Noir boom of the 1990s, as budget or sponsorships allow. While we were able to produce this film for less than $3K due to the dedication and passion of our team, the actual price to produce a piece like this is much more costly. Immense gratitude is given to both Barbara and Kellen for their efforts and time spent on the project.

The 26-minute documentary is set to debut at the Mendocino Film Festival on June 2, 2024, with plans for public release after that. Tickets go on sale May 1st. For those unable to make the festival, stay tuned for other opportunities to view the public screening and enjoy the rich history and vision of Anderson Valley’s wine pioneers!


Meet the Documentary Production Team

Courtney DeGraff, Executive Producer – As the Executive Director of Anderson Valley Winegrowers, Courtney was responsible for providing strategic direction and member history, overseeing the project, sourcing images, and financing the film.

Barbara Barrielle, Director & Producer – For the past 18 months, Barbara is the Media Relations Manager for the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. She is also a travel writer and the Editor of Palate Press. She has experience in film production and was the driving force in managing and organizing the interviews (it is her voice you’ll hear occasionally). She worked with our cinematographer to slice and dice the footage to capture the most important stories.

Kellen Lim, Cinematographer & Editing– Kellen is the creative behind Twin Giants Media, a freelance film production business based in Anderson Valley. Kellen has been working with the Winegrowers since Covid on various small filming needs. You may remember our fun-loving pandemic video message that we sent out while we were all sheltering at home, and he also made this showreel recap from the 2022 Pinot Noir Festival. He also has been recording our Technical Seminars and Pruning Contest.