My assignment was to photograph 9 wine makers in Northern California. As I made initial contact with my subjects I came to realize they’re all humble men. On the phone several of them referred to themselves as simple farmers who grow grapes.
Over the course of the project I found them to be anything but simple farmers. They’re all very sophisticated men. Collectively they’re some of the best wine makers in the world. In addition, they’re a quirky set of characters. They all have unique backgrounds. As a photographer I couldn’t imagine a more interesting group of personalities to photograph.
David Del Dotto of Del Dotto Vineyards was a surfer in Hawaii when he bought 17 acres in Napa. He purchased the land because he thought it was beautiful. He never intended to be in the wine business. Now, he is one of the most well-known vintners in Napa.
Linda and Lester Schwartz of Fort Ross Vineyard came to the US from South Africa. They strongly disagreed with the government’s policy of apartheid. In good conscience the Schwartzs couldn’t stay in South Africa. In 1976 they bought 970 aces of land in California. Without guilt they grow pinotage grapes and produce wine native to South Africa.
Donnie Schatzberg of Precious Mountain Vineyard lives off the grid in a house he built. His vineyard is perhaps the most isolated of all the wineries I visited. I guessed Schtzberg hadn’t seen more than 4 human beings in a month. He looked like a mountain man out of Central Casting.
Jayson Pahlmeyer of Pahlmeyer is a lawyer turned wine maker. He’s lighthearted and kept me laughing throughout the shoot. He’s a bit less humble than most of the vintners. He insisted he was the best looking guy I photographed on this project.
I spent 3 days driving up and down mountain roads shooting these portraits. The schedule was hectic. Each shoot involved a quick location scout, equipment set up, and then a shoot. I’m sad to say there was no time for even a sip.
To see more images from this shoot visit stevelabadessa.com