So You Want To Be A Wine Maker


So are you looking to become a wine maker? This could be your chance.

GrapeRadio interviews JJ Levine, Producer of the upcoming TV Series “The Wine Makers”.

“The Wine Makers” is a new reality television series set to air in spring 2007 on PBS. This exciting new television series will take viewers inside one of the most unique professions in the world. This six-part series follows a diverse group of men and women as they discover what it takes to make it in the fiercely competitive wine industry.

The show will be set in the wine country of Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo. Six candidates will experience every aspect of wine making from viticulture and enology to sales and marketing. But in the end, only one will be chosen to create and launch their very own wine.

To find out more about “The Wine Maker” go to:

Sponsor: Festival Season of Miami:

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Show #89
(43:11 min 20 MB)

All the contestants had a lot of fun.

Eric and Brian peppered the aspiring wine makers.

Jay turns out to be the “Simon Cowell” of the bunch.

16 Responses to “So You Want To Be A Wine Maker”

  1. 1 Steve May 22nd, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    If Jay is Simon Cowell…who is Paula Abdul? Eric or Brian?

  2. 2 Doug Smith May 23rd, 2006 at 7:37 am

    Ugh! When I read that this was going to be a winemaking series, I assumed that it would follow some new or established winemakers through at least a full year, so we could learn about the ins-and-outs of a season in the vineyards. That would be a great show, a great learning experience, and a great idea for public television. It could even be exciting!

    But the show they are going to produce — modeled after American Idol? — sounds awful. With a four-week production schedule they won’t be able to do any real winemaking at all. This sounds as if it was created by some marketing department somewhere, and will just be about personalities and the Reality TV “ratings game”.

    Sad to see how far public TV has fallen …

  3. 3 Dave May 23rd, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    You guys have had so many discussions with so many great winemakers. Unfortunately, I live in Arizona, and I have been told that because of tiering, we cannot get some of those great wines. In addition, even though Arizona has better shipping laws than some states, we still do have some limitations that can hinder us from shipping wines directly from the winery.

    These issues bring up many ideas that I would be very interesting in hearing about on a future show. These include interstate shipping laws and recent litigation that may or may not affect them. Also distribution and what tiering means for getting access to a wine would be an interesting subject. Finally, I would be very interested in hearing some strategies for acquiring some of the great wines that you guys have discussed, with the handicap of living in a state where both tiering and shipping laws work against me.

  4. 4 GrapeRadio Bunch May 24th, 2006 at 2:26 am

    To be honest Doug, I do not watch much TV, so I am no judge (pardon the pun). The production company has some very impressive credentials. They do not take this series lightly. They are offering someone the opportunity to live their dream. I highly doubt you will see any goofballs make the final cut. I believe that anything that helps the audience relate to wine is a good thing. Wine is about people, not fermentation.

    I view the first season is more about picking someone that’s show the best potential to become a winemaker. The contestants will face some very real, tough problems/decisions that every new winemaker must address. I for one will watch. It is PBS. . Lastly, if after the first season the audience has been entertained, and learned a few things, then IMHO it will be a success.

    On a related note, I want to do a series on GrapeRadio that I call “Follow the Grape”. I want to follow a vintage from bud break to bottling. We would do a podcast (video podcast) to cover the major milestones of the process that turns grapes into wine. What do you think?


  5. 5 Doug Smith May 24th, 2006 at 3:51 am

    Hi Jay,

    I think I prefer to watch your video podcast series …!



  6. 6 Ryan P May 24th, 2006 at 7:35 am

    I am excited about the PBS series! While I think Doug’s idea of following an established winery through the process would be a great show as well, watching people from all different backgrounds and strengths try to win the spot as a winemaker will also be fun. It will also be interesting to (hopefully) see the follow-on series that shows how the winner of the show does in their first year.

    Jay – as far as your “Follow the Grape” series – I think that would be fantastic. Getting to know the winemaker, cellar rats, field workers, owners, etc would be a great insight into the industry. It sounds like it could be a video version of the book “A Very Good Year” which did something similar in following a vintage and explaining all of things going on during different points along the way.

  7. 7 Paulo Prado May 31st, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I didn’t even finish to listen to the show that you did point out your interest on Chile and Argentina. Why not Uruguay? I’ve sent a report (Chile and Argentina) to Jay a few months ago and I would like to help one more time. Let me know! I’ve been studying the region and been drinking plenty. I guess, something around 1.000 labels on the past 2 years. I could point out a few producers and people in the business that are worth talking to.


  8. 8 The Rat Jun 1st, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Gee, I wonder if anyone has done a follow the grape type of thing before…

    Sounds brilliant. Might even be better if it was from the cellar rat’s perspective…

    heh heh.

    see you guys at Pinot Daze, or whatever they are calling it.


  9. 9 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 4th, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    Want to help on the project?


  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 4th, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Paulo, call me or send me another email.


  11. 11 J.J. Levine Jun 8th, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    I think Jay’s idea is brilliant. And I think Doug’s idea is brilliant too – I wish we could do something like that and we considered it, but the realities of actual production make it very costly, time consuming and more difficult to pull off than you’d think – especially on a high quality level.

    Jay put it so well. I think there’s room for a show like “The Wine Makers” too. Let’s face it – the reality format, like it or not (and I don’t always) is here to stay. If it serves as the vehicle to create more intrigue, interest and understanding of the wine making process – isn’t that a good thing? I think so, and generally speaking, the wine industry has embraced us whole heartedly.

    It would be great if our contestants could actually make wine – I would love that – but the money just isn’t in the budget to film for that length of time. On the other hand … if you’d like to make a small investment …

    Seriously – on a more serious note for those who are into it — what challenges would YOU like to see the winemakers face?


  12. 12 Ryan P Jun 14th, 2006 at 6:42 pm


    Here are a couple of my thoughts on some challenges:
    * The Brand – Have some local wineries donate some different finished wines and let the contestants choose bottles, closures, labels for whichever variety they decide on. Have them sell their wine at some event (festival, fair, or a “The Wine Makers” branded event) and see who generates the most money and who wins the best design. Local wineries could get some advertising by a small label on the back or something (and be on your show). It would add a nice twist to make these contestants have to “buy” the wine with some limited budget that you provide so it takes into account the reality of expensive vs. cheaper grapes.
    * Wine Tasting/Selling – Contestants hold a tasting event that they have to put a marketing plan together and run the event. Charge a fee for entry and the most $ wins.
    * Tasting Room Design – Have contestants design their tasting room and get people’s ratings of them and highest score wins.
    * The Interview – Put contestants in front of tv/radio (ahem, Grape Radio) personalities and see how they handle being asked questions.
    * The Blend – Let contestants make their own blends from otherwise finished wines and have wine critics review for the winner.

    This is a tough task since you really don’t have a ton of time allow these people to really show what talent they have for making tasty wine. However, some of the above might give an indication of how they’d do selling the product they make and glimpses into their palate.

    I’m looking forward to seeing it!


  13. 13 Kevin Donnelly Jun 25th, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Well, I for one can’t wait to audition for the show!

    I’ve been a home winemaker for 4 years, with 40 grape vines in my back yard (I buy most of my grapes), and 85 gallons of 5 varietals waiting to bottle for my 2005 vintage. Although I’m small, I think I’m past the “Wine for Dummies” stage 🙂 , but obviously still have a lot to learn.

    The Doc City series apparently deals only with crush season (filming in September), and establishing a marketing plan. The producers are talking about more of an educational perspnective, so I don’t see it as a netword-style glitzy on-stage production (although the auditions ARE): I envision this as filmed a little in the vineyard, a lot in the winery, and the remainder in the conference room where contestants will discuss the business aspects: naming, labeling, and marketing channels.

    It will be great if they then follow the wine maker over the next 2 years, to see how the wine and sales evolve.

    Wish me luck!

    Kevin Donnelly
    Yorba Linda, California

  14. 14 GrapeRadio Bunch Jun 26th, 2006 at 11:14 am

    Man do I ever wish you good luck. Do not forget to send us a bottle of your first vinatge.


  15. 15 Paul Goldfield Jun 27th, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    I discovered an interesting link from someone that had attended a casting call in San Francisco on May2nd

    It seems to discuss the actual process of the casting call

  16. 16 GM Aug 12th, 2008 at 7:47 am

    I listened to your discussion and found it very interesting. Do you know if the project ever aired?

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