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Timeless vineyard celebrated in the movies

November 16, 1995
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Carolyn O'Neil


NAPA, California (CNN) -- The harvest in California's wine country is wrapping up, and by all accounts, 1995 is expected to be a good year. Fewer grapes than usual were harvested, due to weather conditions, but wine makers say the grapes they picked will make excellent wine.

As with any crop, harvest is a time of hard work and traditional celebration. The spirit of the California wine harvest is captured in a recent film "A Walk in the Clouds," which takes place in Napa Valley in the 1940s.

Bob Travers

Wine maker Bob Travers bought Mayacamas Vineyards in the late 60s because of its location perched high in the hills above Napa Valley.

"Their rocky steep slopes are quick to drain produce; not a lot of grapes but with a lot of character. Once the wines are fully aged, they give it style, depth, and complexity that I really like," Travers says.

The winery, originally built in 1889, is relatively small by wine country standards, producing just 5,000 cases of wine machinery each year. While other wineries invest in the latest high-tech equipment, Travers keeps to his original formula for making fine wines. Part of his operation includes an old crusher stemmer machine he bought for $400.

"I bought this crusher six months before winery, before prohibition? After prohibition? It may be 50 or 60 or maybe 70 years old," Travers says.

It was the timeless quality of Mayacamas that attracted Hollywood to his mountain hideaway. It's beautiful location in the mountains was also prime for filming.

Many of the scenes in "A Walk in the Clouds" were filmed here. Director Alfonso Arau needed to recreate 1940s Napa Valley, and he included a tree-lined dirt road which bumps and turns to Mayacamas. Of course, Hollywood took a few movie scene liberties in depicting the business of wine making.

"There was a big party, a dance crushing grapes, but they did a wonderful job and it looked like a lot of fun. Wish it was like that!" Travers says.

However, Mayacamas' grapes are crushed in large unromantic mechanical tanks -- not exactly the feet of maidens. As Travers readies his sons for another harvest season, he's not planning on Mariachi bands, just quality wine produced with a family tradition.

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