A New Documentary Celebrates Ancient Winemaking

The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County presented our new documentary entitled The Amphora Project – Past Forward, 8,000 Years of Winemaking at a special screening at the Park Cinemas in Paso Robles on December 1, 2022. This film focuses on the history of early winemaking and the unusual clay vessel, often described as an amphora, used for the fermentation, storage and transport of wine in Central Asia, the Fertile Crescent, the Mediterranean and Europe dating back to 6,000 B.C.E. Thousands of years ago wild grapes provided the yeast for early fermentation of both beverages and farm crops long before wine grapes were domesticated. Wine writer Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible, is our narrator in the documentary, guiding us through history to the present. 

Our research took us through 8,000 years of archaeological sites and wine history. It led to collaborations with Dr. Patrick Edward McGovern, the Indiana Jones” of ancient beverages, and now the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Ancient Wine and several other books and articles. The Wine History Project is also grateful to  Dr. David Lordkipanidze, the Director of the National Museum in the country of Georgia for sharing its rich wine culture by providing photos and historical materials to us. 

The Wine History Project, which studies and archives the wine history of San Luis Obispo County, has documented 17 local winemakers using amphorae and ancient wine techniques. The importer of Italian amphorae to Paso Robles, Manu Fiorentini, introduced us to these winemakers. He founded the winemaking supply business, ITEK Wine. We interviewed 17 winemakers and chose five to appear in the documentary: John Alban, founder of Alban Vineyards, Gelert Hart of AmByth Estate; Vailia From, founder of Desparada Wines; Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi, founders of Giornata Wines; Sherman Thacher, founder of Thacher Winery; and winemaker Daniel Callan.

It is always a pleasure to work with our filmmakers Tim Clott and Noel Resnick, founders of Partners 2 Media production. The Amphora Project  Past Forward was produced by Libbie Agran and Noel Resnick. The concepts and research were developed by Libbie Agran and the Wine History Project. The film was directed by Libbie Agran and Tim Clott. The Director of Photography and the Editor is Tim Clott. The music was composed by Tim Clott.

San Luis Obispo County has 17 winemakers using Clay Amphorae

San Luis Obispo County has the largest group of winemakers using amphorae in any county in the United States to date. Please visit our website www.winehistoryproject.org and check the toolbar for projects to read about all 17 winemakers. You can also access the Amphora Trail Map to plan your visits and tastings.

Amphorae Trail Map

Scott Semple crafts an Amphora for the Paso Robles History Museum

Local artist and musician Scott Semple is also featured as he crafts a modern amphora on the pottery wheel in front of the Wine History Gallery at the Paso Robles History Museum. Hundreds of guests watched as the egg-shaped vessel gradually gained height and volume over six hours. Many signed it at the end of the day. Scott fired this vessel in his kiln at his studio. It now stands in the Wine History Gallery in the museum. 

Massimo Pocci films Amphora Makers in Italy

Italy is one of the most famous places on earth where amphora and clay vessels have been manufactured for hundreds of years.  The city of Impruneta is well known for its clay soils and production of terracotta tiles, statues, garden vessels and amphorae. We are grateful to Massimo Pocci for filming these artisans using ancient techniques for our film. We look forward to welcoming him to Paso Robles in the near future. You will find a short video of his work showing the Italians crafting amphorae as they have for hundreds of years on our website and playing in the Wine History Gallery at the Paso Robles History Museum.

Potter Making An Amphora