Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"The Winemakers" - It's Reality TV, Public-Television Style


As I researched The Winemakers series to write about it, I found quite a bit of buzz about it online, particularly in wine blogs. The much-anticipated series was met with great enthusiasm by its audience when it was announced in 2008. About two years later, it finally made it to the public television airwaves for the first time.

Now, season 1 of The Winemakers - with its six 30-minute episodes - makes its return by popular demand  to WSBE Rhode Island PBS Wednesdays at 7 PM, beginning February 9 (digital 36.1, Cox/Verizon/Full Channel 08, Comcast subscribers check local listings; Dish 7776; DirecTV 36).

The Winemakers follows 12 men and women as they compete for a chance to create and launch their own wine label nationwide. Produced in a reality television series format, this first season includes a passionate and diverse group of contestants from the vineyard to the boardroom as they struggle to make their wildest dream come true.

More than two years in the making The Winemakers is a novel concept that provides a refreshing approach to more traditional wine programming. The series is a production of Doc City Productions and a presentation of South Carolina ETV. Polly Kosko, SCETV’s Executive Vice President of National Programming is not only a fan of the concept but believes the show will attract new audiences to Public Television.

“It’s a perfect match," Kosko said. "The Winemakers will appeal to the PBS viewer who is already interested in culinary programming, and will attract new audiences who are fans of the reality genre. It’s a winwin for our audiences.”

But executive producer and creator Kevin Whelan notes getting the show off the ground wasn't easy: “This show is something totally different for the wine category and it took the confidence of a major powerhouse in the wine world to embrace the concept.” Then industry leader Beringer Vineyards signed on as a major sponsor.

“Beringer is pleased to be a part of this groundbreaking series and honor the passion, art and science that is winemaking,” noted Peter Willmert, Marketing Director for Beringer Vineyards. Willmert continues, “Sponsorship of The Winemakers is a great fit for us as we've only had seven winemakers at the helm of Beringer since our establishment in 1876.”

The Winemakers series employs some of the same devices used on other competitive reality TV shows including action-packed challenges, dramatic elimination scenes and the heartbreak of being asked “to leave the wine cellar.” But in keeping with Public Television’s reputation for quality programming that entertains and informs, The Winemakers offers a rare insider’s view of how the world’s most storied beverage is made and sold.

“This has been an amazing experience for the cast, truly a once in a lifetime opportunity” says Leslie Sbrocco, one of the three main judges, and well-known wine writer, author and host of Public Television’s Check Please. “Many of the contestants are truly passionate about wine but whether they have what it takes to become a wine maker... well, that’s another story.”

Other main judges include, Mark Oldman, author of the bestselling Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, and Los Angeles-based wine writer Corie Brown. A host of guest judges also include Food and Wine magazine writer Lettie Teague, and Doug Frost, who holds the distinction of being only one of three people worldwide to hold both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier title.

More clips from the show can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/winemakerstv