BY ALLISON BATDORFF
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Swirling the glass establishes if a wine has legs. Waiting to see if a reality show about wine has legs takes a little more time potentially six months between pitch and pick up.
No matter. “Wine Warriors” struts forth confidently this week with a line of merchandise, specialty wines and a fundraising campaign for Traverse City’s Father Fred Foundation. An automatic $3 donation will go to Father Fred Foundation for “Wine Warrior” merchandise purchased through the website for orders placed before March 10.
“We are delighted to be chosen and to have an association with the show,” said Rosemary Hagan, Father Fred Foundation Executive Director. “I laughed out loud when I saw the clips. It’s going to be a delightful show.”
Gerry Vendittelli, the executive director of Red & White Entertainment, LLC, pitched “Wine Warriors” at NATPE the National Association of TV & Programming Executives – in Florida at the end of January.
No one spit it out and grimaced rather, people buzzed pleasantly, Vendittelli said.
“We’re really confident,” Vendittelli said. The Detroit-based company has an agent shopping the show around for a “prime-time” slot as a fit for travel and food-based networks. It’s a passion project for the retired advertising executive, one inspired by decades of family trips to Traverse City’s wine county.
“We kept hearing the same questions in the tasting rooms: ‘Who makes the wine? How is it done?’ People are curious and want to know,” Vendittelli said.
“Real Housewives” of Wine Country it’s not. The warriors battle the elements and industry, not each other. “Wine Warriors” tells the story of three area wineries Chateau Chantal, Chateau de Leelanau and Good Harbor Vineyards and the people behind them. Larry Mawby of L. Mawby Vineyard provides sideline narration and commentary through "Mawby Moments."
The idea is to showcase the region positively and answer common questions about making wine, said Vendittelli.
“It’s not the battling housewives of New Jersey,” said Vendittelli. “It’s about everyday lives – the elements, the war against the machines, the critters, the 30-below winters. We think that’s pretty entertaining.”
The show’s tagline is “It’s a bumpy road from grape to glass.”
The plan is to shoot 22 episodes, in three or four days, twice a month. The company made up of Vendittelli, Mario Tabone Jr.(attorney son of Mario Tabone of Tabone Vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula), Andy Vance, Director of Photography, and marketing and branding guru Skip Starr – intends to keep Michigan center stage in production, hiring and promotion, said Vendittelli.
Sam Simpson was bottling wine last year when the "Wine Warriors" brought their pitch to Lake Leelanau’s Good Harbor Vineyards. Simpson is the family vineyard's winemaker and operations manager.
“The biggest selling point for me personally was the promotion for the area," Simpson said. "A rising tide raises all ships.”
Each participating winery is releasing a special "Wine Warrior" edition wines. Labels feature vineyard owners and operators wearing serious expressions.
Good Harbor’s contribution “The Greatest Red” exudes the confidence of the entire "Wine Warrior" project.
"The trailer was great," Simpson said. “It's a show that I would watch."