Harvest Season’s Bernardo Ruiz, Cast and Crew Discuss Mexican Cuisine Pairing

The cast and crew of the documentary film, Harvest Season stopped in to the Kai Gallery, in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan and while sipping on a bottle of Bergerac Rouge from Chateau le Payral, they discussed the DOC NYC New York premier of Harvest Season and pairing wine with Mexican cuisine.

Harvest Season will broadcast nationally on PBS Independent Lens in May 2019

Bernardo: Well, first of all, thank you to CineVino. We’re really happy to be here. So, we’re the cast and crew of Harvest Season, a documentary. It has just premiered at DOC NYC. We’ve got a beautiful bottle of something I’ve never had before, and so Andrea has much better pronunciation then I have, so, she is going to tell us what we are drinking.

Andrea: And so, we are drinking a bottle of Chateau le Payral which is a mix of Merlot and Cabernet and yeah, we will try it out.

Bernardo: Yeah, so let’s see. I am going to pour them a little. So, it is early afternoon, we don’t typically drink this early in the afternoon, especially when we are working but..

Andrea: We will make an exception.

Bernardo: We will make an exception. So, as we are pouring, I feel like Orson Wells, late stage Orson Wells here, when he was really drunk.

Bernardo: I’ll start of by explaining a little bit about the film. The film, Harvest Season, is basically a story about all the people who make wine in California, but who you normally, never hear about, and that means really, the immigrant workers, the small producers and the small growers, like Vanessa Robledo. So, Vanessa comes from a really prominent winemaking family, the Robledos, that have been in Napa and Sonoma for generations and so when I first met her, and her mother, I was really intrigued by their story, in part because there are so many great films out there about wine, but I’ve never seen a film about wine that talks about the contributions and the participation of Mexican and Mexican American makers. So for me, it felt like a really unique opportunity. So many of the films that I have made, have been about the U.S. and Mexico, and I felt like, wow, Vanessa’s story, her mother’s story, the story of the other wine makers, that this is a real opportunity to share this really unique history with audiences. So for me it was just a real pleasure to be able to work with Vanessa, and Andrea, our associate producer with the excellent French pronunciation. Well, let’s do a little cheers here, to the film. Salud. And thank you to CineVino for the invitation.


Bernardo: What do you think?

Vanessa: It’s beautiful.

Bernardo: So, Vanessa. What’s one of the more popular reds in the Robledo Family of Wines? I’ve had a bunch of them. I really love the Braceros blend, but there is actually a bottle with your photograph, right? Will you tell us about that one?

That is why I am so proud to be here in New York. Because this was the first market to embrace that. And a lot of the Latin restaurants in California were not open to pairing Latin food and wine, they were telling me “No, tequila or beer.” – Vanessa Robledo

Vanessa: Sure, that is a series that we have, at the Family Winery. And it’s a Cabernet from Napa Valley. There are nine children in the family and every one of us were honored on a label. So 2007 happened to be my vintage. And so they had a photo of me on the label. And about 100 cases of this wine are produced, so they are very production and the family keeps a library of those wines and sells the rest of it. And so it really expresses what, not only the story for each child, but it expresses the characteristics of what was produced. Because even though it was harvested from the same vineyards, it doesn’t mean that the characteristics are the same. Every vintage is different. So that is what makes that one special. Just like all of the nine children are different, so is each vintage.

Pairing Wine With Mexican Cuisine

Bernardo: Your family is known for making these really beautiful Chardonnays. In the film there is this sequence, that I love of you and your mother preparing Chile Rellenos, it’s really your mom doing most the work.

Vanessa: Yeah, My mom.. (She smiles)

Bernardo: But she is making these really incredible Chile Rellenos and I think this is one of the things we’ve talked about, that a lot of wine people don’t necessarily understand is that traditional Mexican cuisine pairs so beautifully with wine, you just need to have the right type of wine, to pair with the Mexican food.

Vanessa: Yeah, you know, that is why I am so proud to be here in New York. Because this was the first market to embrace that. And a lot of the Latin restaurants in California were not open to pairing Latin food and wine, they were telling me “No, tequila or beer.” But here in New York they really embraced our brand and began pairing, like for example, the example you gave with Chili Rellenos and Chardonnay, because of Chardonnays acidity,  it just balances that spice. Even though it’s pretty mild spice, it still feels a beautiful mouth feel and balance in the dishes you are having, because that is what wine is, it’s food and it should be treated like that. Wines can be paired with any dishes in the world, it just depends on the variety, the acidity and being able to balance the food flavors.

Bernardo: And I love that. In the process, I think like anyone who really cares about food and wine should be excited by that. It’s an opportunity to kind of expand the palette and find new things. Even in Sonoma I would sometimes, like I would bring bottle of Gustavos Cabernet , he has a beautiful, Atlas Peak Cabernet from 2012, I would bring that to Tortilleria Jalisco, so I would have tacos, I would have this Carne Asada, kind f like a meat, strong flavor, meat tacos with the Cabernet, and it’s kind of this rich, heavy meal, so I think from a food stand point it’s an opportunity to try different things.

Bernardo: Andrea, I never asked you this, but did you grow up drinking wine at home, in Mexico?

Andrea: Kind of, I sort of did. Like, my father was always very interested in food and wine, so I tried a lot when I was younger. But, I think it was my teenage years when I started drinking wine with the meals. My dad is a very good chef, so he likes to make a lot of different French dishes, back in Mexico. So, it was interesting to try. I do enjoy wine and grew up learning about the different dishes.

Bernardo: French and Mexican cuisine, I actually think go very well together. There are some really beautiful combinations there. And funny enough like here in New York, some of the great French restaurants, they’re all staffed by the Mexican chefs to the line cooks. They learned in pueblos, you know, and some other places. I think that is kind of exciting. Well here is to that. It is a really beautiful wine, I have never had it before.

Harvest Season will broadcast nationally on PBS Independent Lens in May 2019

Special Thank You to Kai Gallery. Kai Gallery is located at 78 Grand St, New York, NY 10013. KAI Gallery is committed to sharing the most innovative contemporary art coming out of China, along with global contemporary art that shows strong influence of Chinese culture and artistic practice.

This episode’s audio/visual is by Matthew Lessman. Thank you Matthew for the excellent camera work.

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