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Local documentary takes a look at Tin City, SLO County's fastest growing food and wine borough 

click to enlarge BORROWING FORKLIFTS Vailia Esh, owner and winemaker of Desparada Wines, talks to filmmaker Dina Mande about how the winemaking community in Tin City sometimes ends up sharing equipment.

Photo Courtesy Of Tin City

BORROWING FORKLIFTS Vailia Esh, owner and winemaker of Desparada Wines, talks to filmmaker Dina Mande about how the winemaking community in Tin City sometimes ends up sharing equipment.

By now, most people in SLO County know about Tin City. But soon we'll have to work harder to find parking at our not-so-secret, secret spot.

Filmmaker Dina Mande released a new documentary called Tin City this November, and it does a beautiful job of telling the first volume of Tin City's history. Mande chats with more than 20 of the people who work in the industrial microcosm of Paso Robles that seems to be growing into the coolest destination in the county. You can't help but immerse yourself in the fascinating stories and personalities that this film focuses on, which are primarily makers of wine, cider, and brandy.

click to enlarge NEW RELEASE Tin City, a documentary film on the culture and spirit of our growing Paso wine and food suburb, was just released on iTunes and Amazon. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TIN CITY
  • Image Courtesy Of Tin City
  • NEW RELEASE Tin City, a documentary film on the culture and spirit of our growing Paso wine and food suburb, was just released on iTunes and Amazon.

One minute you're hearing about the soul found in soil, and the next it's chemistry and plant science. There's so much we wine consumers don't understand, but this film lets us in on the obsessive process the Tin City winemakers live and breathe. Hand-harvesting, hand-sorting, site selection, and shoveling grapes are on the menu. Mande did a great job letting us in on Tin City's sensitive side, curating only the details that move the film along and add color and personality to the cultural phenom known as Tin City.

I didn't know winemakers had to put their ear on the barrel to listen to the snap, crackle, and pop of fermentation happening, did you?

Mande is a multidimensional director, editor, and producer who spent years working in entertainment and advertising with big clients. She made the move from Hollywood to Paso Robles in 2009, and as founder of Juice Media, Mande has continued to expand her horizons, winning more than 20 Addy Awards and two Telly awards. You may also know her work as the director behind the viral web series Paso Wine Man, which has become a cult phenomenon within the wine world.

click to enlarge MAKING LOVE One of the highlights of the movie was hearing Patrick Brooks, co-owner of Wine Shine, talk in his deep, friendly voice about making sexy brandies. He said it flows out of that still as "pure brandy love." - PHOTO COURTESY OF TIN CITY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Tin City
  • MAKING LOVE One of the highlights of the movie was hearing Patrick Brooks, co-owner of Wine Shine, talk in his deep, friendly voice about making sexy brandies. He said it flows out of that still as "pure brandy love."

"The documentary pulls back the curtain and allows viewers to dive past the average wine tasting room banter," Mande said in a press release. "You actually get to meet these creative souls and understand the vision behind true boutique wine, cider, and craft beer. This is the unmistakably human element within the bottle. Once you know their stories, you can't un-know them. It only deepens what's in your glass."

The owner and pioneer of Tin City, Mike English, who began his career in pools and big, artificial rock climbing walls, according to the film, chose only people he thought would "get along" when forming his food and wine village. Apparently, he does his research before anyone can get into a building on one of the Tin City industrial blocks.

The film tells the story about how his little wine and foodie commune began with BarrelHouse Brewing Company. English told Mande he chose BarrelHouse as his anchor because he wanted to build on a concept of "build it and it will come."

Now, the area's one big, noncompetitive, happy family. When someone needs to borrow a cup of sugar (or a pressure washer or forklift), no problem. They're there for one another even though they may be a pretty eclectic bunch, as Gionata Wines winemaker Brian Terrizi, who also owns Etto Pasticio and Tin Canteen, puts it. Featured in the film, Terrizi and his co-owner/winemaker wife, Stephanie Terrizi, describe everything from the vibe of Tin City to their neighbor at Field Recordings, who knew where they kept their paper plates before they did.

Some from the Tin City patchwork came from wine families. Others fell in love with winemaking as a second career. The film taught me that the Tin City bunch were once engineers, gardeners, restaurant workers, and even a former boat captain. Many are passionate self-starters, who have been through the grind to get to where they are now. One thing is for sure, English chose well. Every single Tin City tenant has a dynamite story and charismatic charm.

click to enlarge WELCOME TO TIN CITY A through-line of rebellion connects this motley crew of artisans. From small-lot wine to dry-hopped cider, each workspace is a universe unto itself. Ever watchful, Director Dina Mande has caught it all over the last couple of years. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TIN CITY
  • Image Courtesy Of Tin City
  • WELCOME TO TIN CITY A through-line of rebellion connects this motley crew of artisans. From small-lot wine to dry-hopped cider, each workspace is a universe unto itself. Ever watchful, Director Dina Mande has caught it all over the last couple of years.

Who should watch this film? Anyone in the hospitality or wine biz. If you're going to learn about appellations, learn about destinations.

I've visited my share of wineries and partake in as much viticultural education as I can, but this film taught me a great deal and I definitely enjoyed the ride. Mande's a filmmaker with great taste and timing.

After watching Tin City, I have a much better idea of where I want to wine taste next. I'm thinking I need to meet some of the winemakers in the film and definitely stop by Wine Shine to meet the hilarious Patrick Brooks, as he naturally provided many of the laugh-out-loud moments in the film.

click to enlarge THE ANCHOR What we learn from Tin City, the documentary, is how BarrelHouse, a brewery birthed from a couple of construction guys, was the keystone from the start. As one Tin City tenant put it: "The better the beer, the bigger the buzz." - PHOTO COURTESY OF TIN CITY
  • Photo Courtesy Of Tin City
  • THE ANCHOR What we learn from Tin City, the documentary, is how BarrelHouse, a brewery birthed from a couple of construction guys, was the keystone from the start. As one Tin City tenant put it: "The better the beer, the bigger the buzz."

To say Tin City is the up-and-coming place to be may be a bit of a cliché, but it's true. It's unpretentious, non-corporate, dirt and boots. This is a place that calls its events "block parties." And so, as a suburbanite who grew up on a safe sidewalk, shooting-the-duck on roller skates to the neighbor's dinner table, I'm in. Δ

Flavor writer Beth Giuffre is unpretentious and non-corporate. Send your down-to-earth tips to bgiuffre@newtimesslo.com.

In the heart of Paso Robles Wine Country there is a concentrated village—a wine region within a wine region—populated by rebellious, creative winemakers, brew and cider masters and distillers working at the razor’s edge of their craft.

By Dina Mande

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