Wine film company finds a home in Tahoe

International filmmaker Colin West came to North Lake Tahoe in the winter of 2014 to shoot a wine-focused adventure TV episode and fell in love with the mountains prompting him to move his filmmaking business to Tahoe.

Rupert Critchley, left, and Colin West, right, flying a drone in Piedmonte, Northern Italy.

West has had to travel across the world and back several times to find his niche for his business. He ultimately put down roots in North Lake Tahoe, choosing it over the many exotic locations in which he’s worked.

The Washington state native studied in Italy when he was 18 years old, apprenticing under Diletta Frescobaldi of the Marchesi De’Frescobaldi wine family. Immersed in the world-famous leader in fine Tuscan wines, West received a plethora of knowledge in Italian history, agriculture and language.

“I’ve been to over 35 countries and Lake Tahoe is still one of the most unique, beautiful places in the world.” – Colin West

“The Marchesi family has been producing wine for over 200 years. Michelangelo would trade his sculptures for this wine, Marchesi has sent wine to King Louis VIII,” says West. “I was fascinated in this business that mixes art, culture, science, agriculture and business.”

After his internship, West returned to Washington and received a degree in international business with a minor in marketing in 2008 at the peak of the recession. It was tough for anyone trying to enter the workforce. West says he applied to more than 120 jobs before finally getting an offer for a sales position with Charles Shaw wines. He opted to turn down the position, however, and instead flew to South Australia to obtain an MBA in wine.

Colin West behind the camera filming a commercial for a winery.

“I was fluent in Italian and met a guy who was from Italy also studying wine. I went back to Italy to start a wine business, but the partnership didn’t work out so I became a sommelier in Rome,” says West.

After his second stint in Italy, West traveled to New Zealand to try out another job in the wine industry.

“That’s when things really started happening,” he says. “I went and lived in Auckland as a wine specialist for a wine search engine, but I hated the desk job. So I picked up and went back to Queenstown [New Zealand] to become a sommelier.”

Watch an episode of WINERAM

While working as a sommelier in “the land of the long white cloud,” West began running a wine tour business in Central Otago. He soon got the idea to film Wine Region-A-Minute (WINERAM) reviews, incorporating an experience of wine, travel, adventure and lighthearted wine education. He shared his video footage with friend and videographer Rupert Critchley, who had worked on a Steven Spielberg production; the two formed a partnership in the wine/film business.

A photo from the “La Vendemmia” film shoot.

Critchley and West spent six months filming the first WINERAM TV series in New Zealand. A year later, they went to Australia to shoot the second season of the wine adventure series and a feature film, “Vintage,” that is in the post-production phase now. After finishing filming in Australia, West went back to the U.S. to start on WINERAM’s third season, which is how West ultimately found Lake Tahoe.

While producing the third season of WINERAM, all shot in the western United States, one of West’s sponsors suggested shooting a wine adventure episode in Lake Tahoe. West and his team wrote an episode on experiencing the Tahoe lifestyle with wine —hot tubbing at a mountain cabin and snow biking. West enjoyed his experience so much that he packed up his L.A. office within three hours and came right back to Tahoe.

“I decided to move the business to Tahoe because of its proximity to the wine country. There’s an international airport close by and this is a great place to network,” he says. “I was surprised to find so many talented photographers, videographers and people who understand this industry.”

Since WINERAM’s inception four years ago, it has now had several series featured on Hulu TV, ABC International, Amazon Prime and more.

“I’ve been to over 35 countries and Lake Tahoe is still one of the most unique, beautiful places in the world,” says West. “After filming here, Lake Tahoe turned into home fairly quickly; I am loving it and never want to leave.”

Photos courtesy WINERAM

For more information, visit wineram.com.

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Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson is a freelance writer, marketer and action sports enthusiast who has spent the last 10 years in North Lake Tahoe snowboarding, hiking and wake surfing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chico State University and loves being out on the lake as often as she can.