Tour Guides, A Documetary Film

Over the past seven years as we’ve interviewed people for our TV show, ‘Wine Country at Work’, we’ve also planned a documentary film. It’s about the community of premium guides who drive clients around Napa and Sonoma, the world’s busiest wine destinations. They are the holders of the regional history, ambassadors to their guests who are educated, well-traveled people from around the world, who bring the story of this place home with them. The history of the local wine culture is the life blood of our tourism industry. The guide’s work requires them to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the local attractions, while being thoroughly conversant with the methods and magic of fine winemaking globally. 


The Guides are a hearty, colorful, eclectic group of story tellers, who excel at thinking on their feet, enjoy people enough to forgive occasional outrageous behavior by their clients and consider themselves lucky to do this work. They schedule appointments, manage logistics and solve concierge problems, all while driving big SUV’s full of inebriated clients, on narrow, steep winding roads, in an area with double the State’s average number of DUI’s. 

Over that same seven years while discussing this project, the private guides have been surviving Job like trials. First, the ride share platforms have driven half of California’s transportation companies out of business. Then the national news coverage of the 2014 Napa quake, the 2017 fires, and the 2018 smoke from Paradise burning further devastated the business.


So many guides have abandoned the business that it has caused a domino effect at the small, family wineries where guides provide many of their customers, and among concierges who depend on their commissions. The guide’s work touches so many in the hospitality community, with business and gossip, that they are a canary in the coal mine, or more locally, the roses at the ends of the vines. Shifts in their world predict industry trends, technologically, generationally and economically.


Guides have a long, significant history here, from Long John Silverado, the 1800’s stage coach driver who probably drove Robert Louis and Fanny Stevenson to wineries around the valley, to Joanne DuPuy, the guide who brought Steven Spurrier to her favorite wineries, as he bought bottles for the Judgement of Paris, to the current group who deal with hundreds of the world’s best wineries, and some of the most demanding wine consumers. Their stories embody the evolution of the North Bay as a place for remarkable farming, winemaking and people.


The film will be done on location at wineries, vineyards, hotels, restaurants, on the road during tours and tastings, car washes, garages the other locations a guide’s work takes them.

The film is projected to run fifty-eight minutes and employ local professional videographers, and some volunteers. It will be seen on Napa Valley Television, on hundreds of channels of the PEG (Public, Education and Government) Network and will be submitted to KGED and local Film Festivals. Its completion will be celebrated with an opening at a local theater hosted by the producers and the guides. The money we are requesting is for the professional videographers.

Ralph & Lahni de Amicis, Producers

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