Sam Pillsbury Spills on the Reason He Landed in Arizona, and Launches a Wine Column for Chow Bella

Categories: Wine

courtesy of Sam Pillsbury
Taste test.
This week we introduce a new, occasional wine column by one of the best-known Arizona winemakers, Sam Pillsbury. Welcome to Spillsbury.

When managing editor Amy Silverman asked me to write for Chow Bella and New Times, I had to stop and think how that was going to work. I think that will evolve. I want to excite interest in all Arizona wines. It's my dream that we might all be one big, happy family. To that end I hope to explore our region with my fellow winemakers and growers, and examine what makes us original, different, and sometimes truly excellent!

(Disclaimer: I am no expert. I thought I knew a lot about wine 14 years ago. I now realize I know squat. I just have my opinion.)

So, Amy asked that question people tend to ask: "What is a New Zealand filmmaker doing making wine in Arizona?"

My answer: "Sex."

See also:
- Romancing the Grape: Pavle Milic's Quixotic Wine-Making Adventure
- Wine Smarts: What Is Noble Rot? Brian Reeder and Pavle Milic Hit Scottsdale to See If Anyone Knows

Courtesy of Sam Pillsbury
Women get it immediately. They always laugh louder and faster than men. It's the same with our Rosé, "One Night Stand."

When I introduced our first Pillsbury Wine Company Rosé, Vintage 2006, it was made from grapes of dubious origin we had planted. It was an unremarkable white with interesting fruit and some questionable nuances. We pulled the grapes and replanted, but subsequently, with help from magician Eric Glomski (Page Springs Cellars), we produced a pretty nice Rosé (got an 89 from Mark Tarbell).

On my first pouring to a rather large crowd, I explained we had nicknamed it One Night Stand since those particular grapes were gone forever and we could never make this exact same wine again. The women burst into spontaneous laughter and the men looked a little guilty and confused. I have never been able to explain this, and I'm not going to try.

The name has been on the label ever since.

The rest is history, including this:

So, 20 years ago, I'm sitting in my house in New Zealand in the (Southern Hemisphere) summer, January and the phone rings. It was an exec from Universal I had worked with on a Western we shot in New Mexico in 1990 (Into The Badlands with Bruce Dern, Mariel Hemingway, Helen Hunt, and Dylan McDermott), asking me if I'd like to shoot a pilot for a TV series in Phoenix. They sent me the script via the latest high-tech method, our thermal paper fax machine. Horrendous. Four rolls of paper and about four hours.

The script was kinda dodgy, it was (blush) called Knightrider 2010 -- no, not with the aging surfer, rather about a guy who smuggled illegals across the Rio Grande in a monster truck. I had an instinctive sympathy for the guy, and I hadn't done any action flicks before. Also, this had the monster truck demolishing a shopping mall, which I thought presented some interesting challenges.

And I was broke. Guy's gotta work. I said yes.

So I arrived in Phoenix and there was this interesting woman working as location manager on the set. We've been together ever since, and we have a 7-year-old, the same age as my granddaughter. They love each other, I love them both to death.

Sex. That's how I got here.

The wine bit? Well, ever since I was 13, when my family emigrated to NZ from the USA on an Italian ocean liner, I have loved wine. Those Chiantis on the table every night, spicy and fragrant, glowing ruby red when held up to the light, parents drinking at my side, wine with dinner, a little buzz on... I was in heaven.

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