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From Big Air to Wine Sky Pinnick's Rage Productions shifts gears and takes us into the world of Malbec 

Rage Films puts ski movies on hold to make a documentary about Malbec wine.

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Sky Pinnick wasn't a wine drinker. The founder of Rage Productions, the Bend-based company known for its epic action sports films, and more recently, television commercials, didn't mind an occasional glass, but the fruit of the vine was far from the top of his mind.

"I wasn't a wine guy by any stretch. Sure, I liked wine, but I'm a PBR guy. If I had to choose something to drink, it would've probably been a PBR," says Pinnick.

Pinnick also owns Velvet, a popular downtown bar, but was still always simple with his drink order. Then he started hearing people talking about Malbec wine. He'd heard the name, even had a glass, but was still largely in the dark when it came to the Argentinean red wine. Soon, a friend, local wine distributor Kirk Ermisch, brought the subject up to Pinnick, and soon his curiosity took hold.

Now, just a little over a year and a half later, Pinnick knows damn near everything there is to know about Malbec, as you'll see when he debuts Boom Varietal: The Rise of Malbec, a stylish documentary he directed and produced with the help of an all-Bend crew (which included Ermisch as executive producer) that brings the audience inside the craze surrounding this wine, at the BendFilm festival in early October.

The film, shot on location in and around Mendoza, Argentina, led Pinnick to spend about eight weeks in South America investigating why this specific type of wine, relatively unknown in the American market until the last few years, has become the rage of the wine industry. The notion of a feature-length documentary about wine, grapes, winemakers and the culture of a small Argentinean town might sound painfully dry at first, and understandably so. Yet the Rage team manages to infuse into this subject the sort of cinematic flair we've seen them employ with their ski films over the past decade, bringing us into the world of Argentinean wines.

Shots roll through vineyards and across the top of barrels, as Franchot Tone's score sits in the background, giving a sense of motion and purpose to the film, thanks to his crew composed of locals Chris Kas, Tim Cash, Byron Garth and others. Despite the language barrier, interviews with winemakers give us a look at the familial atmosphere surrounding this industry while also providing some insight into the difficulties these winemakers face - especially when Pinnick and company interview a pair of Americans who tried, and failed, to get into the Malbec game. What's perhaps most intriguing is that Boom Varietal investigates a phenomenon that's still very much growing, so we're not getting a retrospective into the boom, but actually watching it as it develops.

"Being able to be part of a bigger movement and tell that story as it's happening is a really cool opportunity. Hearing that it's booming and going nuts and to get in there as it's taking off was special," says Pinnick, "It's an opportunity to tell a story, it just happens to be about wine."

Knowing that the film digs deep into the wine industry, some might be wary that the film's intent is to prop up these Malbec producers in an industry spotlight sort of piece. This is something Pinnick was clearly aware of, and it shows on screen, axing any chances of Boom Varietal coming off as an infomercial.

"I didn't want it to be a puff piece for the wine industry in Argentina. At the end of the day you could say it is, but it's not one sided," says Pinnick.

And he's right. While at first it seems like we're going to be inundated with the merits of Malbec, the film quickly jumps to an interview with a New York City wine shop manager who expressed its merits. Her responses are pretty hilarious and easily bring the audience back out of Malbec heaven and back to reality.

What Bendites are likely wondering is how a filmmaker like Pinnick, who made his reputation with films featuring skiers hucking themselves off cliffs to a hip-hop soundtrack, could end up making such a drastic shift in subject matter. You wouldn't be blamed for asking this question, which Pinnick has even asked himself.

"It came the opposite way of the action sports. I always had a passion for that, but this was a cultural thing that's happening right now in pop culture. As a result, I have way more of a passion for wine," says Pinnick, who says Rage's two-year hiatus from making sports films was a blessing in disguise in that it allowed for the free time to make this film.

Yes, it is a Rage production, but no, you won't see any sick nasty big air. Instead, you'll get a look into a world you likely would never have known. And the most impressive feat is that he made wine just as engaging - but in a different way - as skiing.

"The action sports world is great and it's niche and targeted, but this was an opportunity to have a very broad audience," says Pinnick.

Boom Varietal at BendFilm

3pm Friday, October 7 at Regal


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