Interview with Sam Pillsbury, Pillsbury Wine Company

Sam Pillsbury

Sam Pillsbury is a director/producer turned winemaker.  He has directed and produced feature movies, documentaries, TV series and TV movies.

His bio includes a number of interesting facts:

“He has designed and built a number of houses in New Zealand, L.A. and Phoenix, including the one he lives in…he is a sailor, a windsurfer, a scuba diver and a skilled horseback rider…He taught English Literature at Victoria University, Wellington…he was Chairman of the New Zealand Motion Picture Academy for 4 years. He has played the drums in a rock and roll band, is a mechanic who used to build his own cars literally from scratch.  He is a graduate of the Bondurant Grand Prix Road Racing School in Phoenix, Arizona and holds a competition license.”

His new project  is the Pillsbury Wine Company.  He purchased 100 acres in

A Happy Wine Maker!

Cochise County, Arizona a few years ago and planted 12 acres of Rhone vines.  He continues to add 6 acres of Rhone varieties a year.

I recently emailed Sam some questions and he responded.  In ALL CAPS.  I decided not to do any editing because I actually like the way that looks. He seems to be a larger than life character and all caps suits that just fine.

Tim:  Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Sam: BORN WATERBURY CONN. 1946, LIVED IN THE CARIBBEAN AND NEW ENGLAND, MOVED FROM OUTSIDE OF BOSTON IN 1960 WHEN I WAS 14 TO NEW ZEALAND. GREW UP IN NZ, HAD FAMILY AND FILM CAREER, MOVED TO LA IN 1989, MADE FILMS, MOVED TO PHOENIX AND STARTED VINEYARD IN 1990.

Tim: What did you want to be when you were a child?

Sam: A ROCK STAR OR A CAR DEALER!!!

Quality Control

Tim: How did you get into the film business?

Sam:  LOVED LOVED LOVED MOVIES IN HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE IN NZ, DECIDED TO MAKE FILMS AFTER WRITING SOME FILM REVIEWS IN THE AUCKLAND UNIVERSITY STUDENT NEWSPAPER

Tim: When did you realize you were passionate about wine?

Sam: IN THE 1980’s. I BOUGHT SOME LAND ON WAIHEKE ISLAND FOR A VINEYARD IN THE MID 80’S BUT DROPPED PLAN WHEN I MOVED TO THE USA MAKING FILMS IN THE LATE 80’s

Tim: How did you get into the wine business?

Sam:  SAME AS THE FILM BIZ…LOVED WINE, DECIDED TO MAKE IT!

Tim: Why did you choose Arizona?

Sam: WAS HERE SHOOTING IN 1993, MET WOMAN ON CREW WHO I GOT TOGETHER WITH AND WHILE CAMPING IN AZ IN THE LATE 1990’s SUDDENLY REALIZED THE POSSIBILITY OF GROWING WINE HERE…POSSIBLY PARTLY BECAUSE OF SEEING FINE WINES DEVELOP IN UNLIKELY PLACES IN NZ.  I ALWAYS LOVED BEING A GROUND BREAKER (WAS THE FIRST NEW NZER TO GET A FILM IN TO THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL).  IT IS VERY EXCITING BEING ON OF THE FIRST, AND IN THE CASE OF VINEYARD LAND, ABLE TO PURCHASE ACREAGE OF PRIME GRAPE GROWING LAND FOR $400/ACRE!!!

Tim: Do you want to continue with your film career or is that on the back burner, how do you juggle the responsibilities between the wine and the film?

Sam: I HAVE A SETUP WHERBY I CAN HAND OVER ESSENTIAL STUFF IN THE WINE BIZ AND DO THE REST BY EMAIL OR PHONE…BUT FOR NOW I HAVE PUT FILMS ON HOLD AS THIS NEW OPERATION HAS BECOME CONSUMING…WE WILL SEE WHAT EVOLVES…

Tim:  If you won 200 million dollars what would you do?

Sam: SET UP A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION TO TEACH PEOPLE TO BECOME SELF SUFFICIENT HERE AND OVERSEAS AND PROMOTE PROGRESSIVE CHANGE IN THIS COUNTRY, LIKE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND WELFARE. AND BUILD A FABULOUS WINERY/SPA/RESTAURANT ON MY VINEYARD LAND…

Tim: Name some of your favorite films and favorite wines

Sam: 400 BLOWS, JULES AND JIM, THE GODFATHER

GRANGE HERMITAGE, HOSPICE DU BEAUNE, ANY CHATEAUNEUF DE PAPE

Tim:  Your favorite piece of American culture, your favorite piece of New Zealand culture?

Sam: ROCK AND ROLL, 1968 CAMARO SS CONVERTIBLE,  NEW ZEALAND ARTIST RALPH HOTERE

Pillsbury Wine Company makes a Rose, a Pinot Gris, several Rhone blends, and a Petite Sirah.

Just another day at work

The Rhone blends are called “Roan Reds”

2006 “Roan Red”:  Grenache Syrah Mouvedre

2007 “Roan Red”: 93.2% Syrah, 6.8% Grenache. 186 cases produced

2007 “Diva” 64.3% Grenache, 21.4% Petite Sirah, 14.3% Mouvedre…This wine was named “Best of Arizona” by the San Fransisco Examiner.  173 Cases.

2007 Petite Sirah.  Only 30 cases produced!

6 comments

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