A Brief History of How Wine Built “The Uncondemned”

“This wine is for the love of humanity.
There is no better cause than justice.”
-- Pam Starr, Crocker & Starr

It all started over a glass of wine. “The Uncondemned” co-director Michele Mitchell was with wine distributor Josie Zeiger at a wine bar in New York City that is famous for its female master sommelier, brainstorming ideas on how to raise funds to make the documentary.

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“A wine auction! Of wines made by women!”

Because winemakers in Napa are asked all the time to donate to charity, Zeiger advised Mitchell to fly to California to meet with them in-person.  Mitchell made two trips in February and March 2014, driving through the valley with her younger sister, tasting wine and showing the vintners some footage shot in November.                    

34 Winemakers Donated for the June 1, 2014 Auction in New York City.

And then Stacey Bressler of Bressler Vineyards told Cathy Buck, owner of the historic Cameo Cinema in downtown St. Helena about the film.


“Let’s do a fundraiser at the Cameo!”

On March 5, 2015, co-directors Mitchell and Nick Louvel brought the rough cut of their documentary to workshop with the women winemakers at the Cameo and raise further funds with a VIP special pour and dinner at Cindy Pawlcyn’s famous Napa restaurant.

"I’ve always been grateful that here in Napa we don’t need to try support our schools by selling brownies at a bake sale. You need to sell a LOT of brownies. Wine is even more delicious and can raise serious cash. It is so gratifying to help you shine a bright light into dark corners and make us all pay attention."
-- Cathy Corison, Corison Winery

 “We need to make a wine for the film.”

That was the indomitable Pam Starr in April 2015. She quickly gathered Cathy Corison, Helen Keplinger, Schatzi Throckmorton and Jennifer Williams Porembski to the cause. The aim was to make a wine that could not only be sold to benefit the film but also to make it in time to pour at a private screening hosted by the filmmakers--a screening that would be the first time Witnesses JJ, NN and OO saw the film, and saw it before it ever premiered to the public. That screening was slated for Kigali, Rwanda on June 17th, the anniversary of when the indictment against Jean-Paul Akayesu was historically amended to include the first-ever charges of rape as a crime of war.

“The Uncondemned is a truly special project that we are proud to support. The story of these women’s courage in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the perseverance of the prosecutors and advocates, who propelled their case through the International Tribunal is powerful and singular. It is this kind of brave storytelling that one can only hope will prevent history from repeating.”
--Schatzi Throckmorton, Relic Wines

The winemakers met on April 24 to create the blend. They met again on  May 16 to bottle.

Pulling from their own 2013 barrels and also donating bottles, corks, foils, and more, these five women—five of the top US winemakers—made The Uncondemned Special Red (Oakville): 60% cabernet sauvignon, 30% cabernet franc, 9% petite verdot and 1% malbec.

Only 24 cases were made, one of which was consumed on June 17, 2015, by Witnesses JJ, NN, OO and their friends and family in celebration of what humanity can accomplish together.

Bressler Vineyards * Channing Daughters * Chappellet * Bélair-Monange * Chimney Rock * William Cole Vineyards * Cathy Corison * Crocker & Starr * Drinkward Peschon * Dyer Vineyard * Five Vintners * Kelly Fleming * Ilaria Winery * Iron Horse * Helen Keplinger * Schatzi Throckmorton * Katy Wilson * Lorenza Winery * Meander Cellars * Melka Wines * Palmeri Wines * Parallel Wines * Phifer Pavitt * Retro Cellars * Schug Cellars * Silver Oak Cellars * Spottswoode Estate * St. Supéry Vineyards * Viader