See, taste vintages from Australia

OFS to screen documentary with filmmaker who is an Olympia native

Contributing writerMay 30, 2014 

Move over, 3-D: The Olympia Film Society will engage the senses of taste and smell along with sight and hearing at Friday’s screening of “Wineram Australia.”

The society is pairing a tasting of Australian wines with the documentary about the Australian wine industry and capping the evening off with a Q&A with filmmaker Colin West, an Olympia native.

The event is the third in the film society’s Movies About Wine With Wine series. “We may do more,” said Helen Thornton, the society’s film programmer.

West, who graduated from North Thurston High School and Washington State University, followed his passion for wine to New Zealand and Australia, filming a Web-based TV show visiting the wine regions of each country, speaking to winemakers and others in the industry, and taking them along on high adventures. For example, he once tasted white wine underwater in a shark cage in Port Lincoln, Australia.

Friday’s screening is the premiere of the feature documentary version of “Wineram Australia,” including footage aired as part of the Web series plus new content.

“It’s a traveling, adventurous wine documentary,” West said.

But primarily, the film focuses on the wine industry. West’s education is in both business and wine, and he partners with industry groups to cover wine from what happens in the vineyards to the science of how it’s made and beyond.

“I am trying to open up the idea of wine for people who have felt it’s out of reach or snobby or pretentious,” he said. “It shows through the eyes of a traveling winemaker how one can love wine and the things he loves about wine.”

West, of course, is that winemaker. He’s also worked as a sommelier, but emphasizes that he’s no wine snob.

“It doesn’t matter how much you know about the world of wine: Prepare to be entertained,” Judy Sarris, editor for the website Gourmet Traveller Wine (, said of the “Wineram” shows.

Those who enjoy extreme sports are likely to find something to their liking here, too: West has skydived into vineyards and gone surfing with pro surfers and then taken them to visit wineries.

“For eight years, I’ve gone to 31 different countries,” he said. “I was seeing and appreciating the natural beauty of these wine regions while I was learning about wine.”

“When I was studying wine in Australia, we used to wake up at 5 a.m. and go surfing,” said West, who got an MBA in wine business in Australia. “We’d go tasting, and then we’d go to winemaking class.

“That’s what wine has allowed me to do with my life.”

These days, he’s working on a season of episodes about wine regions in the United States, including an episode on Washington wines.

The episodes will feature wineries in winter — and a healthy dose of winter sports. ‘Wineram Australia’ with Wine Tasting

What: The Olympia Film Society and Grand Vin Wine Merchants present a documentary about winemaking in Australia along with a tasting of Australian wines. It’s part of the Movies About Wine With Wine series OFS started this year. After the film, filmmaker Colin West, an Olympia native, will answer questions.

When: Tasting at 5:30 p.m. Friday (May 30), screening at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia.

Tickets: $8.50 general admission, $5.50 for film society members.

More information: 360-754-6670 or

Also: The mezzanine lounge will be open, selling wine and beer to those ages 21 and older.

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