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Behind-the-Scenes of Vine Talk, with Executive Producer Bruce Marcus and WNET's Josh Nathan

By Michelle Michalos
Monday, April 4th, 2011
  • comments (46)

Bruce Marcus

Inside Thirteen recently spoke with Bruce Marcus, executive producer of Vine Talk, and Josh Nathan, WNET‘s Vice President of Business Development, to discuss how the unique show came to fruition (pardon the pun).

Hosted by Stanley Tucci, Vine Talk features wine experts Ray Isle, Stepahanie Caraway, and Emilie Perrier.  Each episode hosts wine tastings with a new and diverse panel of celebrity guests, from chefs (Lidia Bastianich, Stephen Raichlen, and many others) to actors (including Patricia Clarkson and John Lithgow), and beyond.

Vine Talk premieres Thursday, April 7 at 10:30 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Inside Thirteen: What was the inspiration behind Vine Talk?

Bruce Marcus: The inspiration really came about by noticing a real void of television programs related to wine that were comforting and welcoming to people.  At the same time, knowing that for years, producers have said they were going to try and deal with that and they just never did – there was always the same type of show with wine experts prancing through the fields of France.  Those are beautiful shows, I’ve produced them, but very few people watch and they certainly don’t sustain themselves over time.  This is an adult entertainment show with a focus on wine – it’s not a wine show.

I think the show can seriously have an impact on wine drinking habits in the United States, and it should.  Wine drinking is becoming more and more popular.  It has a long way to catch up with many countries in the world, and there’s no reason people should be nervous about wine, just because there is a history around it and an academic side.

IT: How are celebrity guests selected for the show?

BM: There are a number of us working together – we work very closely with Stanley Tucci’s production company, OLIVE Productions.  We get a certain number of guests that are known to Stanley, but in general we are looking for a wide range of interesting people.  They don’t have to be Hollywood celebrities.  We’ve had a good share of musicians, we’ve had a poet, writers – we just want a good group that we think will make a good mix at the tasting table.

IT: What is the process for selecting which wines will be featured?

BM: We’re doing everything we can to make it a very credible process.  First, our production staff selected the wine regions for the purpose of attracting a large audience.  Over 80% of the wine purchased in the States actually comes from U.S. vineyards, so we wanted a large percent of the shows to be out of the U.S. wine regions.  After that, we gave certain parameters to the wine associations and asked them to find 25-35 wines within their regions that fit our parameters.  For example, one of the parameters was, for the most part we needed wines that were available in stores – we did not want to go out in front of millions of viewers and have 10 bottles available across the country, because we know it’s going to drive people to want to get these.  We also wanted a good price spread.  The associations were then invited to a selection event in October where we put together independent wine panels that tasted the wines and picked their six favorites of each group of 25 or 30. Our sommeliers did participate, but it was mostly outside people – retailers, distributors, wine-knowledgeable people, and they picked the six for each show.

IT: Can you talk about working with WNET and what the experience has been like using the Tisch/WNET Studios?

BM: We are very fortunate that the timing worked out and perhaps the ideal location for us in New York City was becoming available unbeknownst to us, right at a great crossroads of American culture at Lincoln Center.  It wasn’t the exact physical makeup that we had initially envisioned, but that’s never the case, and we ended up with what we believe is a very effective use of both the upstairs and the downstairs – we like to call it our upstairs cellar, and then the studio audience is down on the first level.  We couldn’t have asked for a better public television partner.  It’s been great working with the WNET and WLIW team, and everyone has been incredibly supportive.

IT: What is your favorite wine?

BM: They keep changing, every few months!  I’m very much into wines from Chile – Chile is not featured in our first season of shows – I got outvoted!

Josh Nathan

Inside Thirteen: What first interested you in Vine Talk?

Josh Nathan: The show grabbed my attention – there’s nothing else on television like this.  It’s an opportunity to have fun and educate at the same time. I think wine is something that needs to be made accessible to people, and I think Public Television’s mission is to make complicated subjects accessible.

Having Stanley Tucci host was an interesting and positive aspect of the show design; rather than having a chef or a wine sommelier be the host of the show, instead you have someone who everybody knows, is very likeable and delightful on the air, and who has an interest in and knowledge of wine. He’s not lecturing, he’s discovering with the audience, and I thought that was just a terrific approach.

IT: To what degree has WNET been involved in the creative process for this show, if at all?

JN: We got involved as soon as Bruce brought the program to us.  He had a format and a layout for how the show was going to work, and we reviewed it, got engaged in refining that format with him and Joe Lacarro, the director.  After the pilot was shot, we got very involved in deciding how to improve the structure of the show.  Neil Shapiro (WNET’s president and CEO), Stephen Segaller (WNET’s VP of Content), and our team watched it, put notes together, and then I sat down with the Vine Talk team and one of the sommeliers, and we restructured the show based on that pilot learning experience. Bruce came up with the concept and the format, but all of our hands were in taking it to the next spot.  The folks at APT screened it as well.  It was a very positive and efficient collaboration, pre-pilot and post-pilot.

IT: What has the experience been like having the show film at the new Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center?

JN: I thought it was genius!  They originally were going to shoot in another space, and I suggested that they look at Lincoln Center and think about the upstairs and the downstairs.  I didn’t really know what their requirements were in terms of layout.  They went over and spent some time in the studio and looked at the space and they came back to me and said they wanted to use the studio because it offered a way to separate the audience from the performance, which they thought would enhance the show.  Now the studio audience can be talking and laughing and enjoying themselves while they watch the taping, without everyone having to be quiet while the show is going on.  It also gives the guests, Stanley Tucci, and Ray Isle an intimate space to work.  The way they transformed the studio was brilliant, and that’s what’s so cool about the Lincoln Center studio – it’s a gem of a space, and I think this show really shows the potential for how much you can do in that space.  It was a pleasant surprise.

IT: What is your favorite wine?

JN: I have a few – it depends on what I’m eating, and the weather.  In the summertime, it can be any number of white wines.  On a really hot summer day as part of a cocktail hour, I’ll serve a rosé.  There’s an Italian wine, Dolcetto d’Alba, a wonderful red wine from Italy, that, whenever I see it on a wine list at a restaurant, it’s always terrific.  For white wine, there’s a Picpoul grape from France that’s fantastic – great with fish, chicken, crackers and cheese.

A fun tip: host a Vine Talk party – screen the show with friends and have your own wine tastings at home!

*In New York, the series’ broadcasts on THIRTEEN and WLIW21 are sponsored by Fairway Market and Fairway Wines and Spirits.

  • Nina

    Are there tickets available to attend these tastings? Thanks.

  • Kerry

    I’m interested in obtaining studio audience tickets for Vine Talk; how can I get them? Thanks!

  • Michelle

    Hi Nina &Kerry -

    Unfortunately there are no additional tapings scheduled for the immediate future, but if Vine Talk returns for another season we will be sure to post the info on here. Thanks for your interest!

  • James Passantino

    My wife and I are loving this show. Nathan Lane is absolutely hilarious. When (not if) you film more shows, please be sure to put me on whatever mailing list is necessary to get in the audience.

  • Yuree Ahn

    I really want to whole show but I can’t and I don’t know how to since I live in Vancouver, Canada. Is there any way to get to see the show? Love Nathan Lane, by the way.

  • Michelle

    Hi Yuree-

    The full episodes are not currently available online, but you can watch clips from the shows on the Vine Talk site: http://www.vinetalk.com/

  • Yuree Ahn

    Michelle, thank you for the reply.
    I watched all the clips and couldn’t wait to see the full episodes – but apparently there is no way now, eh?
    Then is there any plan to release them later? :( this is so sad.
    Anyway, thanks again for your reply.

  • Patty

    Please! Let me know when tickets are available! Love the show!

  • michael r. ascher

    great show! Nathan Lane was the real terroir of the day! i would appreciate information on becoming an audience member

  • Susan NYC

    Great show! Highly entertaining and educational. Would love to attend a taping of the upcoming season (I’m sure there will be more to come!)

  • Ellen

    Please let me know how to obtain tickets to the next taping of Vine Talk in New York City. Thanks, Ellen

  • Sandy

    Wonderful show! My first time viewing was the one on selecting a Pinot Noir. I plan to buy a few bottles of the selected wine for the purpose of celebrating the completion of my dissertation…hopefully April of 2012. Thank you WYNC, not only do you keep me informed and entertained everyday, but with Vine Talk I now have a reason to keep writing. Please let me know if tickets become available for future tapings.

  • brian

    love the show. let me know about future audience tickets..thanks

  • Robin Holab-Abelman

    We’d love to get tickets to a taping. How do we do that.?

  • Michelle

    There are unfortunately no more shows being taped this season, but we will be sure to post about any opportunities to take part in the Vine Talk audience if/when a second season starts taping.

    Thanks to all for your interest!

  • Rick

    Just saw episode 2 last night and loved it. Not only informative, but amazingly entertaining as well. Nathan Lane was so hilarious I was literally gasping for air I was laughing so hard. Please invite Nathan back he is truly a national treasure!

  • Amy Hafkin

    I’m a huge fan of this innovative and refreshingly entertaining show. Would love to have the opportunity to be an audience guest when the new season tapes. Looking forward with anticipation. In the event the show does not return, it will be a gem to remember.

  • Kim Van Keuren

    I would relish being in the studio audience during the next season and beyond!

    Regards, Kim

  • Gael DeWan

    I would so enjoy tickets to the show, in the next season.

  • Kristin

    I would love to be part of next season’s audience….

  • Christopher Dispensa

    I am in the wine retail business and think your show really hits the mark in explaining the intricacies of viticulture to those who are novices. Please add me to your list for next years audience tapings.

  • Betsy

    I find past show airing on our local PBS station (another reason to support PBS, if you love this show!). So wish I could be apart of the studio audience,,,,love the show!

  • Mary Jane

    I love the show and like the ideas offered by the wine experts as well as chefs particularly when they talk about food and wine pairing. I would love to have the opportunity of being part of the studio audience. Please keep me on the list.


  • harriet brand

    Please let us know about getting tickets for the next season of Wine Talk. Thanks.

  • Thomas Hessel

    Ah, I think I will join the queue for information about tickets! :-D
    Love the show, who wouldn’t love this show?
    For what it’s worth, it would be nice to perhaps feature a mass market wine or two, sort of like how America’s Test Kitchen features economy, mass-market products in their taste tests. Might broaden the audience appeal, and work against the wine snob stereotype, perhaps.

  • Linda Simone

    My husband, Joe, and I love the show! Our son is getting married in January and we would love tickets for the newlyweds, and both sets of in-laws…seems like a fabulous way to celebrate. Please let me know when tickets are available.

  • Linda Simone

    Should have added that their NYC visit will be in mid-February!

  • Mary Ann

    My sister and I are interested in getting tickets for your next New York taping. If a second season is planned, could you please let me know when and how I could get tickets? Thanks so much.

  • Kathy Baer

    My 3 friends and I love Vine Talk. It’s so great to laugh and be introduced to new wines at the same time. We would love to get tickets for the next season’s tapings. Please put us on the list. Any day, any time…….

  • Dwight Albers

    A bit of a latecomer, but found your show recently on our local PBS- love it. Hope it continues well into the future! Please put me on a notification list for studio audience tickets for your second season taping. Thanks!

  • Maria Esposito

    Please put me on the notification list for studio audience tickets when they become available. Thanks!

  • Denise Robinson

    I would love to be a participant for an upcoming Vine Talk taping.

  • Kathy Abrahamsen

    Love the show and would love to find out how to get tickets for the next season of tapings in New York.

  • Anita Mackey

    Are shows still being presented on PBS? I can’t seem to find them on WLIW or WNET.

  • Bob Yard

    I saw that Vine Talk will be taping another season. How can I get tickets to a taping? Thank you!

  • Sherri

    My husband and I love the show and hope you will come back for another season. Please put me on the list for audience tickets.

  • Joanne Sampogna

    My husband and I love the show, It is a mixture of good wine talk and funny quips from celebs! We want to attend a taping. Please let me know as soon as tickets become available.

  • Catherine Griggs

    Love the show, also would love to be notified when tickets for a taping become available!

  • Arthur

    I would love tix, too!! How do I get them??

  • Arianne

    Please add me to the list for those looking for tickets. This would be such a fantastic night out in the city!!
    Love the show!!

  • Jan

    Please add me to the growing list of wanna-be audience members! Love the show and the wine selections!

  • leigh schneider

    love the show and am looking forward to getting information on how to become an audience participant.

  • leigh schneider

    am looking forward to seeing more episodes

  • Michelle

    To all who have inquired about tickets to future tapings over the past months, thanks for your continued interest! Unfortunately right now there are no additional tapings planned, but if and when new information becomes available, we will get the word out here.

  • Joe Albertus

    I hope you guys can come to terms with the production/ compensation problems. I would like to say that I love this show, not only for the wine knowledge but, its nice to see celebrities in another light, meaning that their people to and are subject to the same situations as we are when not in their field of expertise. Good luck in making this work ,( fingers crossed).

  • Niagara21

    Great program! Would love to be in the studio audience if the opportunity exists in the future. Fans from Canada.