If you use voice command on your TV and you say the words, "Wine first," you will land on a charming new wine show on PBS from executive producer and part-time Sarasotan Jonathan Learn.
The show follows sommelier Liora Levi and self-described "food enthusiast" Yolanda Año as they visit different European wine regions in search of wines "that reflect the character of the area," according to PBS. In each episode, three wines are discussed, and the hosts challenge chefs to create dishes that complement the wines.
It is a fairly recent project for Learn, who has been an executive producer of documentaries for more than 18 years and splits his time between Sarasota and Oslo, Norway. He previously worked as a marketing representative for large companies such as Nynex, and, in 1994, he visited Lillehammer, Norway, for the Olympics and to help arrange housing for his company’s employees.
While there, Learn happened to meet documentary filmmakers who felt he could distribute their programs, and connected with Norwegian producers at an American Public Television conference.
These contacts presented an opportunity to produce a documentary on Nordic cooking. The show New Scandinavian Cooking led to other cooking shows and American Public Television eventually asked Learn to consider a wine series.
His focus now is on young people enjoying wine, learning about the many varieties and balancing the flavors with food. American Public Television found his trailers so interesting they committed to three seasons. Within the last year, the show has aired 8,285 times on 355 channels. European tourist boards provided the bulk of financing as a way to encourage tourism and wine sales. According to Learn, the German wine association felt the series helped sales greatly.
The show began filming in 2019. The first season placed the group in Europe, while season two is currently being completed in South America after filming in Portugal. Season three (with the addition of another sommelier, from Sweden) will find them in the United States. While it is commonly thought that America's west coast is the likeliest place to film, Learn says he has some surprises in store. Locations are being scouted that feature unexpected locations. That's a good reason to stay tuned.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.