A Portland sommelier will be in Germany this fall shooting a documentary about a controversial highway bridge proposed for the Mosel Valley.
Jessica Pierce visited the wine region last summer to work on a research paper. That’s when she first heard about the bridge — called the Hochmoselbrücke — which would go over the cities of Rachtig and Ürzig so traffic could pass over the Mosel Valley. Some locals say the bridge will spoil the natural beauty of the landscape and harm vineyards through air and water pollution.
The matter affected Pierce so much that she returned to the Mosel Valley to make a documentary she says will explore the potential hazards of the bridge development. I spoke with Pierce about the film and her work as a sommelier.
Jennifer Cossey: You are from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, right? What first brought you to Oregon?
Jessica Pierce: I graduated from LSU in studio art/photography. I moved to Oregon to be in a wine-growing region that wasn’t Cali. Mostly because I was so green in the industry that Cali seemed established and overwhelming and Oregon was newer and more laid back. And I really liked the Pinots, even though I had only tried a few at that point.
JC: What was your inspiration to make this film?
JP: The inspiration for the film stems from my passion for the wines of the Mosel Valley. This is what got me there, but once I arrived, the region and its people really embraced me and I fell in love with the place. When I began to write my master’s thesis on the cultural landscape of the Mosel Valley, I realized there was an amazing story here, which is begging to be told. I think film is the best way to tell the story, so here I am.
JC: Tell me about the people and the place.
JP: As far as why is it unique/special, it is like describing a sunset. You can’t really capture all of the magic with words. But the culture is one that has maintained an agricultural lifestyle for 1,800 years in a very difficult and labor-intensive work environment where the weather does not always cooperate. I believe the landscape has been a defining part of the culture of the people as much as, if not more than, the people have defined the landscape. This is something very interesting because it is in a place where there have not been huge changes of modernization and globalization until the last few decades.
JC: How do you plan on making the film?
JP: Shooting will be me with a shoulder rig. I’m buying a new camera with the money Michael Alberty raised for me at Storyteller Wine Co. Jeremy Fenske is my consulting field producer and helping me long distance. I’m hoping to raise some money to fly him over for a few weeks of shooting and I’m also looking for some interns for one to two week stages for filming. For postproduction Stuart Pigott is hooking me up with his editor in Berlin. Need to fundraise for that, too.
JC: What is your time frame? When do you hope to have it done by?
JP: I hope to have most of the footage done by December, then I anticipate at least two months for postproduction.
JC: Where will the film be shown?
JP: I’m hoping that the film will release in a few film festivals, but maybe an online release as well.
JC: Do you feel like people know what is happening or what the possible repercussions are?
JP: I feel like no one knows the repercussions or changes that will happen, but there will be changes. There has already been some damage at the Zeltinger Deutschherrenberg vineyard because of cold air spilling in from a cut into the top of the valley. I’ve looked at some hydrology projections and that is the most upsetting thing.
JC: So what are the perspectives of the locals about the Mosel Bridge?
JP: Locals are a mixed bag. I would say most are against, but some are for it. I will be getting both perspectives for the film. But really this is a film about changes in this place. The bridge is just one of these changes and also a symbol of globalization coming into the valley.
JC: What is being done to slow down the progress of the bridge?
JP: There was a huge battle to stop the bridge, but most has dwindled out because of literally decades of a frustrating battle against the government. There is still a court case in progress.
JC: What will you do after Germany?
JP: I’m not sure what my next step will be after finishing the film. I will be in Germany until December at least because I will also be working harvest. But I could see staying in Europe a bit longer. Just have to figure out what makes sense because I am hoping to narrow down my career path really soon and figure out what I want to do with myself.
Editor’s Note - September 11, 2013: A previous version of this article stated the bridge — called the Hochmoselbrücke — would span the Mosel River and connect the cities of Rachtig and Ürzig. In fact, as the filmmaker points out in a comment to this article, the bridge would go over the cities of Rachtig and Ürzig so traffic could pass over the Mosel Valley.