Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Of Wine and Men

It's an unusual name for a wine. Bottled in 2009, the vintage from Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, California is called The Crash and goes for $43 a bottle.

The wine takes its name from the crash of a U.S. Air Force B-26 bomber onto winery property way back in April 1956. Five airmen were aboard, on their way from Arizona to Washington, and all but one survived after parachuting from the doomed plane.

From the letter written three days after the crash by parachuted safe soul Lieutenant Robert Nilsson:

All of a sudden, I heard another aircraft coming toward me. Believe me, then is when I prayed. Up until then I knew what I had to do and how to do it, but to be in the parachute and having an aircraft coming toward you and not being able to do anything about it, well, I just prayed. Then I heard it fade away. I couldn’t see a thing the snow was so thick, and I started to get real cold.
I guess I broke out of the snow about a thousand feet above the ground. I have never seen anything so wonderful as the green fields below me. I heard the aircraft crash and then saw the captain already on the ground.

This weekend and next, as part of Paso Robles' Pioneer Day and Heritage Day festivals, a 32-minute documentary about the winery intertwined with a freak 1956 airplane crash will screen Friday-Sunday afternoon at the Park Cinemas downtown. Titled Heritage Steinbeck: Honoring Family, Cultivating Land, Touching Lives, it features the recollections of 89-year-old crash survivor Sergeant Orazio Fazio. When The Crash vintage was launched in 2009, the winery brought together Fazio and Nilsson, the two living survivors, for the first time since their fateful 1956 flight.

It was Howie Steinbeck who suggested to daughter Cindy that the 2009 blend of five varietals be named The Crash. At the winery, visitors can also take a variety of Crash Courses.

Via the Paso Robles Daily News, Cindy says: "Our family dedicates the documentary to the five airmen who crashed that fateful day, along with all who serve in defense of this country." The documentary was executive produced by Cindy Steinbeck and directed by hometown filmmaker Kathy Kelly.

[Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery]

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