Seasons of the Vine sign
Seasons of the Vine
A Window onto Wine Country
Presented by Robert Mondavi
Yester California Adventure at Yesterland

Would you like to see a seven-minute film that provides a “behind-the-scenes introduction” to winegrowing? Then head over to the Barrel Room at the Golden Vine Winery for Seasons of the Vine.

A rustic stone building at the Golden Vine Winery
There’s a theater in the stone winery building.

The Barrel Room is inside a rustic stone building on the edge of the Yester California Adventure parade route, where you might see Eureka! - The California Adventure Parade. There are a couple ways to get to the entrance of the Barrel Room. The most fun is to take the pathway behind the building, which is planted with Johannisberg Riesling grapes.

Approaching the Seasons of the Vine theater
A Wine Ambassador at the entrance is ready to greet you.

The Barrel Room is staffed by Robert Mondavi-trained Wine Ambassadors. Other Robert Mondavi-trained Wine Ambassadors at this winery-within-park can answer your questions and provide further information about the winegrowing process. The Wine Ambassadors may also guide you through wine tastings. They offer insight into the character of the wines and provide tips on serving and food pairings.

Doors to Seasons of the Vine
The open doors welcome you to Seasons of the Vine.

You found the entrance. You’re about to enter the Barrel Room.

Robert Louis Stevenson quotation
“Wine of California is Bottled Poetry” —Robert Louis Stevenson

As you enter, there’s a quotation from Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson (but see how the painter spelled Louis). Yes, he really did write the phrase “bottled poetry” about California wine in The Silverado Squatters, his 1883 book about his honeymoon trip to the Napa Valley:

Wine in California is still in the experimental stage; and when you taste a vintage, grave economical questions are involved. The beginning of vine-planting is like the beginning of mining for the precious metals: the wine-grower also “Prospects.” One corner of land after another is tried with one kind of grape after another. This is a failure; that is better; a third best. So, bit by bit, they grope about for their Clos Vougeot and Lafite. Those lodes and pockets of earth, more precious than the precious ores, that yield inimitable fragrance and soft fire; those virtuous Bonanzas, where the soil has sublimated under sun and stars to something finer, and the wine is bottled poetry: these still lie undiscovered; chaparral conceals, thicket embowers them; the miner chips the rock and wanders farther, and the grizzly muses undisturbed. But there they bide their hour, awaiting their Columbus; and nature nurses and prepares them. The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson.

The quotation at the entrance to Seasons of the Vine is more succinct.

Seasons of the Vine theater interior
There are plenty of seats.

Take a seat the Barrel Room. The cool, intimate space is designed to look like a wine aging room in the California Wine Country. Real, handcrafted oak wine barrels line the wall of the theater. (They’re empty, so don’t even think about trying to tap into one.)

Waiting for Seasons of the Vine to begin
What’s beyond the doors?

Your Wine Ambassador slides open the massive doors in the front of the Barrel Room to reveal a vineyard with workers tending the grapes. It’s a movie, not a real vineyard, but it’s a pleasant effect.

When your Wine Ambassador stops talking, the film’s narrator takes over. The narrator speaks with an aristocratic accent. As you watch scenes of beautiful vineyards through the seasons, the narrator tells you about the history of wine in California; what happens in the vineyards in winter, spring, summer, and fall; how “the winemakers work their magic,” and how the wine is carefully aged in oak and finally bottled. You’ll even learn about the “villains of spring”—insects, heavy rains, and frost.

Scene from Seasons of the Vine, 1
Narrator: “Here in the Wine Country, life is on a timeless journey through the Seasons of the Vine, a journey the began in the 1700s, when missions planted vines brought to the New World by Spanish Conquistadors. During the Gold Rush of 1849, European Immigrants arrived bringing wine grape varieties from France, Germany, and Italy. Their vineyards took root and thrived. After a hundred years of planting and harvesting, California was finally recognized as a World Class winegrowing region.”
 
Scene from Seasons of the Vine, 2
Narrator: “Today, visitors from all over the world come to explore the vineyards
and taste the wines of a new generation of California winemakers. But while years pass, and generations change, the vineyard continues its timeless journey.”
 
Scene from Seasons of the Vine, 3
Narrator: “Summer dawns, filled with hope. The days begin cool and foggy, then turn warm and sunny. The grapes thrive in this climate of contrasts. They begin to develop the character, color, and taste unique to each wine grape variety.”
 
Scene from Seasons of the Vine, 4
Narrator: “Finally, autumn arrives. Every day the grapes are tasted and tested. And when the winemaker decides that the flavor is perfect, the grapes must be picked immediately.”

When the movie is over, your Wine Ambassador closes the doors in front of the movie screen, thanks you, hopes you enjoyed Seasons of the Vine, and directs you to the exit. If you have questions, there are Wine Ambassadors outside the theater to answer them. If the film inspired you to have a glass of wine (and you’re at least 21), you won’t have far to go.

Wine bar at Golden Vine Winery
After seeing the film, perhaps you’ll be inspired to buy a glass of wine.
 

Seasons of the Vine was one of the original attractions when Disney’s California Adventure opened in February 2001.

The musical score for Seasons of the Vine was by Emmy Award-winning TV and film composer Bruce Broughton. The narrator was Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons. But Seasons of the Vine was just a film. It lacked any “gimmick” that might have made it into a real theme park attraction. (And, no, the barn doors in front of the screen don’t count.) It was a nice, well-made educational film. And nothing more.

Seasons of the Vine was part of the Golden Vine Winery, presented by Robert Mondavi. The winery also included an actual vineyard, the Vineyard Room fine dining restaurant, several wine tasting bars, the gourmet Wine Country Market delicatessen and wine shop, and the outdoor Golden Vine Terrace where you could enjoy your Wine Country Market purchases.

The idea was that the Robert Mondavi Winery would introduce new or “marginal” wine drinkers to Mondavi’s premium wines. At the Disney park, Mondavi would reach ten times as many people as at their actual wineries—a number almost equal to the entire Napa Valley visitor business. Shortly before the grand opening of Disney’s California Adventure, the wine trade website WineBusiness.com called Mondavi’s presence at the new Disney park “a marketing coup through which it will likely introduce premium California wines to millions of visitors.”

It wasn’t such a coup after all.

According to Wine Business Monthly in November 2001, “Mondavi announced it is no longer operating the Golden Vine Winery complex at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, California. The Golden Vine offered restaurants, a demonstration vineyard, and winetasting bars. Only Mondavi wines were served. Mondavi said its role had shifted from ‘partner’ to ‘sponsor’, and was writing off a $12-$13 million loss.”

Golden Vine Winery with Grizzly Peak looming above
The Golden Vine Winery in 2003, with Grizzly Peak looming above.

Seasons of the Vine survived Mondavi’s exit. Although operating hours were limited, guests could still enter the Barrel Room theater and see the film about wine.

On March 30, 2008, Seasons of the Vine closed forever. The rest of the Golden Vine Winery continues to operate for now, as it has since Disney took over operations and modified the offerings.

Blue Sky Cellar
The former Seasons of the Vine theater became Blue Sky Cellar

The former theater reopened as Blue Sky Cellar, a preview center. Guests can see models, artwork, and videos of the changes being made to Disney’s California Adventure.

Old-timers might be reminded of a preview center that once was on Disneyland’s Main Street, across from the Disneyland Emporium. The sign announced “Walt Disney, A Legacy for the Future,” because the preview center initially showed off plans for the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), the art school backed by Walt Disney. Exhibits in the preview center changed every few years. Guests could learn about Disneyland expansion plans, such as the Dumbo’s Circus and Discovery Bay, complete with a the Hyperion airship (from the 1974 Disney movie Island at the Top of the World) emerging from a hangar. Obviously, not all plans became realities. When EPCOT Center was under construction, Disneyland guests could learn what was being built.

The exhibits in Blue Sky Cellar also change over time. Perhaps, some day, guests will even see models and artwork for a third Disney theme park in Anaheim. And, this time, maybe the preview center won’t be turned into more retail space selling Disney character apparel.


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Updated January 13, 2012.

Photo of Seasons of the Vine sign: Werner Weiss, 2007
Photo of rustic stone building at the Golden Vine Winery: Allen Huffman, 2001.
Photo of approaching the Seasons of the Vine theater: Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of doors to Seasons of the Vine: Allen Huffman, 2003.
Photo of Robert Louis Stevenson quotation: Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of Seasons of the Vine theater interior: Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of waiting for Seasons of the Vine to begin: Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of a scene from Seasons of the Vine, 1 (vineyard with hills): Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of a scene from Seasons of the Vine, 2 (visitors in vineyard): Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of a scene from Seasons of the Vine, 3 (green grapes): Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of a scene from Seasons of the Vine, 4 (winemakers in vineyard): Werner Weiss, 2007
Photo of wine bar at Golden Vine Winery: Werner Weiss, 2007.
Photo of Golden Vine Winery with Grizzly Peak looming above: Allen Huffman, 2003.
Photo of Blue Sky Cellar sign: Werner Weiss, 2009.
 
Seasons of the Vine narration excerpts and images from film © Disney.