Zev Robinson

Jul 4

Food on the Douro

I was back in Portugal to film more material as my 90 minute documentary Life on the Douro is being expanded into a six part series for television.  After filming five people in conversation with Roy Hersh, I then went on to film in the kitchens of three very fine restaurants, each mixing tradtiional Portuguese with contemporary cuisine, as food will be a focus of one of the episodes. Below are stills from that, plus shots of Porto’s ubiquitous “francesinha” filmed on a previous trip with a For the Love of Port tour.

Pedro Lemos

Pedro Lemos is one of Portugal’s top chefs who recently opened his own restaurant http://pedrolemos.net, and many say the restaurant should be getting Michelin star soon.

Pedro Lemos and crew


A huge variety of fish and sausages, as well as fantastic breads.




Quinta do Portal

The Quinta do Portal winery near Regua in the Douro, headed by Pedro Branco with wine maker Paulo Coutinho, has guest rooms and a restaurant headed by young whiz kid Milton Ferreira, in deep concentration below.

Soups are another of Portugal’s wonderful offering.




Douro In

Sandra Dias grew up near Regua, the capital of the region, went to work in Porto for a number of years before returning to take over the Douro In http://www.wonderfulland.com/douro-in/index_en.htm with Nelson Espirito Santo Carvalho in 2011.


Carolina Quintela is the chef with magic hands.


These come from Sandra’s parents, who have about 20 hectares of land near Regua, growing grapes, cherries and olives.





The francesinha is a ubiquitous dish found in a range of restaurants, made of three different types of meat, cheese, bread, and a mild or spicy sauce. More information on it can be found here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesinha This was filmed at Bufete Fase, rated as the best francesinha by For The Love of Port - http://www.fortheloveofport.com/general-travel/best-francesinha-in-porto


Some of the For the Love of Port group waiting to be seated.
Apr 2

Life on the Douro screening and wine tasting, Roxy Bar and Screen, London, April 23


Monday, April 23, 2012 

Roxy Bar and Screen
128-132 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LB


Tickets £9.00 in advance, available here. (£10.00 at the door, limited availability.)

Life on the Douro directed by Zev Robinson, about 300 years of history making wine, and wine making history of the Port producing and spectacular region in northern Portugal, will be screening at the Roxy Bar and Screen, on April 23. Trailer on youtube

6:00pm Doors open. Dinner menu and Portuguese wines will be available at a discount.
7:30pm Presentation by Zev Robinson and the Life on the Douro screening, followed by a Q&A.

9:00pm Symington Family Estates, Niepoort, Taylor Fladgate, Quinta do Vale D. Maria and Quevedo will be providing wines. Symington representatives, and Miguel Leal of Casa Leal will be on hand to present them and answer questions. Others may join, but nothing confirmed so far. The tasting is included in the ticket price.

About the film:

Life on the Douro comes as close as a film can in transmitting its wonders, and its complex and rich 300 years of history with direct ties to current wine production in Porto and the Douro valley. Interviews with 28 people, many direct descendants of those who founded the region, lends an oral history to Life on the Douro about the region’s development and present situation. More into at http://lifeonthedouro.com


Painting and Documentaries

Working on my documentaries left me with little time to paint for a few years, but the Dinastia Vivanco Wine Museum (Museo de la Cultura del Vino) offered me an exhibtion opening on March 22, running until June 17, and I’ve been working hard on that for over a year. It will be made up of about 15 paintings, works on paper and digital prints of amphora, vases and other vessels, some of which can be seen here - http://www.zrdesign.co.uk/html_pnt_vases/index.htm

The Vivanco family history is subject of my 2011 film , and the exhibition will include a video art piece using the same material from my documentary, but re-edited with a more impressionistic, looser narrative and relying much more on the imagery, sounds and music. (The film itself will be screened at the Cervantes Institute in New York on May 18.)

Some 25,000 people are expected to visit while the exhibition is on, something quite exciting in itself.

Edward Lucie-Smith kindly wrote the text, Spanish translation in the invite below:


Zev Robinson, a Canadian/British painter, photographer and filmmaker, is multi-talented. He has a great affinity for the world of wine. In recent years he has traveled many thousands of kilometers, visiting the different Spanish wine regions, also the Duero region in Portugal. There can now be few English speakers who know this part of the world, with it complex culture and customs, better than he does.

As a lover of museums, he was particularly enchanted by the great wine museum founded by the Dinastia Vivanco, and it is therefore especially appropriate that his work as an artist should now be displayed in this setting.Spanish art has always been particularly strong in painters of still life – one thinks, for example, of the painters associated with this genre of art during the so-called Golden Age, among them Juan Sánchez Cotán and Juan van der Hamen y Léon. One also thinks of  he slightly later Luis Meléndez.

It is in fact Meléndez who is most vividly recalled by some of Zev Robinson’s paintings of vessels used for wine that are being exhibited here. They seem like stripped-down versions of Meléndez’s compositions, with ancillary objects edited out.Meléndez is masterful in the way he represents the texture and weight of quite ordinary, everyday things. We see the same thing here.  What it has to do with is the Spanish reverence for the everyday. For Spanish eyes, and especially for Spanish painters, everyday experience has close, mysterious links with the transcendental. A supreme example of this is what I think of as the greatest Spanish masterpiece in a British collection – The Water Seller of Seville by Diego Velázquez, now at Apsley House in London. In the foreground of the composition there is a large, verily plain jar. Another jar, smaller and a little by more ornate, appears further back in the composition. Both have a magical solidity and presence.

It is true that the association there, in the Velázquez, is with a very different, non-intoxicating fluid. Yet we must also remember that both water and wine have been considered to have a special, often twinned, status in human culture. The Gospel of St. John, for instance, offers the story of the Marriage at Cana, where Christ turns water into wine. Zev Robinson’s paintings of bottles and jars have, despite their solidity, a slightly recessive, mystical quality, which suggests their function as containers for something that is simultaneously everyday and sacred. Where they differ from similar vessels in the work of Meléndez and Velázquez is that, while they are in appearance solid, skillfully rendered representations of fact, they are also at the same time just a little bit elusive, as if they had ambitions to become ghosts of themselves.

Obviously to create this impression, this visual ambiguity, requires a great deal of thought, as well as a great deal of skill. An important part of the process is imagining what the vessel contains, or might contain. It’s the wine you can’t see that gives the image its magic.

Díptico.pdf Download this file


Life on the Douro in California and Toronto

Life on the Douro screenings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and at the Toronto Portuguese Film Festival and Paso Robles Film Festival

Life on the Douro will be screening in LA and San Francisco on November 15 and 17, repsectively, followed by a tasting of some of the best Port and still wines produced in the region. Doors open at 6 PM, the film will start at 6:30, presented by director Zev Robinson, followed by a Q&A, and a wine tasting presented by Oscar Quevedo, marketing director for the Quevedo winery http://quevedoportwine.com/, and Roy Hersh of www.fortheloveofport.com, one of the world’s leading experts of Port and Douro wines. Luiz Alberto of www.thewinehub.com who was part of the 10 day For the Love of Port trip tailor made for my activities, will give invaluable behind-the-scenes support and insights.

The venues are:

Chaplin Theater and Raleigh Cafe,
Raleigh Studios
5300 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90038
Tickets are $32.00 and can be purchased here - http://lifeonthedouroinla.eventbrite.com

Delancey Street San Francisco
Screening Room and Private Club
600 Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tickets are $32.00 and can be purchased here -

Just before that, on Saturday, November 12, Life on the Douro will be showing at the Toronto International Portuguese Film Festival http://www.portuguesefilmfestival.com/en/synopsis.html
and the following Saturday, November 19, at Paso Robles Film Festival (exact time TBA) -

I’ll be attending the Paso Robles Film Festival with Roy Hersh, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to Toronto.

Looking ahead, there will be events in Cologne on December 4, in Fontainebleau on December 7, and more are being arranged. There will be more North American and European events in the spring as well.

Directing this film has been one of the great experiences of my life, the Douro is one of the wonders of the world that should be seen at least once in a lifetime, and Portugal is a country that deserves to be much better known.

The Faces of Life on the Douro

There were about 27 interviews included in Life on the Douro, if you include a couple of tour guides. Some other people played an important role, even though they didn’t speak or their interview wasn’t included for one reason or another. Here are the interviewees, and a couple of other people as well.

Antònio Agrellos, Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira



José Alberto Allen and Tomás Allen, Quinta de Villar d’Allen

Bento Amaral, Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, I.P.

Ruth and Sandy Becker

Miguel Braga, Quinta do Mourão

Pedro Branco, Quinta do Portal

Adrian Bridge, The Fladgate Partnership

Natasha Bridge, The Fladgate Partnership

Paulo Coutinho, Quinta do Portal

Mario  Ferreira, For The Love of Port, and Luiz Alberto, The Wine Hub

Salvador Guedes, Sogrape Vinhos, S.A.

David Guimaraens, The Fladgate Partnership

Roy Hersh, For the Love of Port, with Ruth Becker

Beatriz Machado, The Yeatman with Roy Hersh and Adrian Bridge
Lígia Marques, The House of Sandeman


Sebastião Mesquita, Quinta das Aranhas


Dirk Niepoort, Niepoort Wines


Francisco Olazabal and Xito Olazabal. Quinta do Vale Meão, with Roy Hersh and Luiz Alberto


Luciano Vilhena Pereira, Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, I.P.


Joana Pinhão, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria

André Marinho Pinto, Quinta do Judeu

Claudia Quevedo, Quevedo Port Wine

Oscar Quevedo, Quevedo Port Wine

Oscar Quevedo, son, Quevedo Port Wine

Pedro Silva Reis, Real Companhia Velha

Alistair Robertson, The Fladgate Partnership

Tomás Roquette, Quinta Do Crasto

George Sandeman, The House of Sandeman

Charles Symingon and Henry J. Shotton, Symington Family Estates

Dominic Symington, Symington Family Estates

Paul Symingon, Symington Family Estates

Rupert Symingon, Symington Family Estates

Cristiano Van Zeller, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria

Life on the Douro - Done

Done! I came back home three weeks ago with plenty of new material, great interviews with Fladgate Partnership chairman Alistair Robertson, Paul Symington and Dirk Niepoort, and edited non-stop to get the finished film out to the Douro Film Harvest. The film’s narrative structure was already in place, but with some gaps, and I needed Alistair Roberston to give me a quick run-down on The Fladgate Partnership history, and Dirk Niepoort to give me an overview of the Douro Boys, an association of five producers, and their marketing effort. Instead, Alistair gave me about an hour and a half of material and Dirk’s interview was an hour long. Dirk was also the last of some 27 participants lending their viewpoints to Life on the Douro, fittingly, as he ends the film.

I had met Gustavo Devesas, who works for Symington’s, at Oscar Quevedo’s wedding, and he told me that an interview with Paul Symington was a must, that he would tell me some great stories. I hesitated as I already had far more material than could reasonably fit into the documentary, but decided that I shouldn’t miss the opportunity, and came away with an hour’s worth of stories and insights. As with so many of the interviews, it could almost serve as the basis for a film in itself.

Natasha Bridge, wine blender at Fladgate, gave an overview of the different styles of Port, and Antonio Agrellos, wine maker at Quinta do Noval, talked about their recent efforts to complement the winery’s previous three centuries as told by Cristiano Van Zeller and Jose Allen (see my previous post for that story).

I didn’t even have time to go through all the new material, just went straight to those parts I needed the most, basically Alistair on his company’s history, Dirk on the Douro Boys, how they function and what is needed to promote the region, and Paul about his childhood adventures in what was once a much wilder Douro valley.

I worked for 18 long days straight, got it out just in time for the deadline, and now the film will have its premiere at the Douro Film Harvest festival on September 6, and I’m thinking about what to do with all the extra material that I have. I could do a series of extras and/or an extended version and/or a video installation. When I go back for the screening, it’s tempting to film a few more things that I missed. There’s always a few more things to capture, especially in the Douro, so the film’s finished, but the story isn’t.

Alistair Robertson

Paul Symington
Natasha Bridge
Dirk Niepoort
Aug 1

Life on the Douro, Trip no. 5, Day 5 The Noval Connection

I spent all day at the iconic Quinta do Noval on Thursday, July 21. I first heard about its history a year ago when I interviewed Jose Alberto Allen, whose family owned it in the 19th century, and then learned more about its history from Cristiano Van Zeller, whose family bought it from the Allen family in 1894, later producing what is considered to be one of the great wines of the 20th century in 1931, until it was sold  in 1993 to Axa, a multi-national insurance company. Christian Seely, the managing director was away, but their winemaker, Antonio Agrellos, showed me around and talked about Noval’s wine making in the 20th century and innovations over the last two decades.

Visiting Noval was one of the missing pieces that I needed for Life on the Douro, not only to show the estate that Jose Alberto and Cristiano talked about, not only because of its importance as a winery, but because all things in the Douro are interconnected. The Allen’s are related to Francisco Olazabal, ex-president of the Ferreira and direct descendant of Dona Antonia Ferreira, who also talked a bit about the Allen history. The Van Zeller family is related to the Symington’s, as are the Allen’s. I originally interviewed Dominic Symington at their estate Quinta do Vesuvio, which was bought from Ferreira. The Ferreira family asked Cristiano to help set up the Quinta do Vallado after the Ferreira company was sold to Sogrape, and Valllado began to operate under its own name, run by Francisco Olazabel and two cousins, all descendants of Antonia Ferreira. And on and on the story goes.

I have the basic structure of the film set up, and thought fine tuning it would be easier going. But now I’m painfully debating what to include and what to cut out, how long it should be, and a million other decisions as well, trying to balance the sense of history, the complicated issues, the visual richness of the Porto, Gaia and the Douro Valley, and the need for a well-structured, strong narrative. There is no way to include all the facts, better suited for a historical treatise, and I have to constantly remind myself that that is not my task, but rather it is to arrive at its essence. Right now, I’m not sure how I’m going to get there, but I always seem to get there in the end.

António Agrellos, wine maker at Noval

A 19th century Noval bottle at Villar d’Allen

Life on the Douro, Trip no. 5, Days 3-4 - Storytelling and Photography

On Monday, I traveled from Porto to the Douro Valley, and stayed at the Fladgate Partnership’s Vargelas estate, warmly hosted by Alistair and Gillyane Robertson. I interviewed Alistair to get the history of the company going back to 1692, one of the missing pieces I need to finish the film. I just needed a brief overview, but ended up with over an hour’s worth of material. More great stories, and more anxiety how I’m going to fit it all in.

I went on to Tua on Tuesday to film the old, disused trains in the station that once moved people and goods through the Douro Valley, probably before there was electricity in the area only a few decades ago, and that now rust away as silent and overlooked witnesses to another era. My shots were mostly still and lacking in movement, occasionally some people in the distance would walk through the frame, or the leaves of the trees would move with the breeze.

At times like that, when the shooting goes well, I feel like I’m a photographer who just happens to be using a video camera, and that my films should also be silent witnesses, telling all through images. Great photographs are that, capturing a whole world in an instant, and what need is there for words when an image can say it all?

But then I think about Alistair and the many others I’ve interviewed for Life on the Douro, thinking about the incredible stories I’ve heard, often told with love, passion, and humour, and how fortunate I have been to have had that experience, and that those stories should be more widely known, and again I wonder how I’m going to fit it all in.

(You can support the documentary - and spread the word about the Douro and Portugal - by pre-ordering a DVD - http://www.indiegogo.com/LifeontheDouro)

Life on the Douro, Trip no. 5, Day 2 - The River

Outside of three important interviews, the reason for this trip is to get quality visual material that will convey much of the story. On Saturday, I filmed for a couple of hours during a boat ride on the Douro around the area of Porto and Gaia courtesy of Oscar Quevedo, complementing two previous ones in other areas of the river.

I’ve been long fascinated with the symbolic and psychological meaning of water, and have used it in videos and paintings. In wine, rain, and sometimes hail, will determine the quality of the year’s crop. And in the Douro in particular, “pipas” (large casks) of wine were loaded on boats, moved to the warehouses in Gaia, and then shipped out on the Atlantic to the UK and elsewhere.

If the terraced Douro valley slopes has a sense of enduring stillness and timelessness, it is water that shows the cycles of life and nature and man, and hopefully images of water will transmit that movement through the Douro, and through life.


Life on the Douro, Trip no. 5, Day 1 in Porto

I’m feel an urgency to get some very high quality shots to finish Life on the Douro.

Yesterday, I got a few hours of shooting in Gaia and Porto. Great, sunny day, and I had to ruefully tear myself away to go have lunch with Ryan and Gabriella Opaz of www.catavino.net and then we all went to celebrate Oscar Quevedo’s wedding with Nadia, both very enjoyable events, but in the back of my mind, there always lurks a voice saying, “You could have been shooting”. Some stills below.