About Our Arizona Winery
About Sam Pillsbury
Sam Pillsbury has directed, produced, and written, 31 series TV dramas, network TV movies, cable movies, and feature films.
Since 2001, he has completed the New Zealand feature, CROOKED EARTH, a Final in Competition at the AFI Fest (shot in New Zealand for the French Company, Pandora) and a remake of the American classic, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, with Dave Matthews and Kris Kristofferson (Crystal Heart Award, Heartland Film Festival, 2003) released by Disney in 2005, the CBS hit THE WEDDING DRESS with Tyne Daly, Neil Patrick Harris and Margaret Colin, FIFTEEN AND PREGNANT with Kirsten Dunst for Lifetime (highest rated cable movie in the US) and TAKING BACK OUR TOWN with Laura Innes and Ruby Dee for Lifetime, for which he just received a Christopher Award and an EMA Award. He made two films for the Hallmark Channel, including THE KING AND QUEEN OF MOONLIGHT BAY with Kristen Bell, her first movie role.
Sam was born in the US but grew up in New Zealand. He graduated MA with 1st Class Honors (Summa Cum Laude) in English Literature (he majored in 19th and 20th Century American Literature) and spent 5 years making documentaries and cinema shorts for the NZ Government. He started his own production company in 1975, making documentaries and commercials and feature films, breaking new ground and winning many awards, including the equivalent of Academy Awards in NZ and Australia.
He made three feature films in New Zealand before he moved to the USA—THE SCARECROW (Director's Fortnight, Cannes, 1982), which he wrote and directed, the first NZ Feature to get invited to Cannes, the cult Sci-Fi movie, THE QUIET EARTH (Best Picture, Best Screenplay, NZ Film awards), reviewed by the Los Angeles Daily News as “Quite simply the best science fiction film of the ’80s,” which he wrote and produced 1984, and STARLIGHT HOTEL, which he directed in 1987, “It sneaks up on you and steals your heart” (LA Times).
The Quiet Earth was named one of the top 10 Sci Fi movies of all time
by American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator
Neil deGrasse Tyson.
He has done every job you can do on a film. He has been a 1st AD, a production manager, a producer; he cut his own films for 10 years, recorded his own sound, and owned his own editing and sound post-production facility in NZ until recently. He still operates camera when the situation is tricky or dangerous. He did his own budgets, and knows how to handle them, and really knows his way around a lab and the digital effects domain.
He has designed and built houses in NZ, LA and Phoenix, including the one he owns in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, and put himself through college as a landscape and building contractor (he landscaped the Hotel California in Santa Monica). He is a sailor, a windsurfer, a scuba diver and a skilled horseback rider. He has played the drums in a rock and roll band, is a mechanic (he used to build his own cars, literally from scratch). He is a graduate of the Bondurant Grand Prix Road Racing School in Phoenix Arizona, and holds a competition license.
He has written screenplays (THE SCARECROW, THE QUIET EARTH, WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, THE KING AND QUEEN OF MOONLIGHT BAY, HOUSE OF TEA, ENDLESS BUMMER), published film reviews, short stories, been on the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (NZ) and was a government appointee to the board of the New Zealand Film Commission.
He taught Shakespeare at Victoria University, Wellington, and ran the Film School at the Dept. of Extension there. He was Chairman of the NZ Motion Picture Academy for four years, collects art and in 2006, sold his own Vineyard and Winery, Dos Cabezas WineWorks, which produced wine that has been poured twice at State Dinners at the White House, and earned rave reviews from Robert Parker, The Wine Spectator and Forbes Magazine. He recently wrote several articles on wine for Chow Bella, the food blog in Phoenix New Times, and has written for Green Living Magazine and Phoenix Magazine. He currently takes a riverboat load of 160 passengers up European rivers every year on wine tours for AMA Waterways. To date, he’s done the Rhone, the Danube, and the Rhine. Most recently, in March 2015, Sam led the cruise through Portugal and the Douru.
He currently produces 14 varieties 100% Cochise County Arizona wines under his Pillsbury Wine Company label at his 100-acre Willcox Bench Vineyard and Winery—mostly Rhone blends. He has won gold medals and some of the highest scores for any Arizona wines, currently named Best Local Winemaker by Phoenix Magazine, voted Best Arizona Winery by Arizona Foothills Magazine, and named “one of the rising stars of the Southwest” by Wine Spectator Magazine. Jancis Robinson in her seminal 2013 American Wine book wrote: he makes “some of Arizona's finest wines,” and Hugh Johnson in his 2015 Pocket Wine Guide says, “Sam Pillsbury makes excellent WildChild White and Roan Red.”
Pillsbury Wines won ‘Best Arizona Red’ for Diva 2012 from a blind tasting of a range of AZ wines by 12 winemakers at Yavapai College; ‘Best Arizona White’ for WildChild White 2012 at the 5th Annual Whole Foods Arizona Wine Awards out of 18 Wineries; and four 90-point scores from the prestigious California Tasting Panel Magazine for WildChild White 2012, Symphony 2012, Chardonnay 2012 and Shiraz ‘Guns and Kisses’ 2012. 2014 saw Golds for Best Dessert Wine Sweet Lies 2013, Petite Sirah 2012 and WildChild White 2012. And recently a swag at the AZ Republic Wine Competition, including Golds for the Diva 2013, Petite Sirah 2013, and Viognier 2014. In the 2015, Invitation Only, National Jefferson Cup Competition, Golds for the Petite Sirah 2013 and Chardonnay Reserve 2014, and a bunch of silvers and bronzes. This year in 2016, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a Double Gold for the 2013 Shiraz 'Guns and Kisses', and a swag of silvers and bronzes.
Sam is married, has two grown sons,
a 10 year-old son, two grandchildren, and divides his precious spare time between New Zealand and Los Angeles, and has found his passion for wine in Arizona.
The Pillsbury Wine Family
Owner & Winegrower