~ by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits ~
Wine has played an integral part in numerous hit films. Whether it is a story that revolves around life in a vineyard, as part of a romantic comedy of wine drinkers. or a supporting role based on brand placements or verbal references in movies, wine and the lifestyle that revolves around it makes for a very interesting story.
A movie should be able to transport you to another time or place and allow you to feel the emotions of the characters in the film. What better backdrop for a love story than one that revolves around a winery? A Walk in the Clouds (1995) tells the story of a young man traveling home after World War II who encounters a beautiful young woman heading home from college to help her family at their vineyard in Napa Valley during harvest. The soldier (Paul) learns that the lady (Victoria) is pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend, so he decides to stand in as her husband so that she can face her domineering father. With plans then to leave quietly in the night to go about his way, Paul is encouraged by Victoria’s grandfather to stay and help with the harvest. During this time, Paul and Victoria have growing feelings and attraction for each other. Grab a box of tissues and bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and watch the film to find out what happens.
For a more comical side to a love story that revolves around wine, Sideways (2004) is a comedy-drama that follows two men in their forties on a week long trip to the Santa Barbara wine country, north of Los Angeles. Miles is a divorced, depressed English teacher who is a wine aficionado who takes his friend Jack, an actor about to be married, on a road trip. While Miles is looking for relaxation, Jack is in search of one last fling. Miles meets a waitress where the guys have dinner the first night. Jack meets a pourer at a winery tasting room the next day. The ladies happen to be acquaintances, so a double date is arranged and the plot thickens from there. Drinking wine in wine country can lead to some entertaining scenarios! Known as the movie that bashed Merlot and made Pinot Noir more famous, the tongue-in-cheek ending is best paired with your favorite red from the Santa Ynez Valley.
As for somewhat of a wine history documentary, Bottle Shock (2008) is based on a true story of the 1976 wine tasting competition later referred to as “The Judgement of Paris.” It tells the tale of Stephen Spurrier, a British expat who lived in Paris and was the owner of a bottle shop. In order to save his business, he wanted to show Parisians that quality wines could come from countries other than France. He decided to put together a blind wine tasting that would pit American wines against what were considered the best of the French wines. In the film, he travels to Napa Valley to find the best wines from California that he can use in his tasting against the French wines. This is where he meets Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena. Barrett is not interested in participating in the competition as he thinks it is a set-up to embarrass the New World producers. Barrett’s son, Bo, however, gives Spurrier a couple bottles of the winery’s Chardonnay to be used in the tasting. Amongst all the twists and turns in the plot (some fictional and some fact) that lead to the contest itself, Bo travels to Paris to represent the Napa Valley vintners at the event. Once the scores are tallied, it shows that Montelena did indeed win the Chardonnay competition. In essence, what resulted from Spurrier’s event was that the wine scene of Napa Valley would be forever changed. This same exact blind wine tasting was held again thirty years later… and the results remained the same.
Bo Barrett was the assistant winemaker at the time of the first tasting and has been at the helm as current winemaker at Chateau Montelena for decades now. He made his first trip last year to Nantucket. Meeting him in person and tasting his wines together over lunch, you realize how much Bo is committed to and passionate about his grape growing and winemaking. While he is considered a celebrity, a star winemaker, Bo talks about being a farmer and the work he does with his hands when you ask him about the premise of the film. Watch this movie with a bottle of Chateau Montelena’s world famous Chardonnay and a tub of buttered popcorn.