Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wine Geeks Will Love Bottle Shock

My friend Joli and I hopped in her trusty Subaru Outback and headed down to Maplewood to catch the Saturday night screening of Bottle Shock. Was this a great movie? No. It was light as a Muscadet sur Lie, a little frizzante, and perhaps lacking structure.
Alan Rickman (J’s fave) is the centerpiece of the film. He plays Steven Spurrier, the stuffy proprietor of a Parisian wine shop who decides to organize a blind tasting of the best French and California wines. To even compare the two country’s wine was heresy in wine circles, truly dramatic stuff. But instead of delving too deeply into the wine world, the film focuses on the motley crew of California wine makers, including Bill Pullman playing the patriarch of Chateau Montelena, his prodigal son played by the shaggy-haired and denim-clad hunk Chris Pine, and the other hippies/farmers/Mexicans who populated the rolling brown hills of Napa Valley. Wine geeks will love the oenological references, like the time when the Chardonnay turned brown and the wine workers drove their beat up pickup truck in the direction of Davis – nudge, nudge, wink, wink: UC Davis, home to one of the world’s most esteemed wine programs!
One of the most memorable scenes takes place in Joe’s, the local bar. A young Mexican-American is about to hustle the patrons in a blind tasting. But one of the local yokels shouts, “Any a**hole can tell a Zinfandel from a Cabernet!” Love that line! Then the young man correctly identifies not only the grapes, but the vintage and producer of three masked wines. Now, I don’t live in California, but this type of down-market bar doesn’t seem like it would have a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc in the back, but it does.
I’m not sure that a better movie couldn’t have been made about this historic event which put California wines on the map and changed the wine world forever. For a more complete telling of the story, I’d read George Taber’s book, Judgment of Paris (Taber was the only journalist who witnessed the actual event.) But like a Tuesday night, poolside wine, this movie satisfied a craving for something enjoyable and not too heavy.