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Sep 09

Bottle Shock


A month ago, Bottle Shock opened nationwide – except here. The publicist for the movie contacted me in late July and sent me the Cincinnati locations, which included Dayton, Louisville, and Lexington, but not one Cincinnati theatre.

We were just a little late – again. Bottle Shock did finally open here, at the Esquire on Ludlow. I don’t know how long it will stay at the Esquire, but if you’re curious, go see it soon. If you haven’t been to the Esquire, you might be taken aback by the screen at first. Kevin makes jokes about watching it at home on the same size screen. Slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Theatre aesthetics aside, it’s a sweet movie, complete with happy ending. The movie is loosely based on the story of Chateau Montelena, and their journey to winning the Whites portion of the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976, which helped put California on the wine map, so to speak. The movie stars Bill Pullman as winemaker Jim Barrett and Alan Rickman as organizer Steven Spurrier. The movie has a fantastic ’70s rock soundtrack and feeling.

This is not Sideways. While it might inspire you to hunt down a Chateau Montelena chardonnay or research GustavoThrace winery, it won’t inspire you to find the magic in Pinot Noir or dump out your Merlot. Whereas Sideways showed us the personal journeys of its characters, Bottle Shock sets out to primarily just tell a story. It is a true story, albeit with a Hollywood spin.

It’s interesting to me that they removed Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills), who was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena. I don’t know if he wasn’t interested or if it hindered the story too much. Bill Pullman, as winemaker and owner, however, gives a great performance. When I talk to our local winemakers, I’m often fascinated by how much of grape growing is philosophy as well as science. That comes through in this movie – perhaps it’s more about the poetry of growing grapes than the poetry of drinking the wine. It’s about the victory of making a great wine.

It’s Alan Rickman, however, who steals the show. Doesn’t he always? He’s wonderful as Steven Spurrier, although apparently nothing like the real man. And while I can’t stand his character Gio on Ugly Betty, I loved Freddy Rodriguez as Gustavo Bambilio (GustavoThrace Winery). If you’re going to see Eliza Dushku, she’s only in a couple of scenes.

It’s not the best movie. It rides an uneasy line between drama and comedy at times. There are also a few implied storylines I’d have like to see more of, such as the tension between winemaker and Mexican employee or the further development of Gustavo’s wines. I can’t help but wonder what all ended up on the cutting room floor. Cinematically, it’s beautiful, but I think the rolling hills and straight lines of vineyards are some of the most beautiful places on earth. The scenes with the old trucks driving down the dirt roads in between the rows were just gorgeous. While the narrative occasionally devolves into Wine 101, it will still
primarily appeal to wine geeks. I suspect it might have a more
successful life on DVD.

I’m glad we caught it at a matinee price, and I probably could have waited for DVD. But it was enjoyable and fun.

Two small tidbits:

  • A more factual account of the historic tasting will be portrayed in the
    upcoming movie The Judgment of Paris, which was slightly derailed by
    the writer’s strike and due for release in 2010.  This upcoming film has the blessing and involvement of Steven Spurrier.
  • Chateau Montelena was, ironically, just purchased by the Bordeaux producer Cos d’Estournel.

View the trailer:

Don’t forget to sign up for the wine tasting benefiting the
Krystal Pepper Memorial Scholarship. It’s Sept 11, 6-8 pm at the Party
Source. Pre-registration only. Sign up here. Time is running out!

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Posted by Michelle at 11:36 am in Entertainment | Permalink | Comments (1)

One Response to “Bottle Shock”

  1. Michelle says:

    – The Chateau Montelena sale to Cos d’Estournel was cancelled as of November 2008, two months after this review.
    – If you’re curious, there is a Judgment of Paris write-up on Wikipedia that is much better than you might think.
    – Bottle Shock is now out on DVD. You can pick up a copy here.

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