Monday, December 6, 2010

Top wine movies on DVD

Wine generally doesn't play well on the big screen. It's OK as a prop, but screenwriters tend to get humorless about wine in a way that they don't about bourbon.

A few years ago I did an irreverent list of my top 10 wine movies. For those, I chose any films I could get my hands on, and watched several on bootleg VHS tapes I bought on the Internet.

With Christmas coming up, I thought I'd update and pare the list to enjoyable wine movies you can buy on Amazon.

The great thing about these is that, unlike wine, you can cheaply and easily ship them to your friends. Or, if you haven't seen any of these, order one for yourself, pour yourself a glass of righteous red, and have a home movie night.

Bottle Shock (2009)

This movie about Americans winning the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 isn't historically accurate -- Jim and Bo Barrett did not solve their discussions in a boxing ring -- but it is fun, and it captures a rural Napa Valley that we'll never see again. (How? By being shot in still-rural parts of Sonoma County). Plus, I can't believe how cheap the DVD is.

Sideways (2005)
The movie that ruined Pinot Noir. Before this intelligent film about men behaving badly, Pinot was the wine of geeks like the character Miles. Now, everybody wants to drink "Pinot Noir;" they just don't want that light-bodied stuff. I got a $75 Pinot the other day that is 15.8% alcohol, and this movie is to blame. It's still fun, though, and a great look at Santa Barbara wine country.

French Kiss (2003)
A romantic comedy that holds up after multiple viewings. Meg Ryan plays a repressed American who flies to Paris to pursue the man who broke off their engagement and soon finds herself stranded. Naturally she runs into Kevin Kline, who owns a vineyard. I love this exchange:
Ryan: "A bold wine with a hint of sophistication and lacking in pretension. (Pause.) Actually I was just talking about myself."
Kline: "You are not wrong. Wine is like people. The wine takes all the influences in life all around it, it absorbs them and it gets its personality."
Apparently the single-movie DVD is out of print, but that's a great price on a 2-film package with a movie I haven't seen.

Gigi (1958)
Yesterday's 9-Oscar-winning musical is today's pedophilia: this is about a rich Parisian considering hiring a 15-year-old to be his mistress. Fortunately, Leslie Caron was actually 26. And I love the musical number, "The Night They Invented Champagne." And check it out -- it's old enough that you can get it as part of a 4-movie package for less than $15 with another great wine movie, Casablanca. Here's looking at your Christmas present, kid.

Notorious (1946)
Speaking of perversity and Champagne; the highlight of this Alfred Hitchcock film is a tense scene where guests drinking bubbly too rapidly at a party might lead to Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman being killed by Nazis. Not only that, Nazi-hater Hitchcock actually shows some sympathy for the devils. One of Hitchcock's best films; still suspenseful today.

The Parent Trap (1998)
In Lindsay Lohan's film debut, she plays twins separated at birth. One was raised in Napa Valley at Staglin Family Vineyards (under an assumed name), and she learns to judge everything by its aroma -- even her grandpa. Charming kids' flick that's not all that accurate about wine, but does have great exteriors. The rare wine movie that's for the whole family.


1WineDude said...

According to my friends at Chateau Montelena, "Bottle Shock" is historically accurate in that there are people named Jim and Bo Barrett. Otherwise... not so much! :-)

W. Blake Gray said...

Hey Joe, Mike Grgich vehemently disputes the central plot point in the film; Grgich insists the winning Chardonnay never turned brown. He doesn't seem to mind not being in the film, but he considers the film an insult to his winemaking.

There are plenty of historical flaws in the film. But it's fun to watch. I'd rather see that than a snoozer like, for example, "Walk in the Clouds."

1WineDude said...

Funny, I'd heard that there was some browning but that the situation in possibly selling the wine didn't come down to a last-minute / back-of-the-truck kind of thing.

Totally agree it beats the snoozers.

rhit said...

"Bottle Shock" should indeed be on the list, if for no other reason than its recency. But man, that was not a good movie.

W. Blake Gray said...

Joe: Jim Barrett tells one story, Mike Grgich tells another. This has been going on for more than 30 years and Jim Barrett refuses to go to events if Grgich is invited.

I wish I was a good enough peacemaker to get them to bury the hatchet before they die, but I'm not. said...

Don't forget "A Good Year" with Russell Crowe filmed at Chateau La Canorgue - organic vineyard in Luberon!

W. Blake Gray said...

I didn't forget it. Russell Crowe really got on my nerves in that movie. He made Miles from "Sideways" look like a nice guy.

caparksrt said...

Thanks for this post--I enjoy your writing! Just wanted to put in a plug for "Mondovino". It isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it is a documentary, but I loved it. I've given several copies to wine-loving friends.

Anonymous said...

Mondovino is entertainment but has little to no connection to reality. Even the English translations were slanted. I agree that it has to be on a list but too many people think its the gospel...serves better as conspiracy theory going amuck in the vineyards of southern France.

Santa Barbara Wine Tours said...

Great list of movies. My favorite on the list is Sideways. One thing though, I don't think you can blame today's the over-alcoholic Pinots on Miles. There's a certain wine critic (whom I won't mention by name, but he's the senior editor of the Wine Spectator) who should shoulder more of the blame for that.

At any rate, there are lots of great Pinots being produced in Santa Barbara county now. One winery I recommend for lovers of traditional Pinots is Au Bon Climat.

Anonymous said...

French Kiss (1995)
not 2003

*Parent Trap (Seriously?)

Check Out other Good Wine Films:
A Good Year 2006
Year of the Comet 1992
The Secret of Santa Vittoria 1969
This Earth is Mine 1959

W. Blake Gray said...

I love "This Earth is Mine," but to my knowledge it's not yet available on Region 1 DVD.