Monday, September 28, 2009

Most Napa wineries say no to Japanese "Sideways"

Just got back from the world premiere of the Japanese remake of "Sideways." It's after midnight so I will write a long, drawn out, descriptive yet opinionated post -- tomorrow.

Director Cellin Gluck and actress Rinko Kikuchi (far right) took questions after the film, which was shown outdoors at the Napa Valley Expo. Though nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for "Babel," Kikuchi doesn't really speak English, so Gluck gave all the answers.

To me, the most interesting came when he was asked how they chose which wineries to shoot at. Frog's Leap, Darioush and Beringer are shown prominently in the film, but few other wineries are.

It turns out that most of Napa Valley still holds a grudge against the original "Sideways" for that one line of Miles', "I'm not drinking any fucking Merlot."

"We had many people hang up on us," Gluck said. "We tried to tell them that the script was different, but they weren't listening. We actually drove up to a vineyard where we had a shoot scheduled and we were at the gate and they said, 'Why are you here again?' We said, 'We're making the Japanese version of 'Sideways'.' We just stared at the gate and it didn't open."

In the Japanese version, while the Miles character (now "Michio") likes Pinot Noir and Maya (now "Mayuko") likes Cabernet, neither is as passionate about it as in the original, and nobody slams Merlot. At one point, we hear a Merlot described favorably in a tasting room. But this wasn't enough for most Napa vintners.

"The famous wineries didn't want anything to do with us," Gluck said. "Some wineries asked us to pay them $20,000 location fees to shoot for the day. We cost 1/5th as much to make as the original 'Sideways.' We don't have the money to pay location fees. So the people who welcomed us in, we went to."

Mayuko works at Frog's Leap, and we see more of Frog's Leap than any other winery. That's no coincidence: owner/winemaker John Williams was "the first winery owner to welcome us," Gluck said. "I can't give you the list of people who turned us away. But I hope they watch this film and say, 'Damn'."

Here's a brief note to the people on this unwritten list before I sleep: Are you out of your bloody minds? Don't you know how many bottles of wine were sold by the first "Sideways"? Don't you know that Calera can sell as many bottles of its Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir in Japan as it can export over there, for better prices than it fetches here, because of a single mention several years ago in a Japanese manga?

Don't you want Japanese tourists? They're polite, they spend money and they're brand loyal.

I guess with the booming economy, and Napa Valley wines flying off the shelves, getting a little free publicity in another country just isn't important. Isn't it great to be living in such times!

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