I left the movie theater after watching "Bottle Shock" very disoriented.
The movie, loosely based on the 1976 Paris wine tasting that pitted California wines against French wines and that put California wines on the map, provided me with a movie-going experience that I’d never had before.
I’ve never watched a film where people I know and people I’ve met were portrayed. But in addition, I’ve never watched a film where the locations used were intimately familiar to me; places I walk past and into on a regular bases and places I’ve spent a great amount of time.
I’ve seen films that brought to the screen characters I felt close too or felt I knew very well. But those characters usually were familiar to me from the reading of the book first. And though it’s always fun to look at a film and think, "oh, I’ve been there," it’s altogether different to watch the tavern scenes in "Bottle Shock" and think, "Lord, how much time have I spent on that very same bar stool at that very same bar where actors portraying people I know are sitting?"
The whole experience makes me rather incapable of deciding if "Bottle Shock" was a good movie or not. I certainly enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it tremendously. I do know this: it is a far more authentic "wine movie" than "Sideways, with just enough romantic stereotypes to provide a backdrop, but not going overboard.
The one thing that was on my mind before walking in to see the film was whether or not we had on our hands another film, like "Sideways", that would boost sales of wine; really give the wine industry or a type of wine or a category of wine a boost in sales. I’m somewhat bummed to say we absolutely do not have a film that will lead to any kind of bump in sales a la "Sideways".
When we see a move that inspires us in some way, it’s natural to want to internalize, act out or re-experience the themes of the movie that inspired us all over again. For those inspired by "Sideways" and wanting to reconnect with the themes and characters, all that was necessary was to go to to a local bottle shock and pick up Pinot Noir or go to wine country and experience the satisfaction of appreciating and discovering the beauty of wine. And "Sideways" did inspire many to take this walk to the bottle shop or go to wine country. And sales of Pinot Noir saw a tremendous boost as a result.
In order to re-experience the inspiration of "Bottle Shock" one must go out and buy a vineyard or winery or wine store.
The movie examines the ambitions of people in different parts of the wine industry: the winery family, the young winemaker, the young wine loving merchant seeking to climb higher in his industry and in the minds of his peers. While the film’s story might indeed inspire and delight, it’s not going to lead viewers to take much action for the simple reason that that they can’t. Vineyards and wine stores cost more than a bottle of Pinot Noir or a trip to wine country.
Alas, no bump in sales.
Chateau Montelena and Gustave Thrace Winery are the big winners in this film. Montelena is the featured winery in the movie. And a wonderful character in the film, probably my favorite, was Gustavo Brambila, portrayed by Freddie Rodriguez. Gustavo worked at Chateau Montelena for a short time, went on to make wine for many years in Napa Valley at Grgich Hills before opening his own winery, "Gustavo Thrace", in 1996. Gustavo’s winery is prominently mentioned at the end of the film, before the credits, where the fall out of the Paris Tasting is described and the lives of the characters are brought up to date.
If any general category of wines benefits from "Bottle Shock" it will be those of Napa Valley, which are portrayed correctly as world class. However, anyone inclined to investigate the worlds best wines will eventually get around to Napa Valley anyway and won’t need to be prodded into it.