Where’s Francis Ford Coppola When You Need Him?

I sat down in front of my big screen TV a couple mornings ago around 5:00am to watch “Wine Country”, the new Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph movie set in, yes, Wine Country. Having lived in that country for the past 30 years, I had an interest.

When the carafe of coffee was empty and the film ended I couldn’t stop thinking, “I wonder what a film about ‘Wine Country’ would be like?”

Granted, agriculture hans’t exactly been a topic that has lit up the silver screen and put butts in the seats over past many decades. And fermentation is about as exciting as watching…well…fermentation. And it’s true that rows and rows of vines can become the very definition of redundant.

It’s not like there aren’t good “wine country” stories to be told. “Bottle Shock” is literally the only real, American “wine country” story I’ve ever seen depicted on film (if anyone brings up Keanu Reeves I’ll barf on my keyboard…And “Sideways” wasn’t a story about Wine Country so let’s not have that discussion). It’s hardly the only one.

There are plenty of good stories about underdogs and Average Joes made good in wine country. Then there is the story of John Caldwell smuggling vines into the country with the eating of receipts from the feds and pulling the old vine-switchero when the authorities came for him and all. That would be a lot of fun.

What about a simple murder mystery in wine country that also depicts the culture of Napa or Sonoma in, say, the 1960s or 70s? I’d take that. The key is to wrap the plot around an honest exploration of wine country.

I don’t think Ms. Poehler’s new “Wine Country” is going to do that well. It’s a legitimate chick flick that is moderately entertaining so it will have some audience. However, it could have been filmed in just about any vineyard region. The film wasn’t really about any remotely approximating Napa, despite reportedly being filmed in Napa Valley. To be fair, though, no one involved in the making of this film claimed it would be about wine country.

The point is that It would have been nice if the film were a real “hit” if only because it may have inspired someone to write and produce a film about wine country. Where’s Francis Ford Coppola when you need him? Probably went and moved to Oregon.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


22 Responses

  1. Jim Bernau - May 13, 2019

    Yes, Oregon!

  2. Jon Bjork - May 14, 2019

    Oh great. Now I have to clean up the barf on my laptop because you mentioned Keanu. 🙂

  3. Morrie Berez - May 14, 2019

    I totally agree…..to date “Bottle Shock” is the only and still best film about “Wine Country”…but also, what are the chances of ever seeing another “Alan Rickman” carrying a film set in and about “Wine Country.” I’m with you on Keanu and his phony “Walk in the Clouds” barforama….but yes, a Coppola made drama (or comedy) set in and about “wine country” would be great…but like Jim, it would be great to see it set in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine region…..

  4. Paul O Franson - May 14, 2019

    “This Earth is Mine,” a potboiler starring Rock Hudson as a womanizing scion of a wine family caught in prohibition, Jean Simmons and many other stars, is definitely about wine country. It contains many recognizable scenes around Napa Valley. Last time I checked, it wasn’t available in a US version from a legal source.

    “They Knew What They Wanted” with Charles Laughton, was the inspiration for “The Most Happy Fella,” a downbeat, almost operatic, is musical never made into a movie. It’s set in Napa Valley. I’ve tried to get it staged for two decades but musicals are expensive and it is a bit depressing.

  5. Tom Wark - May 14, 2019


    Good call on “This Earth Is Mine”. Too bad it isn’t available. But it’s on my list nonetheless.

  6. Clark Smith - May 14, 2019

    It’s a shame that we’ve done such a poor job of communicating to wine lovers the motivations that drive us. Among the thousands of wine industry professionals I know, I can’t name a single one who is in it for the money, nor to enable strangers to party and cop a pleasant buzz.

    See my further reflections on the situation at http://www.postmodernwinemaking.com/wine-country-movie-really

  7. Paul Wagner - May 14, 2019

    You may have missed the point of this movie. It isn’t about wine country, any more than To Kill a Mockingbird is about hunting birds, or Chinatown is about an ethnic community.

  8. Ray - May 14, 2019

    Bottle Shock might have been more palatable had they not substituted Bo Barrett in Mike Grgich’s real life role as winemaker. But, then, is was not supposed to be a documentary. Or was it?

  9. Tom Wark - May 14, 2019


    I got the point of the movie. However, were it up to me (thank God it wasn’t), I would have have gone with “Whine Country”.

  10. Samantha Dugan - May 14, 2019

    I went in knowing it was not going to be a film focused on wine but with some hope it would be somewhat chuckle inducing, considering the cast, (not to mention as someone that works wine retail, there is a LOT to make the funnies of when it comes to the general public and wine) but what a steaming pile of wasted time that was. Ugh. Horrid and I think I chuckled more in The Elephant Man for fucks sake. Last great wine film I saw was Grand Cru but that might because I love Burgundy and that domaine specifically. Might want to check it out.

  11. Mark reinheimer - May 14, 2019

    Bottle Shock good but fictionalized. Sideways was amazing not sure what all you Wine geeks have against it. Unlike “wine country” sideways actually educated about wine and showed some great wineries. “Wine Country” is not a wine movie at all. Chick flick buddy movie where that drank some nonedscript wines. Could have replaced the wine with bud cans and it would be the same movie. Will do nothing to promote Napa or Calistoga nor appreciation of our Napa wines.

  12. Bob Henry - May 15, 2019

    ” ‘Bottle Shock’ is literally the only real, American “wine country” story I’ve ever seen depicted on film . . .”

    How “real” is the movie?

    See this Decanter magazine article (2007):

    “Spurrier threatens action against rival Judgement of Paris film”

    URL: https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/spurrier-threatens-action-against-rival-judgement-of-paris-film-88365/


    “Two films of the Decanter consultant editor’s legendary 1976 Paris Tasting – when American wines trounced the French in a blind tasting – are being made. The first, the ‘official’ version, is sanctioned by Spurrier himself, and George Taber, who wrote the definitive version of the events 30 years ago.

    “The second, being filmed at Chateau Montelena in Napa, and produced by film company IPW, is called Bottle Shock. It stars Alan Rickman as Spurrier, and Danny DeVito as Mike Grgich, one of the seminal figures in California wine history.

    “Spurrier has written to the producers of this film to say they will receive no cooperation from him or from anyone associated with wine shop Les Caves de la Madeleine and L’Academie du Vin, the businesses he was running at the time of the Paris Tasting.

    “Spurrier is outraged that he is being portrayed as ‘an impossibly effete snob’. Having read the script he finds the portrayal of his character ‘deeply insulting,’ he said.

    “Liz Fowler of Clear Pictures Entertainment, the producers of the Judgement of Paris, said the rival film ‘is a gross misrepresentation of both himself and the historical accuracy of the event now known as the Judgement of Paris.’

    “Spurrier said, ‘There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many, many pure inventions as far as I am concerned.’

    “Fowler told decanter.com, ‘There are episodes that are completely fictional. Steven Spurrier is portrayed as masterminding the event but there was none of that involved. They fully expected the French to win.’

    “Spurrier’s letter to IPW warns, ‘Be advised that we will not tolerate any such tortious misrepresentations or invasions of privacy. Any unlawful use of my name or other property will lead to the vigorous pursuit of all available remedies in connection therewith.’

  13. Bob Henry - May 15, 2019

    See this 2010 interview with Steven Spurrier after the movie “Bottle Shock” was released:

    ” ‘Bottleshock – The True Story’ OR ‘How Hollywood Botched the “Judgment of Paris” Wine Story’ ”

    URL: http://www.connoisseur-magazine.com/2010/09/16/interview-with-steven-spurrier-consultant-editor-decanter-magazine-2/

  14. Russell G - May 15, 2019

    Check out Mondovino, a documentary about the globalization of the wine industry. Ironically, it portrays Robert Mondavi as a one of the “Masters of the Universe”; but when the film was released, Mondavi was in the process of being taken over by Constellation, an even larger company.

    BTW, I think the the term “Chick Flick” is due for retirement.

    Cheers from the Dundee Hills!

  15. Richard - May 15, 2019

    I still think “Sideways” was one big tongue-in-cheek joke about Miles being ignorant about the provenance of his beloved Chateau Cheval Blanc… And c’mon! “A Walk in the Clouds’ was cute!

  16. Helene - May 15, 2019

    Well, I know it isn’t exactly a Wine Country film, but A Good Year with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard (chick-flic, but Provencal, alors) is not too bad, as I said in my review for The Guardian.

    …and if you ever really, really want the best description of Biodynamie, then you could do far worse than the film that won the top award at the Festival Oeno-Video about 10 years ago-La Clef des Terroirs. For non-French-speakers, there is a version with English subtitles.

  17. Bob Henry - May 15, 2019

    It’s been a while since I viewed “This Earth Is Mine” on Turner Classic Movies.

    Click on the link to read the full synopsis:


  18. Tom Farella - May 15, 2019

    Has anyone seen the French film “You Will Be My Son?” I watched it a few years ago and there’s lots of plot flaws but some amazingly accurate wine story in the mix

  19. Michael Donohue - May 16, 2019

    I was somewhat dismayed at the portrayal of the” wine pros”(tour guides, somms) who came off generally as real shit heads. Is this deserved?

  20. Mike Barrea - May 19, 2019

    Russell G’s recommendation to watch Mondovino will open your eyes. The romantic “wine country” theme is merely the backdrop. You get to see beautiful/graceful Bolgheri as you learn about Mondavi and the rest of the Captains of Industry behind big time wines like Ornellai.

  21. Bob Henry - May 19, 2019

    From The New York Times Online
    (March 16, 2005):

    “Shake Wine, and Look What’s Stirred Up” [Mondovino movie]

    URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/16/dining/shake-wine-and-look-whats-stirred-up.html

    By Eric Asimov
    “The Pour” Wine Column

Leave a Reply