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Wine and the movies

by George Balling
| June 9, 2010 9:00 PM

Some of our favorite evenings are spent not only enjoying a great bottle of wine over dinner but also watching one of the handful of movies that are focused on wine, wineries, and vineyards. As the enjoyment and popularity of wine has grown recently in the States, most of the movies about the industry are recent productions. Here are some of our favorites.

"Sideways" is by far the best known wine movie, due in part to its multiple Academy Award nominations and also the stunning cinematography of the area around Santa Barbara, Calif. While the movie is a little dark and edgy at times as it deals with some pretty dysfunctional relationship issues, there are also some pretty funny parts too.

The offhand reference regarding the undesirability of Merlot certainly was impactful to Merlot sales and, in our opinion, unfortunate. You can't beat the movie though for getting you hooked on visiting the Santa Barbara area and doing some serious wine tasting.

"A Good Year" is one of our absolutely favorite films with a blockbuster cast starring Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard and Sir Albert Finney, all Academy Award winners. The film is an adaptation of the book by Peter Mayle who also wrote "A Year in Provence," and "Toujour Provence" among others focusing on life in this great wine region of Southern France.

Crowe plays the estranged nephew of Finney who inherits his vineyard and winery in the town of Gourde in Southern France when Finney dies. The scenery is stunning, the wine references authentic and educational, the acting great and the story light hearted but not without meaning. In many ways a very touching, and inspirational film, that also has a great sound track. Stop by your favorite wine shop, pick up a bottle of Provenal wine, set out a platter of dried meats, cheeses and olives, and pop the film in the DVD player - you will have a blast.

"French Kiss" with Meg Ryan and Kevin Klein is somewhat thin on its wine references as it is more of a romantic comedy focused on Ryan trying to win back her fiance played by Timothy Hutton. The backdrop though is nothing short of spectacular. The secondary story is of Klein who plays a recalcitrant heir to a rundown piece of vineyard land that he is committed to returning to its past glory by hook or by crook, well mostly by crook. While a bit of a lightweight, it is still an enjoyable film with beautiful vineyard scenes.

"Bottle Shock" was recommended to us by one of our customers. Starring Alan Rickman, the German born stage actor who has appeared in other films like Die Hard, the film focuses on the 1976 tasting in France pitting some of the new up and comers from the embryonic wine industry in Napa against some of the biggest and storied names in the French Wine industry.

The tasting was of great historical import as many of the Napa wines including those from Chateau Montelena, Grgich and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars did win the blind tasting and permanently and firmly established the California and larger U.S. wine industry as a force in the global market. Here in the US it also set some quite celebrated careers on their way like Holly Barrett, who decades later went on to produce Screaming Eagle Cabernet - one of the most sought after cult wines produced in Napa.

The Stag's Leap Wine Cellars production from Warren Winarski remains some of the most sought after wines that won the competition. Their SLV designate bottling comes from the original block of vineyards that produced the grapes in the award winning production and remains incredibly popular.

The film does play a little fast and loose with some geographical references as it shows scenes of Sonoma County while calling them Napa, but those can be overlooked for the stunning scenery and portrayal of true passion that drives so many of us who work to build a wine related business. Bill Pullman does a fabulous job playing the winemaker at Chateau Montelena. The casting of Dennis Farina as Rickman's side kick is quirky but funny as can be.

Whether you choose to rent these movies on your own or throw a wine party with a larger group, many of the wines referred to are still available and it makes for a great evening watching the film and drinking the featured wines.

If there is a topic you would like to read about or questions on wine you can e-mail George@thedinnerpartyshop.com or make suggestions by contacting the Healthy Community section at the Coeur d'Alene Press.

George Balling is co-owner with his wife Mary Lancaster of the dinner party a wine and table top decor shop in Coeur d'Alene. www.thedinnerpartyshop.com.

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