When it comes to selecting a genre of movie to watch at home or at a movie theater, do you choose comedy, drama, horror, musical or documentary? During these brutal Winter days of cold, snow and Polar Vortex, I have created my own Celluloid Cineplex and decided to focus on films where the main theme is about wine. When it comes to films about wine, who can name more than a few besides the 2004 hit “Sideways”? Well you can uncork that %#@*&^% Merlot because I am going to introduce you to a library full of features you may never knew existed about the subject of vino.
Movies take you to a magical place that you seem to remember for a lifetime. Classics like The Godfather, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Animal House and so many countless others that bring back great memories, so much so that you can even remember the dialogue; I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse…… Follow the Yellow Brick Road…… Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn…… Play it again Sam…… Food Fight!!!
Wine is the same way. It can also take you back to magical places, like enjoying a fabulous meal at your favorite restaurant, a winery you may have visited somewhere in wine country, a vineyard you wandered through somewhere around the world, even the champagne toast you shared with family and friends at your wedding or on New Year’s Eve. Opening a great bottle of wine always triggers one of these treasured memories.
If we combine the two, wine & movies, all we need to do is poke out that pinkie and gives 2 thumbs up for one enjoyable experience. I remember going to the theater when Sideways was first released and never have I ever craved for a glass of wine to be in my hand during the first few scenes of the movie. As they drove through the winding back roads of the Santa Rita Hills, passing by vineyards and wineries in the rolling hills, visions of the same scenario I had the pleasure of doing so many times before. Their stops and tastings at so many of my favorite haunts was pure torture. Oh, the jonesing seemed endless. I swore to myself right then and there that this would never happen again.
Fast forward a few more years when the film Bottle Shock was released. This time, with friends, we loaded up our wives purses with a bottle of Calera Viognier, a Sanford Pinot Noir (odd that remember the exact wines) plus a few glasses and a cork screw and headed off to the theatre. As we settled into the near empty movie house, bottles were uncorked and we were ready for the film to roll. I cannot begin to explain how wonderful an experience we all had, enjoying the movie, savoring every sip of our beverages, all until that quiet moment during one famous wine scene. It was then my friend accidentally kicked over one of the empty bottles that was at his feet and it began rolling downward through all the rows of seats, and quite loudly to boot. We couldn’t help but laugh all the way to the bottles final “clink” as that precious moment will always be associated with that movie.
As you settle in to watch one of these wine movies, which are available on Netflix or one of your favorite movie channels, have a little fun in the process by pairing a wine along with said cinema. Besides the obvious choice for “A Year in Champagne” or “A Year in Burgundy”, opening a Pinot Noir during Sideways, a Chardonnay for Bottle Shock, or a Chianti for A Walk in the Clouds can enhance your viewing pleasure.
Besides the movie genre, which entertains, don’t forget the many great documentaries which educate as well as entertain. As far as the television medium goes, the only show I can remember having wine as a focal point was when the brothers Frazier and Niles Crane would debate the virtues of their current wine darling on the show “Frazier”. Also, currently in production and soon to be released is the film “The Billionaires Vinegar” starring Matthew McConaughey, the story about German wine collector Hardy Rodenstock and the authenticity of his 1787 Thomas Jefferson wines that he sold to Christopher Forbes and others for mega thousands of dollars as being fakes.
There are many Foreign Language films also available which were too numerous to list. But one series I can highly recommend, which can be found on youtube, is the BBC series “Oz and James Big Wine Adventure” featuring British wine writer Oz Clarke and his sidekick novice James May. The first series consists of 5 episodes as they journey through the wine country of France. The second series, consisting of 8 episodes, follows their trek through California wine country from Venice Beach to Napa Valley. The 1/2 hour shows are both funny and educational as they taste with famous winemakers and sample many wines you may already be familiar with or have tasted at one time or another.
It is now time for us to draw back the curtains, select the movie or documentary of your choosing, grab your favorite bottle of wine and accompanying snacks, sit back, relax and be your own critic to these Thumbs Up choices.
Bottle Shock (2008)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
Year of the Comet (1992)
A Walk in the Clouds (1995)
A Heavenly Vintage (2009)
Somm – Into the Bottle (2015)
Red Obsession (2013)
Fine Gold (1989)
Wine for the Confused (2004)
A Year in Burgundy (2013)
A Year in Champagne (2014)
A Year in Port (2015)
Blood Into Wine (2010)
Sour Grapes (2016)
American Wine Story (2014)