Movie synopsis: France’s position as the world’s top wine producer went unchallenged until 1976, when the Montelena Winery put California wines on the map—a story delightfully told in this full-bodied tale about the heady early days of Napa Valley’s success. Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, and Freddy Rodriguez star as the dreamers—and drinkers—who dared to challenge the establishment, with Alan Rickman hitting just the right note as a toffee-nosed sommelier. Eliza Dushku, Rachael Taylor, and Dennis Farina round out the cast.
Set in 1976, the movie dealt with the newly-created blind-tasting duel between French and just-emerged (at least, on the world stage) California wines. I was personally thrilled to see that the real-life winner of the red-wine duel was Stag’s Leap, one of the Big California Vineyards that caused me to fall in love with wine with their 1980 vintages of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chateau Montelena won the white competition that year with their Chardonnay, and they are still around. (For our anniversary this August, we enjoyed a $25 bottle of Montelena Zinfandel that was just wonderful.)
The title, “bottle shock,” addresses the challenges faced by a bottle of wine traveling a long distance, typically by plane, beset with changes of climate, altitude, pressure, temperature, and many other variables including those of which we are surely unaware. The “resting” time of a shipped wine is, ideally, a month. This factoid introduces a bit of a Whodunit quality into the film, and that is all I will say. I hope you will rent the film and comment here on how wonderful it is!
Here’s a link to the Napa Valley winery still being operated by Gustavo Brambila, the winemaker who was portrayed by Freddy Rodriguez: http://gustavothrace.com/a