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Based on a true story; Bottle Shock chronicles the events leading up to the famous Paris Tastings of 1976; wherein Napa wines bested the exalted French wines in a blind tasting and put California wines on the map for good. The story is told through the lives of father and son; Jim (Pullman) and Bo Barrett (Pine); who founded Chateau Montelena in the early 1970s and whose Chardonnay went on to win what was eventually coined "Judgment of Paris." Jim Barrett; who had been a successful real estate attorney previously; is emblematic of the California vintners' spirit mavericks who had come to Napa on a quest to make world class wines. Bottle Shock is many things: the story of Steve Spurrier (Rickman); an unwitting British wine shop owner in Paris whose publicity stunt set the stage for a paradigm shift in the wine world; a father and son story as Jim and Bo overcome their differences to save Chateau Montelena from creditors and what they think is an entirely ruined vintage; a romance between a young beautiful university student (Taylor) who came to learn the wine business first hand and wound up falling in love with a vintner's son who was just coming of age; and finally; the story of a young Hispanic vintner (Rodriguez) just branching out on his own. Against the backdrop of the turbulent 70's and in the shadow of the French who had dominated the world's viticulture and viniculture for centuries; these "hicks from the sticks" rose up for California; for America; for wine. And the world of wine was never the same.
"Bottle shock" describes what can happen to wine as it travels from place to place. Set in 1976, Randall Miller's widescreen docudrama concerns the real-life showdown between California's wineries and their French counterparts. Napa Valley's Jim Barrett (Lost Highway's Bill Pullman) has been plugging away for years with minimal success. A former attorney, Barrett runs Chateau Montelena with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine, the Star Trek prequel's Captain Kirk), who would rather do anything than assist his stern father. Bo's co-workers include Gustavo (Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodríguez) and Sam (Transformers' Rachael Taylor), who long to produce the perfect chardonnay. Naturally, the young men compete for the favors of the beautiful blonde (the movie's least interesting angle). Across the Atlantic, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) struggles to keep his Parisian wine shop going (cheapskate American Dennis Farina is his only regular customer). Then Spurrier conceives a contest to attract customers; surely, his beloved French growers will put those upstart Yanks in their place. He flies to Napa to look around, and persuades the Barretts to compete. Miller and his wife, screenwriter Jody Savin, previously worked with Pullman and Rickman on Nobel Son, but decided to release Bottle Shock first. Though comparisons to Sideways will be inevitable, the filmmakers take more of a historical look at California wine country. The "Judgment of Paris" changed the face of the business forever, and they've found a lively way to recount the tale. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Beyond Bottle Shock
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Stills from Bottle Shock (Click for larger image)
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Top customer reviews
One of my favorite things about this movie as that no one tries to be the hero of the story, or more jarring, the main star. It's an ensemble, and everyone shines wonderfully in their own way.
The story, of course, is based on a real event that Americans will love and the French, I'm sure, don't like to be reminded of. There are artistic licenses taken, but they fit in so well and bring so much to the story that otherwise wouldn't be seen that you might not only be forgiving of them, but truly appreciate them and be glad that they are there. The boxing ring is the most prominent one that springs to mind. I LOVED it as an allegory for the relationship of father and son- and even Bo Barret himself (the real man the character was based on) indicates that it is an incredibly appropriate representation of his relationship with his father.
I Loved this- so much that I watched it twice the day that I received it in the mail. I liked it better than that other California wine move that sparked merlot craze, but then, I'm slightly quirky. That being said, I think that you'll love it, too. Very much worth the addition to your video library.
The cast here is top notch with Alan Rickman at his snarky, funny best and solid performances by Bill Pullman and a hardly recognizable Chris Pine. The cinematography and feel of the film captures both the earnestness and Wild West atmosphere of the American Wine scene at the time and pays homage to both the leaders and laborers while also incorporating a sly, self aware sense of humor. This self awareness may be it's top strength and the laughs are smart, human and always completely in character.
So saying all this why did I give it 4 instead of 5? Because of a personal gripe about adjusting time frames and leaving out key individuals when basing a movie on real events. Look, I know moviemaking is a product of a lot of influences, including ensuring flow and story coherence so as not to lose the audience. But including Gustavo Brambilo instead of the real wine maker, Croatian born Mike Grgich adds a cloudiness to the real story that I didn't feel was necessary. Not that Brambilo is not a gifted wine maker in his own right, but it would have been nice to throw some kudos in Grgich's direction, though I'm betting the commercial and critical success of his own "Grgich Hills" Winery precluded that.
So, rent this and enjoy it over a good bottle of wine and here is to the hope that it might encourage you to try the wonderful diverse world of wines from California, France and all points in between.
Most recent customer reviews
Bill Pullman's acting was a little over the top and the lead actors 1970's wig was a tad bit distracting but overall not...Read more