MOVIE REVIEW - Bottle Shock
The movie Bottle Shock came out this month, and I was eagerly waiting to see it. This is a retelling of the "Judgment of Paris," and is partially based on a book by George Taber about a blind tasting organized by British wine shop owner Steven Spurrier. Let there be no mistake, the movie is really more about entertainment than it is about revealing factual history of the tasting, and the events leading up to it. Nevertheless, the tasting and the book gave impetus to the California wine movement, and perhaps the movie will continue to do the same.
The movie portrays Steven Spurrier's (Alan Rickman) 1976 promotion of a blind tasting of both French and American wines to French judges. The whole thing was to be a stunt of sorts - something to celebrate America's Bicentennial, but more properly to garner some attention for Spurrier's Paris wine shop and his Académie du Vin.
Concentrating on finding some credible American wines to place in the tasting, Spurrier travels to California, meets Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), where the story gets hijacked into The Chateau Montelena Story - The Early Years. Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's just that the film focuses more attention on the Barretts, when there is a much larger story to tell. What story, you might ask. Well, there was a well-known beret-wearing individual lurking (literally and figuratively) in the shadows during a few scenes. As I recall, Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Montelena at this time, yet he is not even mentioned in the film. Also, lest we forget the "Judgement" also made a star of Warren Winiarski, who won the red wine portion of the contest with his Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet.
I could go on with what I thought were missing or forgotten elements, but I must be mindful that the purpose of the move was drama...and entertainment. So I say, see it. There are enough wine geek-related moments and terms, bottle label sightings, and gorgeous vineyard landscapes to cover the price of admission. Also, revel in the idea that the movie is a throwback to a time when wines from California, Australia and the rest of the New World were given short shrift, especially by Francophiles. As Mel Brooks' character in History of the World said, "It's good to be King."
BOOK REVIEW - The Wine Trails
- "Hide the label, and the truth comes out."
- "Find out which $10 Portugese Vinho Verde, $12 Washington State Brut, and $10 Greek Muscat beat out wines ten times their price."
- "Learn how your brain can be fooled by expectations, and how blind tasting can open your eyes."
Now, you have to admit the assertion that wine pricing bears little relation to quality is not a new concept. One could say the same thing about clothes, cars, jewelry and any number of "luxury goods," yet we don't seem to question whether we're getting our money's worth. So, if a book came along that telling you that price was no guarantee of quality in a wine, would you care?
Well, a book like that has come along (I'm sure there have been others), and they seem to have gone to great lengths to substantiate their findings. It is fairly convincing documentation, I might add, with 500+ tasters, a few dozen scientific and academic types, and more than a few editors and contributors.
However, it really can't surprise anyone to hear that we are highly influenced by packaging. And of course it is quite tough to quantify something as subjective as taste and smell. So, maybe we are making buying decisions on an emotional level instead of letting our senses take over. No? Then why do we persist in buying wines based on the winemaker's reputation, the appellation, or the cute label rather than purely on taste? Oh sure, we do buy many wines on taste - but by no means all of them.
I find books such as this instructive and even a bit entertaining. It's like leafing through People magazine. There are actually some pieces of info in there that cause you to reflect, "oh, I didn't know that." All of that said, there is something here to ferret out. Value wines. And, right now, that's exactly where I live.
Author: Robin Goldstein
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Fearless Critic Media (May 1, 2008)
ROAD TRIP - Visits to Some Central Coast Wineries
Grape-Nutz headed north to the Central Coast to make some winery visits in the Santa Barbara County. Photos and tasting notes should be up in about 3-4 weeks (here's a link), so check back here for a link, or check out the "What's New" page.