About Sideways...

The movie as a topic has come up - at a Mason's dinner, at a meeting of scouting parents, and in casual conversation with friends who know that I am into wine. To be fair the vast majority of these people are not into wine, though a few are and even less really know what they are talking about, so the number of people I know who... Well... Know - are rare. Of these I can only think of two who have the chops to offer a wine related opinion of the movie that warrants serious consideration; my friends Geofry Glenn and Peter Francis. Geof is an educated wine drinker who likes to walk the less traveled path and find wines that while not on any must have list are nonetheless worthy of appreciation. We are talking small production runs from tiny vineyards where they measure their output in dozens of cases, and not the big boys. But there is joy to be found there sure enough.

Peter on the other hand is a professional chef whose workaday as a rep for a food service company brings him into contact with other chefs on a daily basis. He is wise in the ways of food and wine, and it was Peter that first asked me - have you seen that movie Sideways? You should! He told me I would appreciate the subtle humor and easter-egg like inclusions and he was correct. I enjoyed it very much, even if it was really a buddy slash roadtrip movie and not, as most of the pundits have tried to assert, a movie about wine. But wine was the co-star of the film, no doubt about that. And the often too-much to highly acidic praise and condemnation all too realistically matches the reality of wine in America.

The movie itself speaks to people on different levels, depending upon what you saw in it. It is sort of like one of those strange drawings by M.C. Escher - if you are expecting a roadtrip film that is what you see, whereas if you are expecting a comedy that is what you see. And if you are expecting a glimpse into the world of wine and wine drinking, well, you get to see that too but do not take the movie too seriously because just like in real life the character of the "wine expert" gets some of it wrong.

I am not going to try to tell you what the movie is about - you should tell yourself what it is about after you see it - but I do want to remark upon the fact that the timing of the movie and its release was very good - it hit the theatres at a time in the history of California Wines when there was a bumper crop of red wine and particularly Pinot's. Ask anyone in the wine industry if Sideways helped and you will hear an emphatic "Oh My Lord Yes!"

The sale of reds and Pinot Noir in particular was up up up following the release, and the number guys say that the impact the movie had continued all through 2004 and most of 2005 - and I suspect beyond really because that movie created an entire new generation of wine drinkers. All that from a buddy slash roadtrip movie, imagine that.

Sideways has secured itself a place in pop culture, spawning wine clubs named after it, more than a handful of tours of the Santa Barbara Wine Country named for it, and an entire industry of "featured in the film Sideways" cards to be tacked to the wooden bins of wine in wine stores all over the world. How about that for economic tour-de-force? Still it left me with a more than a few nagging questions that will remain unanswered I am sad to say, like what *is* the best wine to drink with Onion Rings? An important question that keeps me up at night, I assure you.

If you have yet to see the film, go ahead and rent it. I give it Two Thumbs Up for entertainment and a single thumb up as an introduction to California Reds.