Movie Review: “Bottle Shock”
Alan Rickman in “Bottle Shock”
“Bottle Shock,” the true story of Napa Valley vintner Chateau Montelena’s victory over French wines in the 1976 Judgment in Paris competition, could be the oenophile equivalent to sports underdog movies, but this rich story’s earthy charms result in something far more full-bodied.
Lawyer Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) bought Chateau Montelena in 1972, a time when the quality of Napa Valley wines was associated with Ernest & Julio Gallo’s jug varieties. By 1976, Barrett was scraping by, marginally assisted by slacker son Bo (Chris Pine), apprentice winemaster Gustavo (Freddy Rodriquez) and intern Sam (Rachael Taylor), who make sport of hustling barflies with Gustavo’s apparently infallible ability to name any wine by taste.
Chateau Montelena’s fortunes go on the line when British wine merchant Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman, excellent as always), takes a challenge by his American patron (Dennis Farina) to stage a competition between an emerging emerging Napa Valley variety and established French vintages. The story progresses as Bo finds a sense of purpose, Gustavo and Bo tangle over Sam’s affections, and Barrett’s Chardonnay evolves into a wondrous wine, despite some chemistry quirks that almost doom the entire batch.
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