We currently live in a time where the Napa Valley area brings to mind a beautiful landscape and, more importantly, a plethora of good wine. Napa Valley was not always known as the center of good American wine, in fact there used to be no such thing as good American wine. The only good wine came from Europe, from France in particular. Though it wasn’t one single event that gave the Napa Valley it infamous reputation, there was a single event that started it all off. The film Bottleshock takes a look at that event, which has come to be known as “The Judgment of Paris”.
The film, which is based on a true story, opens in two drastically different places. The first is in France where British sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is worried about his failing business. Realizing that the majority of his wines are French (which aren’t new to the French), Steven goes on a mission to bring some new wine to France, started with Napa Valley. Steven visits and is impressed with many wineries in the Napa Valley area but the film focuses on one in particular, Chateau Montelena. Chateau Montelena is run by the down on his luck, divorced Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman). Working with his son, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), his sons friend Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez) and their intern Sam Fulton (Rachael Taylor), Barrett bottles many different types of wine but not quite as important as their chardonnay.
Jim Barrett has put everything he has into his winery. He quit a fairly high paying job when his wife left him for one of his partners and sunk all of his money into Chateau Montelena, believing that he could make quality wine. When Steven shows up for a tasting and asks to bring a number of bottles of the chardonnay back to France for a blind taste testing, Jim is immediately suspicious. Believing Steven to be a man whose goal is simply to belittle American wine and prove that Napa Valley has nothing to offer, Jim refuses to sell the man any wine. Almost leaving without a sample of Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay, Bo saves the day by going against his father’s wishes and bringing Steven a couple bottles of the fine vintage. Taking the bottles across the sea and to the French wine tasting, the movie culminates in a tasting and a judging that shocked the winery world and put Napa Valley on the map.
To be quite honest, I picked this movie out at random so I had no idea what to expect when I saw this movie. I found Bottleshock to be a very enjoyable film to watch. Rickman plays the part of the wine snob trying to broaden his horizons beautifully and Pines plays the annoying, but accurate, post-seventies hippie as if he in fact was one himself. Who really surprised me was Bill Pullman.
I feel that Bill Pullman generally plays the same character and does not show much range in his acting talent. He is not a bad actor by any stretch of the imagination but his performances certainly aren’t Oscar worthy or the driving reason to see a film. His performance in Bottleshock did not show any more depth than most of his performances but somehow, Pullman’s character was the one that really got me to root for Chateau Montelena. After sinking all of his money into the winery, something that most of his peers and colleagues thinks is bad decision, Jim Barrett just wants to make the best wine that he possibly can; it is a labor of love. As things go wrong, or seem to go wrong, and Montelena begins to run out of money forcing Jim to get money in odd places and consider quitting the winery, begging to get his old job back. It is difficult to watch as Jim refuses to participate in Steven’s wine tasting, which could save his winery if the judging come out in his favor, but at the same time it makes sense why Jim is wary to participate. He is afraid that Steven is trying to take something that Jim is proud of and make a mockery of it.
I would recommend this film to anybody that likes wine and anybody who likes good, humorous, light hearted films. Funny and engaging, this is a film that I would have never watched if it weren’t for this blog and I am very glad I did. I give this film a 4 out of 5 for entertainment value and, as far as being a well shot, well acted, well scripted film, give it a 3 out of 5. With an overall 7 out of 10, this is a great film to watch if you’re bored and looking for something to do.