This week on Cinema Sips, I’m veering off of cocktails for a moment to talk about wine. I had the good fortune to spend a day visiting wineries around Napa and Yountville, CA last week, and while there, I realized that pretty much all of my knowledge of wine comes from the movie Sideways (DVD/Download). I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I wasn’t going in to this experience completely clueless. This film forces me to appreciate and consider the complexity of what I’m drinking. Truly, it’s a love letter to the art of winemaking and oenophiles. That said, I made sure to watch this movie again before leaving on my trip, so that if confronted with a Cab Franc, I’d know that it is not, in fact, a French taxi.
Sideways is about two longtime friends who take off on a pre-wedding trip to California’s wine country. Paul Giamatti plays Miles, a depressed divorcée who is struggling with getting his novel published (sadly, a powerless, defeating process I am all too familiar with). Thomas Haden Church plays Jack, a has-been actor and playboy who is struggling with the idea of being tied down to one woman for the rest of his life. They’re certainly an odd couple, but they play off each other brilliantly. While there, Miles falls for a lovely waitress and fellow lonely heart Maya (played surprisingly well by B-movie actress Virginia Madsen), while Jack lies about his single status and fools around with her friend Stephanie (played by Sandra Oh). The four of them laugh, picnic, tour the vineyards and sip Pinot Noir as the sun sets, creating an idyllic world before it all eventually comes crashing down. The scenery is beautiful, and the script and acting are absolutely top notch. In fact, when I watched this last week, I had to pause a scene so I could turn to my husband and remark, “My God, Paul Giamatti is such an incredible actor.” The fact that he failed to even be nominated for an Academy Award for this performance is widely considered to be one of the top snubs in Oscar history.
On my trip, I visited the Clos du Val winery, Ma(i)sonry (where I sampled some excellent rosé from Blackbird Vineyards and viewed hideously expensive art), and finally ended with wonderful sparkling varietals at Domaine Chandon. Below are some photos I took of the lush scenery and (more importantly) the wine!
After a day of wine drinking, I was happy, parched, and still a little buzzed. Did I drink any merlot? I’ll never tell ;-). I urge you to watch this movie with some friends and a few bottles of wine, and really make a night of it. So often with cocktails, I find myself sipping way too quickly, particularly if it’s a sweeter drink, and I fail to really experience the flavors that have gone into the beverage. Wine doesn’t let you get away with that. It’s meant to be tasted, savored, and contemplated. As Virginia Madsen so beautifully says in Sideways, “If I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day.” Sometimes I think the same thing about films. I react differently each time I watch the same movie, noticing little moments I hadn’t seen before, and maybe relating it to what is presently happening in my own life. When I first saw Sideways, I thought it was a humorous tale of two friends on a journey of self-discovery. Now when I watch it, I relate more to Miles’ struggles with getting published, and wondering if working so hard on something that not many people will ever see is worth it in the end. The conclusion of the film is ambiguous, just like life. I love that so much because it makes me hopeful for Miles, that maybe, like his beloved Pinot Noir, he will eventually be coaxed into greatness. Maybe I will too. Cheers!