Merlove – A cinematic response to 'Sideways'


Tuesday July 2, 2008

"I’m not drinking any F***ing merlot!  If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving!

This famous quote from Miles Raymond in the movie ‘Sideways’ coincided with a much-ballyhooed decline in Merlot’s popularity.  People began to treat Merlot drinkers the way they treat guys with mullets or fans of Gidget movies.

Never mind that the grape had been planted willy-nilly by opportunists seeking to tap the burgeoning market for this friendly wine.  Forget that most of these new vineyard sites were poorly selected and destined to produce vapid, forgettable wines.  And forget that as Miles uttered these words he stood in Santa Barbara County – a cool weather region with very few warm areas capable of ripening Merlot. 

So let’s just all agree here and now, there ARE some great merlots in the world.  There, I said it.

And now there’s a cinematic tribute to Merlot called "Merlove", which premiered last week at Copia.  This homage to merlot was made "in response to the movie ‘Sideways’", by film maker Rudolph N. McClain.  It was nicely conceived and filmed (judging from the trailers, I was not at the opening), and seemes interesting enough to appeal to the wine afficianado regardless of their thoughts on the grape.

Merlove is not a summer blockbuster.  But what wine movie is?  Despite next month’s national release of ‘Bottle Shock’, wine is hardly the theme for a movie that will be among the summer’s top ten revenue producers.  Still, I’m enjoying wine’s new role as a newly-popular cinematic theme, but I’m also OK if their appeal is limited to an art-house crowd.  For if everyone loved good merlot, we’d never get our tastesbuds around undiscovered gems like this one:

"Hidden Gem" Merlot – Barrack 2005 "Brand"  $42 
Deeply-colored blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot taking the starring role. Rich scents of plums, cassis, licorice, dark earth, toasty oak, and cedar forest. The tannins in this wine will improve with four to five years of bottle age though you will never regret opening a bottle.

While not quite as dark and concentrated as the 2004, the 2005 offers an elegant expression of Merlot. The wine has a very fine nose with hints of blackberry, plum, oak wood, and currants. On the palate it is very diverse from front to back jammy fruit, hints of espresso, herbs, and tobacco. Only 200 cases produced!

The Vineyard, The Winemaker:
Winemaker Doug Margerum is the former owner of the Wine Cask (Santa Barbara and Los Olivos), an accomplished chef, and a consulting winemaker. Among all his commitments he somehow manages to find time to make wine for Tom and Laurel Barrack, the owners of Happy Canyon Vineyard.

Buy it Here – Barrack 2005 "Brand"  $42

Dtwm_color_web_optimized Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant or


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Ode to Pinot

Swclogogs3x3_10May 30th, 2008
I love pinot.  So imagine how much fun it’s been selecting the wines for the bi-monthly wine club "Miles’ Pinot Selections".  I’ve been thrilled by discoveries of some emerging greats (think Tudor, Roessler Cellars, Breggo, Labyrinth…) as well as confirmed my love for some of the established greats like Arcadian, Au Bon Climat and Byron.  I’m not too upset that, while enjoying all our new discoveries, much of our cellar at home as gone untouched.  I’ll get around to digging through it again one of these days.

Which brings me to this You Tube video clip I found.  It’s the character Miles, from the 2004 movie "Sideways", in the scene that inspired me to begin the Sideways Wine Clubs, start blogging, and invest in our wine shop, once again proving the old chestnut that the best way to make a million bucks in the wine industry is to start with two million.  Watch it for yourself (though if it inspires your love of pinot, I encourage you to simply join our club instead of jumping into the business – you’ll save a ton of money!)

Beautifully written by Rex Pickett (book), Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (screenplay).  Perfectly rendered on the silver screen by the brilliant Paul Giamatti.  It’s worth seeing over and over.

Dave the Wine Merchant or


Today’s Quote
"Napa makes Anna Nicole Smith wines.  We make Isabella Rosellini wines."  Joe Davis, Owner/Winegrower at Arcadian Winery


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Bottle Shock (the movie) – Errata & Etc.

Ch_montelena_2It’s never fun, being led down a rabbit hole.  But that’s where I was recently taken when one of my posts turned out to contain some shoddy journalism.  My only defense is that wine bloggers are seldom called upon to exhibit investigative reporting skills.  So we get rusty.

You see, I’d reported in late July that there were two movies in the works about the famed 1976 Paris Tasting.  This was the blind tasting where French judges rated several California wines higher than some of their best Bordeaux and White Burgundies, putting California wineries on the map for good and launching the New World style of wine. 

I’d reported that one of the movies (calling itself the "official" version) involved the original journalist covering the event, while the other version "had been commissioned by one of the winning wineries – Chateau Montelena".  I gleaned my information from a posting by the normally august Decanter magazine.  (You can see reader response to the movies in the poll copied below, or here, if you receive this via a feed).

Then the fun started.  A couple days later I received an email from Jeff Adams, Marketing Director for Chateau Montelena.  Jeff’s tag-line these days seems to be "We make wine, not movies."  He politely set me straight about my statement that the winery had commissioned the movie.  But in so doing he piqued my curiosity with regard to how the idea was conceived – "if not you, then who(m)?" 

He could shed no light on my question (see his tag-line, above) but was kind enough to refer me to the film’s publicist, Nadine Jolson of Jolson Creative.  After several days of missed calls, I finally caught Nadine from my car while on the wine road.  She indicated the idea grew out of the fertile mind of screenwriter Randall Miller (who also directs, produces and edits this film, according to "He came up with the idea completely independent of the book and other movie on the same topic – in fact, he started the screenplay before the book ‘Judgment of Paris’ came out two years ago."

Apparently, the screenwriter saw a good family story (in the sense the TV show "Dallas" was a good family story?  Only time will tell) as he learned details about how the famed event affected relationships between Barret family members.  "But how did the Barret’s feel about this story?  Did they contribute to it?  Is the film a reflection of their perspective?" I asked. 

Nadine is well-trained in media relations, and her talking points did not include answers to such questions (and really, why would a movie’s publicist have knowledge of such things anyway?)  So I have no further insight to offer on the origins of the idea.  Did it take seed during a wine-fueled conversation between the Barret’s and Miller?  Are they old friends?  Or did the idea occur during one of Miller’s pilgrimages to Napa, much as it might to any wine lover?

Until and if I ever speak with Miller, we’ll never know.  Right now I can report that Bottle Shock film crews have descended on Calistoga and its environs (sites including, interestingly enough, Kunde Winery over in Sonoma, according to publicist Nadine Jolson) and that filming is well underway. So it appears "Bottle Shock" will be in theaters well in advance of "Judgment of Paris", the other movie based on the Paris tasting.  And when Bottle Shock hits theaters, if it’s any good at all, demand for Chateau Montelena will likely spike.  Again.  Consider yourself duly warned.

Cheers, Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant



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Waiter! What's this rat doing in my Chardonnay?!

Ratshoppers4_2In late-breaking news from "Deadline Hollywood", I paste this excerpt:

Meanwhile, Disney says Ratatouille’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday opening week grosses proved to be the biggest ever for a Pixar film… A lot has been made… about the difficulty of merchandising a kitchen rat. But I’m told the Soda Fountain Studio Store next door to Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater has been non stop packed with Ratatouille shoppers. (See photo). I’m told that the store cannot keep in stock plush toy rats and radio controlled rats. Also big sellers are chef hats and kids cookbooks. Other Ratatouille items for sale at either Disney Stores, mass retailers and specialty retailers include: Ratatouille Chardonnay (Costco), Ratatouille cheese (Costco), Ratatouille back-to-school items, Ratatouille kids cookware toys, Ratatouille kids home decor and cooking classes (Sur La Table).

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Best Food & Wine Movie Ever

Movie_boardWe just returned from a family outing to see "Ratatouille", the new hit movie from Pixar.  It is rare for us to see a movie in a theater, let alone one that has only been out for two weeks.  During that period, this new paean to food has grossed nearly $50 million and is the nation’s #1 movie, at the time of this posting.  Not bad for a movie about a rat.

I jest, of course.  This movie is about food.  Good food.  Food as something about which one should think.  Sounds sort of like the Slow Food movement all over again.  But then, that’s not surprising.  The film takes place in the kitchen of a fine Parisien restaurant, and Pixar Animation Studios, the film’s producer, is located in the food-crazy San Francisco Bay area. 

Orbiting Pixar are some of the nation’s finest restaurants, not to mention movers and shakers of the gastronomic world (Alice Waters, both Kellers, Micheal Minna, and too many others to name).  And Pixar hired several renowned chefs to serve as food and kitchen advisors, and it shows in many of the scenes.  This is a movie that will be influencing our next generation, and how they eat.  Which made me wonder if it might not be the best food movie ever…

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