August 2009 Archives

Chatting with ... the Producer of Bottle Shock!

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bottleshock.jpg
Bottle Shock stars Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine,
Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina and Eliza Dushku.
Catch the movie now - on DVD.

We caught up with Brenda Lhormer, producer of the charming wine-soaked movie, BOTTLE SHOCK, to get some inside scoop about the making and distribution of the film. And naturally we wanted to know whether BOTTLE SHOCK stars Alan Rickman, Chris Pine (the new "Captain Kirk" from Star Trek), and Bill Pullman got hooked on our Napa and Sonoma wines!

First off, tell us a little about how the movie came about. Where did the script come from?

BRENDA:  My husband Marc and I received the original script (written by Ross Schwartz) from a great friend of ours, Todd Harris, a Hollywood-based producer, in the fall of 2005. Ross (an entertainment lawyer turned screenwriter) was captivated by the Napa Valley back in the '60s and '70s and witnessed the transformation that occurred when Napa Valley wines beat the French in a blind tasting in 1976 (the famously coined "Judgment of Paris"). Chateau Montelena had the winning Chardonnay, and Stag's Leap Wine Cellar had the winning Cabernet Sauvignon. It blew the French away and put Napa on the map. So, twenty years later, Ross, and his wife Lanette, thought it would be a great idea to make a movie about this historic event and how it changed the world. Ross interviewed many of the major players involved in the wine industry at that time and wrote his script for Bottle Shock, focusing primarily on the characters at Chateau Montelena. 

Bottle Shock Getaway Package

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Bottle Shock is based on the real events surrounding the 1976 blind tasting in Paris pitting California wines against the French. The film stars Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Freddy Rodriguez, Rachael Taylor, Dennis Farina and Eliza Dushku. Bottle Shock was shot in Sonoma and Napa during August 2007, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2008.

The Producers of the hit movie Bottle Shock are giving away an amazing Wine Country get-away package for two that brings the winners "on set" to see where and how the movie was filmed. Create the perfect Bottle Shock Evening (including a viewing of the film, your favorite wine, great friends) share your story, and you may win!

The 3-Day, 2-Night Bottle Shock Getaway Package includes:

  • 2 nights at the Lodge at Sonoma, where the cast of Bottle Shock stayed (Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina, Eliza Dushku).
  • Helicopter tour with the producers capturing those beautiful aerial shots over Napa and Sonoma and stopping for tours and tastings at key filming locations.
  • A guided tour of Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley, whose 1973 Chardonnay was the winning white wine at the 1976 Judgment of Paris.
  • A guided tour of Kunde Estate in Sonoma Valley where several scenes were filmed, including the boxing ring scenes with Bill Pullman and Chris pine going at it, and the judging scene inside the ruins of the first winery in Sonoma Valley.
  • Dinner with the producers at Della Santina in Sonoma, where scenes with Alan Rickman and Dennis Farina were filmed.
  • A bottle of chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, signed by the cast.
  • Your very own Bottle Shock movie poster.

If the Glass Fits

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A Sommelier's Take on the Supposedly Perfect Glass

by Courtney Cochran


As a little girl I believed that, really truly, Cinderella's glass slipper was made just for her. Not only had she gone through all that heartache and pain before finally getting her chance with the prince, she had such a perfectly tiny foot it seemed like destiny that she'd wind up not only wearing the shoe, but wed to the dashing guy.

Fast forward about 20-some years to last night, when I found myself seated in a comfy conference room at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, thinking not so much of fairy tale princesses as fairy tale stemware. I was assembled there with more than a dozen wine journalists, all gazing skeptically at a very dapper Austrian dude at the front of the room.

Although not exactly a prince, Georg Riedel is most definitely cut of an elegant mold. The current head of his family's renowned Austrian glassmaking firm, Riedel was there in his fancy suit and clipped accent to tell us all how, really truly, wine tastes better when it's served in his Sommelier series glasses. Only this time he had a much tougher audience than Cinderella's impressionable four-year-olds!

DIY WINE

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homewinemaking.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Who says that when it comes to winemaking you have to leave it all to the pros? Turns out there's never been a better time than today to make your own wine, whether you're set on doing so solo in your own home, with a group at your local wine shop or at one of the popular new custom crush facilities. The wine world, you see, is your oyster - or perhaps we should say, your Cabernet.

Home Winemaking
Home winemaking has been around for millennia, though it really picked up in popularity during the Prohibition era, when Americans were allowed to make a limited quantity of wine at home for their own consumption. Techniques for home winemaking have improved since then, though many of the practice's most staunch adherents continue to use fairly basic techniques (for more on how to begin making wine inexpensively at home, consider picking up the well-received The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home.

New In Napa: August 09

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EstateCave1_LargeWeb.JPGBy Courtney Cochran

Home to some 300 wineries, Napa Valley is the engine that drives California's booming wine industry. It's also a place where history, art, hospitality and a search for perfection collide to produce some of the most compelling products and experiences Wine Country has to offer. Read on for new developments in this "land of plenty" in our own backyard.

PRESS RELEASE: Louis M. Martini Annual Cellar Sale

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louisMartini.jpgSaturday 12th September 2009
12.00pm to 4.00pm

Built by Louis M. Martini in 1933, the Martini Winery has been a legendary landmark in the Napa Valley for over 75 years. With third generation winemaker Mike Martini at the helm, the winery continues to craft rich, distinctive wines that draw visitors to St. Helena from all over the world.

The Annual Cellar Sale offers the opportunity to buy cases of older vintage wines and big bottles, all at an incredible value with huge savings of 40-60% off retail prices!  This is an ideal opportunity to stock up your cellars and wine racks in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There will be a limited number of bottles available that have been signed by Mike Martini making them a great gift for the wine lovers in your life or a fabulous talking point at a party! We will be serving Italian style hors d'oeuvres and library wine tastings will be available.

The Martini Annual Cellar Sale begins at 12:00 pm and concludes at 4:00 pm and will be held at the winery.

Louis M. Martini
254 South St. Helena Highway (Hwy 29)
St. Helena, CA 94574
Special Tasting Offer


twitter_grapes.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

Just a few weeks ago I spent a half hour on the phone "tweducating" a long time wine industry veteran on how to use Twitter, the microblogging site that allows anyone to post 140-character-or-less updates on everything from food and wine to software and current events (the Iran political protests gained worldwide notoriety nearly instantaneously thanks to Twitter). After we'd noodled the nuances of hash tags, handles and what's appropriate to post (hint: don't tweet the details of your latest root canal; we REALLY don't need to know you just got the novacaine), the subject of harvest came up.

Wine Forward: iPhone Wine Applications

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iphone_app.jpegBy Courtney Cochran

Made from scores of regions, hundreds of varieties, thousands of producers and newly released each vintage year, wine is one of the most data-challenged consumer goods we enjoy. But now, thanks to a host of fancy new iPhone and iPod Touch-compatible applications, sorting through the dizzying array of wine selections in stores, restaurants and even in your own cellar is getting a whole lot easier. Read on for our picks for top applications to fuel your Wine Country lifestyle; they make researching, scoring, sharing and even buying wine a snap - and they let you do it all from the palm of your hand.

Grape Crush Begins

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It's early, but for some vineyards crush has already begun. On August 10th, in the dead of the night (3 am to be exact), Hunter Farms of Sonoma Valley began harvesting this season's first pinot noir.

Although the unusually cool weather has many Californians crying "what happened to summer?", it is actually perfect weather for growing grapes. More surprising for Hunter Vineyards is the seemingly increased quantity of grapes being harvested. According to the Press Democrat "Instead of the 15.3 tons delivered last year (to Gloria Ferrer Winery in Sonoma), the same 5.5 acre vineyard produced 21.5 tons, a stunning 40% percent increase"Click here for full article.

Watch the Video!

Get Rave Reviews - Host Your Own Wine Tasting!

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Submitted by My Wines Direct

The reviews are in on the My Wines Direct Home Tasting Party Kit, and the critics agree...hosting your own wine party can be fun and easy! The group over at WineMavens.com sampled our Tasting Party Kit and here's what they had to say:

"Lots of legs"
"Smells like vodka"
"I don't really know why I like it but I do."

You'd think my friend Meredith was describing a blurry night in a hotel room in Vegas. You can just imagine the sunglasses, venti Starbucks and the six of us Sorority sisters ohing and ahing and digging for details at brunch the next day a la Sex and the City. But alas, that will be saved for another write-up my friends. I am in fact quoting from an event much more morning-after friendly (and with many fewer embarrassing pictures) and appropriate for our everyday grape enjoyment: a wine tasting party I threw with a rockin set up designed by My Wines Direct. No miniskirt or VIP pass necessary. You don't even need to know the difference between a merlot and a cab. Well maybe you'd want to, but your party will end with many more memorable comments when your guests aren't the biggest imbibers of the vino.


Rodney Strong: Wine of the Month

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chardRodStrong.jpgOne good thing about being in a tough economy is that everyone in the retail industry seems willing to give a good deal. Either that or the American public is so spending conscious, they actually pay attention to emails offering specials and discounts before automatically hitting the delete button.

Wineries are no exception. Case in point, Rodney Strong Vineyards highlights a wine each month from their collection and entices buyers with a special discount. For August, the wine is their 2007 Chardonnay Reserve ($40). They are offering %15 savings per bottle and 25% savings per case. Better yet, if you are already a wine member you get an additional 10%.

The tasting notes declare it has "Powerful aromas of spiced apple, pear and pie crust join lemon-cream and toasty oak on the palate, adding up to a compelling and thoroughly satisfying experience for true Chardonnay lovers".

Be sure to join Rodney Strong's mailing list and get notice of these deals by email.

**If you are planning a trip to Sonoma Wine Country, add Rodney Strong to the wine tasting itinerary. More information online and download special tasting offer!

Wine "Made In Hong Kong" A Hit

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By Courtney Cochran

Though wine drinking in Hong Kong is ever on the rise, it still came as a surprise to me when I heard that wine is being made in the city. After all, the flashy metropolis is made of mostly concrete and steel - there's nary a vineyard in site. Having recently visited City Winery in NYC, however, the pieces started coming together as I began to envision the newly faddish urban winery concept taking root overseas - and it turns out that's exactly what's going on in Hong Kong.

Cayenne You Drink Wine With That?!

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Honing in on the best wines for hot fare

by Courtney Cochran

There are few places in the world where people get as excited about eclectic cuisine as they do in Northern California. This truth was at the top of my mind while I reflected on a spirited Cajun-style crawfish boil I attended at a private home in Napa a while ago.

There, an excited group of wine industry luminaries had waited anxiously while two giant pots' worth of crawfish freshly harvested from the Sacramento River cooked over several hours in piquant Cajun spices. After a protracted cocktail/cooking hour, the pots of boiled crustaceans were poured out onto newspapers spread on an outdoor table for a southern-style alfresco meal. The guests, taking cues from a host with Louisiana roots, rolled up their sleeves and dove into the crawfish, ultimately polishing off the entire batch before retiring to nurse their over-spiced taste buds over conversation and cold beer.

"Something Sinister at Work"?

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wineadvocate.jpegRobert Parker's Bitch Weighs In On Wine Ratings
By Courtney Cochran

You have to hand it to Tina Caputo (Twitter handle @winebroad), the feisty young editor of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine: she's got guts.  To wit, one only need spend 26 minutes watching her 2009 documentary, the controversially titled "Robert Parker's Bitch: The Wine Media's Influence on Winemaking," to grasp the degree to which she goes out on a limb to explore the idea that two influential wine critics - Robert Parker and Wine Spectator's James Laube - wield too much power over the evolving wine style in Wine Country.

A Food & Wine Odyssey in Tri-Valley, California

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food_wine.jpegTri-Valley, California is a haven of artisan vintners and undiscovered culinary talent.  Home to the Livermore Valley Wine Country, Tri-Valley is an affordable and authentic destination.

EAT: Passionate Chef's Pair with Passionate Winemakers

Attend a winemaker's dinner at one of Tri-Valley's restaurants. Local chef's are very passionate good food and wine, many feature regular winemaker dinners, including the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. Nestled in the Livermore Valley Wine Country, the restaurant's Executive Chef, Arthur Wall works with fifth Generation winemaker, Karl Wente to create an exquisite menu.

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