Chatting with ... the Producer of Bottle Shock!

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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. 
So, you get the script. How does the film get made from there?

BRENDA: A producer's role is to be a Project Manager - secure a great story and do everything from A-Z to get to the end goal: to get your movie made and into theatres! Everywhere! So we hired a director, Randall Miller, and his wife Jody Savin, to refine the script and join ourselves and Todd as producers. From there, we raised the money, set up the production office in Sonoma, scouted locations, and started hiring cast and crew. As of August 1, 2007 we were on location in the blazing hot weather, shooting in 35mm film. We shot Bottle Shock in 30 insanely busy days. Randy worked with our editor to fine-tune the film all fall, and we premiered at Sundance (my dream) in January 2008!

Did you get distribution at Sundance? And did the movie play in theatres? How does that process work?

BRENDA: While audiences at Sundance loved Bottle Shock, we unfortunately did not find a distributor. We were up against some serious competition in our premier time slot at the festival, so we didn't get any of the studio buyers to see it. And buyers were more gun-shy than normal - there wasn't the "buying frenzy" you hear about at past Sundance festivals. It is SO hard to get your film noticed, no matter how much audiences love it. So, we opted for a do-it-yourself theatrical release, raising more funds and hiring Freestyle Releasing to run a marketing campaign and book the film into as many as 400 theaters across the country last August through October. Now more people have the chance to see it for the first time, or second, as the film is available on DVD, courtesy of Fox Home Video.

We heard such good things about the movie, and especially the gorgeous cinematography. Where did you shoot it?

BRENDA: Our director or photography Mike Ozier was amazing, as was his stellar camera crew (who were also the goofiest, friendliest, most talented camera crew I've ever seen). We shot at Buena Vista Vineyards in Carneros, all over Sonoma Valley (including the Plaza which substituted as the urban French scenes and more), Kunde Estates Winery, and Glen Ellen, and of course at Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, in Napa Valley. On the final day of shooting, Randy and the camera crew rented a helicopter and captured all of those beautiful aerial shots.

How did you land Alan Rickman as "Steven Spurrier" and Chris Pine (now one of the most popular young actors in Hollywood) as "Bo Barrett"?

BRENDA: Randy had directed Alan Rickman in another film, so they had a great relationship. You can see why directors work with the same actors over and over, because there is a comfort level working together and that shows up on camera. We could not have asked for a more perfect "Steven Spurrier", the British wine shop owner who came up with the idea to hold a competition in Paris pitting the esteemed French wines against the California upstarts.

As for getting Chris Pine to play Bo Barrett, the real life wine-maker/owner of Chateau Montelena, we got lucky. Randy saw him in a play in LA and snagged him before he became famous. It was only after we wrapped that Chris was tapped by J.J. Abrams to star in the remake of Star Trek! Chris is the nicest guy, and so talented. And it was also a stroke of luck that Bill Pullman, who plays Jim Barrett, Bo's father who had the dream to buy a winery in the early 70's, was directing a play in San Francisco the same month we were shooting. So he signed on and commuted back and forth from the City.

What wines did you drink during the shoot? And did the actors get to try the valley's famous restaurants?

BRENDA: Sadly, you can't drink alcohol on a union shoot!  But actually, that was okay, because we could appreciate the wine drinking even more after work and on our one day off a week, Sundays. Alan knows a lot about wine, and so did Rachael Taylor, who is from Tasmania. Chris and Freddy Rodriquez (who plays the real life winemaker Gustavo Brambila, who today has a winery in Napa) really enjoyed the bold Sonoma and Napa reds. We seemed to drink a lot of Plump Jack, Cade, Viansa, Cline, Chateau Montelena, Kunde, Freemark Abbey, Heitz, Gundlach Bundschu, and GustavoThrace. Some of their favorite restaurants were Della Santina, Swiss Hotel, Carneros Bistro, the girl & the fig, and Cafe La Haye in Sonoma; Farm, Redd, Bistro Jeanty, Tra Vigne, Jolie, and Bar Vino in Napa Valley. And, oh of course, Taylor's Refresher for burgers after shooting at Chateau Montelena!  There was just not enough time to get around to all of them!

What was fictionalized for the movie?

BRENDA: The heart of the story is true - the competition in France, Spurrier's role in facilitating the competition, the Napa vintners taking first place, and Bo and Jim's struggles and ultimate victory as the owners of the winery who made the winning Chardonnay. While we would have loved to tell the whole story about the competition and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, who made the famous Cabernet, we could only cover so in a 100-minute narrative feature. Bo, Jim, Gustavo - real. Sam (the pretty blond intern) -- fictional, but inspired by the groundbreaking and aspiring female winemakers who were out there working. Jo, the bartender -- fictional, for fun. Many will note that Mike Grgich, who was the winemaker at Montelena at the time, is not a main character, as our Director chose to focus on the father/son story. We could only work through so many character arcs; and more importantly, when you are dealing with real life characters, there are many legal hurdles in order to portray people.

What's going on with the movie now that it's on DVD?

BRENDA: An estimated 3 million people have enjoyed the film to date, but the film's natural target audience of wine-lovers is over 20 million in the U.S. alone! So now we are turning to social media to leverage the existing excitement about the film and encourage millions more to watch and enjoy Bottle Shock.  So many people have said they want to see the movie, or see it again with friends, over a bottle of wine, or even before or after a "create your own" blind wine tasting competition! 

So, we are launching a contest encouraging viewers to watch Bottle Shock, and share their experience - including what wine they were drinking, who they were with, where they were. The winners with the most creative story will then be hosted for an amazing Bottle Shock experience, which includes a 2 night stay in Sonoma, a helicopter tour of all the filming locations, dinner and wine tasting at restaurants used in the movie, a Montelena Chard signed by the cast, and more. It will be fun to get the conversation going between movie and wine lovers all over the world!

To find out more, you can visit


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Loved the movie. Watched it going and coming home from Paris last Thanksgining weekend on Continental.

Saw the movie first, and can see why the movie didn't get more attention. Rickman and Pullman and the wine tasting plot are very good, but the rest of the story brought the movie down several notches. And after reading 'Judgement of Paris' by George Taber [Scribner, 2005] afterwards, the potential for more compelling storylines, especially surrounding Grgich could've been used. More boxing bottles instead of boxing matches in the vineyards!

Thanks for a great movie! My husband, Paul Youngman, is the artist who loaned all of the original artwork for the movie. Barbara, the set decorator, assured me that we would receive a copy of the movie, but as yet it hasn't shown up. I'm sure it has just been overlooked. We appreciate the excellent credits you gave both Paul and the gallery at the end of the movie. The paintings were returned in perfect condition, and all of them have been sold except one.

Lee Love Youngman

I did not know anything the movie, until my friend who introduced me to real wine watched it and gave to me that same evening to watch.I watched it twice in a row.I couldn't wait to talk with him about the wine and the breath taking views of the valley.The movie made me feel like I could smell the vines.Very enjoyable movie,I recommend it to everyone who will listen.I can't wait to visit...

I did not know anything the movie, until my friend who introduced me to real wine watched it and gave to me that same evening to watch.I watched it twice in a row.I couldn't wait to talk with him about the wine and the breath taking views of the valley.The movie made me feel like I could smell the vines.Very enjoyable movie,I recommend it to everyone who will listen.I can't wait to visit...

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