import: January 2008 Archives

How it all Began: The Movie

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By Robert Farmer

Though it’s probably too early to begin calling it this year’s Sideways, the wine industry is again the darling of the silver screen with a new movie about how Napa Valley got its modern day start. The film, called Bottle Shock, is apparently a buzz at this year’s Sundance, which is now in full swing through the last week of January. Bottle Shock starts Bill Pullman, tell the story of an unassuming California wine that took the world by storm and set the wine world on its ear when it won top honors at the prestigious 1976 tasting in Paris, France - the event that became known as “the judgment of Paris.”

Pullman starts as Napa Valley’s own Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena, whose vineyard produced the famed bottle and set the wheels in motion that would forever transform the California Wine Country into a region of global winemaking importance. It was an impressive win not just for the winery but also for all U.S. wines - the competition was judged entirely by Frenchmen (Chateau Montelena took top honors for white wine, while less publicly Stag’s Leap in Napa took home the prize for reds).

Though I haven’t seen the movie yet, I have spent time at Chateau Montelena, which remains one of my favorite places in Napa to visit. Here you can relive the victory, get inside scoop on how it all happened, and best of all, sample the wines that continue to set the bar very high. It’s also worth noting that another film, called Judgment of Paris, about the same subject is due out this year too. It’s kind of like that year when two movies about asteroids hitting earth came out during the same summer. Only this time, we get fewer explosions.