‘Bottle Shock’ likely to be gone from local cinema before its time | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Bottle Shock’ likely to be gone from local cinema before its time

Dan Thomas, Lake Tahoe Action

With three new movies (see “First Takes,” facing page) coming to Heavenly Village and “Bottle Shock” already sharing a bill with “American Teen,” it seems unlikely that the former will be around this week.

In fact, I think I surprised the cinema’s staff Sept. 29 by buying a ticket for the weekend’s final showing of “Bottle Shock.” It ended up that I was the only one in the theater ” and the last patron remaining in the building, I think.

The low attendance and the slim odds of “Bottle Shock” staying open this week are a shame, since it’s definitely worth watching, particularly in Northern California. This is my second stint at Tahoe, and I’ve traveled around the region a little, but if I were to share how little I know about California wine, I’d probably reveal myself as a barbarian.

Funny enough, that fits in perfectly with the theme of “Bottle Shock.” The setting is Calistoga, 1974, and the film revolves around a group of Napa Valley grape-growers. They might be dazed and confused about life, love and business, but not about wine. They seem to know what they’re doing, but they deliberately lay low because they don’t want the wine establishment to think they’re a bunch of yahoos.

The Montelena Estate winery’s methods are unorthodox, with Jim Barrett (actor Bill Pullman) sinking in debt, messing with his casks at unusual times and settling disagreements with his son and heir apparent, Bo (actor Chris Pine), in a backyard boxing ring.

Across a continent and an ocean in Paris, actor Alan Rickman plays English oenophile Steven Spurrier (you read that right, sports fans) as the sort of wine critic the Barrett boys and the rest of the Napa Valley vintners fear. But Maurice (despite the French name, actor Dennis Farina’s Chicago roots are showing), Spurrier’s lone customer at the wine academy, bullies him into considering California wines, prompting the snob to take a trip to Napa to gather wines for a blind tasting.

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As Spurrier tours the valley, he begins to suspect that the crazy Californians might not be the bunch of hayseeds he thought. The plot certainly holds a lot in common with a number of other true underdog stories, but it breathes life into a history lesson that otherwise could be pretty dry.

There’s lots more to watch than grapes growing, especially when Montelena’s new intern, Sam (Australian actress Rachael Taylor), is figuring out her affections, or hot bartender Joe (Eliza Dushku) is pouring wine so Bo and Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez from “Six Feet Under”) can scam some money in blind taste tests.

“Bottle Shock” manages to channel an anything-goes ’70s vibe, making Napa’s heyday seem like “Homegrown,” only with grapes standing in for weed. The end notes notwithstanding, I’m not sure how historical it all is ” I verified online that Montelena and Stag’s Leap are real wineries ” but it’s a fun movie with spry performances from a cast studded with a few stars.

As such, it deserves legs, if not in theaters then on DVD and as required viewing for transplants to Northern California. It’s worth noting that Lake Tahoe Community College is offering an in-depth study of the wines of California, Culinary Arts 128, from 6-8:50 p.m. Mondays. It’s already started, but “Bottle Shock” seems like an addition or introduction to consider, a sweet alternative to “Sideways.”

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