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Monday, August 7, 2017

The Sideways Effect

In late 2004 a small comedy/drama film about two middle-aged men with somewhat disappointing lives spend a weekend in the wine country. Sideways went on to be a cult classic among wine drinkers. The opinions of Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, still linger in California.

Short Synopsis

Miles considers himself a wine expert -- and he's probably an alcoholic. He loves Pinot Noir, he hates Merlot, as he famously proclaims at one restaurant, "I'm not drinking any f##king Merlot." Turns out a special bottle of French wine he brings on the trip for the guys to celebrate with is Merlot-based.
Pinot Noir

When the film was released there were already some new plantings of Pinot Noir as people realized it was a great grape for the cooler regions of the California coast. Since the film's release Pinot Noir production has nearly tripled. You might think supply would keep up with demand, but it seems like prices have pretty much doubled in that time. I have no data to back that up, but there sure are a lot of $60-up Pinot out there and that was pretty much unheard of ten years ago.


About a year after the movie's release a banner went up at one Napa winery proclaiming, "Miles never tried our Merlot." That's how big of a hit the grape has taken. After the French Paradox in the early 1990s sales of Merlot skyrocketed. In the last dozen years the one-two punch of Sideways and South American Malbec has hurt sales.

The Dump Bucket Incident

At one point in the movie Miles gets drunk then gets angry when he can't get enough wine (there he goes treating the tasting room like a bar). So he grabs the container used by customers to dispose of unwanted wine and drinks from it.

In July I saw a Facebook post from a local winery owner/winemaker who was pouring wines for a group of guests. One of the women in the picture had grabbed the dump bucket and was doing her Miles impersonation. Eww. Really? And wtf, lady?