Sideways and French Wine


“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” -John Keats

I became interested in wine about 10 years ago after seeing the hilarious men’s comedy Sideways. It’s a great film and has become a cult classic since its release back in 2005.

A little about the film: Sideways features two old college roommates, Miles and Jack who are definitely an odd couple going out for one last celebratory hurrah before Jack gets married. Miles is just divorced and popping pills in addition to medicating the pain of losing his wife with lots of Pinot Noir.

Miles is a Beta who goes completely Omega after divorcing his wife. Regardless, Miles (as portrayed by Paul Giamatti) is a rich character, an English teacher and struggling writer who is running a string of very bad luck. He has no woman, a job that is taking him nowhere, and a book nobody wants to publish. Many of us have been in his shoes before, during times when life seems to be cutting us no breaks.

Even though an attractive waitress Maya practically throws herself at Miles, he is clueless. They finally hook up but it ends in disaster.

Jack is the Alpha male washed-up actor who is out to “get laid before I get married on Saturday.” The two make their way through Santa Barbara County wine country and a comedy of errors ensues including Jack getting caught with his cock inside a wrecker driver’s wife on his living room floor. This, after he pumps and dumps an attractive Stephanie, totally leading her on while knowing (even if it is with a lot of reluctance) he is getting married.

Without dropping too much spoiler, Miles and Jack have a falling out in part because of Jack’s libido and self-centeredness. As sometimes happens in real life, their personalities are so mismatched one wonders how they ever became friends! But, showing the strength of some male friendships they end up forgetting and forgiving just in time for the wedding.

The two characters personalities are represented as two different kinds of wine in one of the best scenes in the film:

Maya: Why are you so into Pinot? It’s like a thing with you.

Miles: I don’t know. It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s not a survivor like Cabernet that  can grow anywhere and thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention and in fact can only grow in specific little tucked- away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing growers can do it really, can tap into Pinot’s most fragile, delicate qualities. Only when someone has taken the time to truly understand its potential can Pinot be coaxed into its fullest expression. And when that happens, its flavors are the most haunting and brilliant and subtle and thrilling and ancient on the planet.

It is a great men’s flick, portraying the pain of mediocrity most of us have to deal with as we reach middle age. The cinematography is also gorgeous. Sideways combines a road trip flick, buddy film and boy meets girl/boy loses girl all into one.

Check it out.


“I am NOT drinking any fucking merlot!” One of the funniest lines from the cult classic Sideways

I recently toured some of the wineries seen in the film in Santa Barbara County, California and walked away with my first ever $50 bottle of wine. I realize that is nothing in the world of wine snobbery, but $50 for a bottle of wine is a pretty big investment for my wallet.

These are some photos from the Alma Rosa winery on Santa Rosa Road and from the nearby Scandinavian town of Solvang, also seen in the film.

Recently, by having the good fortune of being surrounded by a large French expat community here in the Caribbean, I was introduced to French wine. I must say, the California wines I sampled were good; the Chilean wines I like such as Cono Sur Pinot (only $8 a bottle too!) are better; the French wine was awesome.

Now I know why people make such a big deal out of wine and especially French wine. The history of winemaking goes back thousands of years in France and it shows:

French wine originated in the 6th century BC, with the colonization of Southern Gaul by Greek settlers. Viticulture soon flourished with the founding of the Greek colony of Marseille. Wine has been around for thousands of years in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean, but France has made it a part of their civilization and has considered winemaking as an art for over two thousand years.

Why do I enjoy wine? I like the speed with which red wine brings on a buzz in and the rich flavors, especially when paired with the right cheeses. But I had never been so impressed by a bottle of wine until I tried this one with a good Dominican lady friend of mine.

Domaine Laurent Mabileau Cuvée Excellence Bourgueil 2013 was the bottle. I highly recommend it if you are into red wines. It was enjoyable, and very affordable at a price under $20.

Now I just need to find a good Cuban cigar…

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