Archive for the 'TV and movies' Category

Gotcha moment spawns yet more controversy

The wine world is full of great “gotcha” moments especially when it comes to blind tastings. One of the great gotcha moments in wine was the fabled “Paris tasting” in 1976 when American wines, poured blind to French judges, defeated similar French wines. It had a lot of ramifications including the ascent of American wine onto the world stage and the rise of the blind tasting for many critics.

Does it sound like there’s the makings of a full-length feature film in there to you? Quite frankly, I fail to see how there’s enough material in the event for movie–it’s a critical event, sure, but one moment in a larger, more interesting story about wine, wine consumption, and wine production.

But that must be why I am not a Hollywood executive since there are currently two separate–and rival!–productions to portray these events on the silver screen. One version, “Bottle Shock,” supposedly begins shooting next week with Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier, the Englishman who organized the original tasting. Danny DeVito will play Mike Grgich, the Croatian immigrant who made the winning chardonnay and is also know for effectively pulling off a beret. Yes, this means DeVito will be filmed wearing a beret! (I think he can pull it off.) And with the endorsement of Grgich and Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena, since they favor this version of the events.

Another production, “The Judgment of Paris,” has Spurrier’s official endorsement as well as that of George Taber, the author of the book of that name based on his reporting for TIME magazine (originally a four paragraph story). They’re still looking for a lead, with Hugh Grant and Jude Law “rumored.” (No word on who will wear the beret in this version) And now various parties associated with this film are threatening to sue “Bottle Shock.”

Thirty years later, the tasting still generates controversy. But in this case, the box office will be the final arbiter. If they don’t both flop, that is.

“Films at war over fall of French wine” [Sunday Telegraph]
Judgment of Paris, George Taber
Emperor of Wine, Elin McCoy

Mickey rat comes to wine

What are you queuing up for on Friday? An iPhone you say? Well, some may queue up for Ratatouille, what looks to be an entertaining movie from Pixar/Disney about an epicurean rat living in Paris. (Epicure indeed as Thomas Keller consulted on the cooking.) And in the story, the rat has to cook a big meal for a critic with the wonderful name of Ego.

Anyway, now starts the branding of sidelines and related merchandise. According to this Reuters story, this lineup will include a wine:

For the first time, Disney will offer red and white wines to compliment the film’s backdrop, a five-star Parisian restaurant, as well as cheese platters, both from Costco Wholesale Corp.

Another story elaborates that “The chardonnay, from the Burgundy region in France and bearing the Ratatouille name and likeness, will sell for $12.99.”

No details about the producer or the importer. While I’ve heard of celebrity endorsed wines, I’ve never before heard of a wine sold on the strength of an animated rodent. Consider it a celebrity/critter label.

No catsuits, wine shooters, distiller-in-chief, corked — tasting sized pours

“Housecleaner, boyfriend arrested after brazen wine heist”
My hopes for a Catherine Zeta-Jones movie called “Inside Job” crashed and burned after this news story about the recent heist in Atherton, CA. Catsuits and wine will remain the sole domain of Aureole in Vegas.

Parody becomes prophecy
On April Fools Day I posted a spoof about a new wine bar that serves wines based on point scores including a flight in two ounce glasses. Shockingly, a commenter pointed out that one such points-based wine bar already exist in California! Now there’s news that Sauvignon Republic, a brand that sources sauvignon blanc from three continents, is offering on-premises establishments two-ounce shooters for their flights. Eegad! Next year I’ll have to be much more outrageous.

While Thomas Jefferson had a love for fruits of the vine, it turns out that his predecessor and Father Of Our Nation, preferred the grains of the plains, specifically, rye. Lost among the stories of chopping down a cherry tree and wooden teeth is the fact that George Washington was also the biggest distiller of his day. Now $21 million reconstruction (paid for funded in large part by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of America) at his home in Mount Vernon offers visitors the chance to see steps in the distillation process–and even buy a bottle of the “ardent spirit” at the gift shop. [Courier-Journal]

Wrap it up
Wine corked? Try cling wrap. Crinkle and put in carafe. Pour wine in. Shake. Voila! No cork taint. But mmm, love that cling wrap flava! [LA Times]

Will Smith, Ace champagne, bluffing wine, food wine -Tasting sized pours

Will Cooked be Wined?
Will Smith may play the role of Chef Jeff Henderson of the Cafe Bellagio. Reprising his rags-to-riches, overcoming-adversity success in Happyness, Smith may play the lead role in a film adapted from Henderson’s autobiography, “Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras.” Just think if he throws in a scene extolling the virtues of wine–it could be a boom bigger than Sideways with his starpower! [via Slashfood]

Jay-Z holds an Ace
Jay-Z makes Page Six today. Not news for us. But what is news is that the gossip hounds say the Cherry Coke and Budweiser pitchman is getting throw some more bubbly in the mix by formalizing an ownership stake in Armand de Brignac, aka Ace of Spades. The champagne brand was cooked up last summer. Page Six reports that 100 cases of the bubbly has gone missing from a Florida warehouse. But for those willing to pay, it is now available from select retailers for $300 and up (find ace of spades). [NY Post]

Wine that loves…food
A new line of “wine that loves” certain types of food is to be launched in coming months. Cute label images tell drinkers which food to drink it with starting with three popular meals–roasted chicken, pasta, and pizza. No word on whether the back label reveals trivial details such as the grape variety, region, or vintage. And what if I like pinot noir with my salmon but their “salmon” wine is a chardonnay? Or if I like the pizza wine with my pasta? Eegad. Insurrection! [BusinessWeek]

Bluffing wine
A waiter from Chanterelle in Tribeca tells NY mag how one of his diners didn’t drink wine but wanted to look as if he were drinking wine in front of the rest of the party. So the waiter substituted ginger ale for champagne and pretended to spill water in the red wine glass returning with organic grape juice in the wine glass. Very odd. Didn’t anyone at the table wonder why he was pounding the “wine”? [Grub Street]

Jay-Z puts an Ace in play” [Dr. V]
Reader mailbag: finding Ace of Spades champagne” [Dr. V]

Wine heist, part trois

The plot thickens! First, $500,000 of rare Bordeaux goes missing from a restaurant in Sweden last August. “Only 600 bottles of the best wine were stolen. They did not take any of the cheaper wines. They were real professionals,” Lars Fagerlund, restaurant manager, told

Then in late December, the “big wine caper” took place in the well-heeled enclave of Atherton, California. Thieves cracked the electronic code and stole 450 super-premium bottles of wine. The New York Times wrote that “There was no sign of forced entry, indicating the possibility of an inside job…The perpetrator had a discerning palate, leaving behind lesser vintages. The average bottle stolen was reported to be worth $222.”

Now news is coming out of Bordeaux of yet another heist. “Over €600,000 of first growth and other top Bordeaux wines have been stolen from one of France’s oldest negociant houses in a heist which bears all the hallmarks of an inside job,” reports

Wow, international intrigue, precious wine, savvy thieves–someone had better alert a screen writer and Catherine Zeta-Jones! THIS is the wine screenplay they have been waiting for! (Sorry, Russell Crowe)

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Food Network to wine and organics: Drop Dead

In case you missed Tony Boudain’s hilarious rant against the Food Network, it has been making its way around “the internets.” New York magazine got into the action, rushing to the defense of the Food Network saying that Michael Ruhlman, who published the Bourdain rant on his blog, specializes in cheap shots. Ruhlman fired back calling NY Mag “wankers” and told them to buy his book. Good stuff. I can’t wait for the TV version to come out (though probably not on Food Network).

Now we get this sent to the Dr. Vino world headquarters from a trusted source with insider knowledge (emphasis added):

Interestingly, [the Bourdain critique] is not a big deal at the Network at all. They are a media company first and they try to appeal to the masses as much as possible. It’s part of the business model if you will and a byproduct of being available in over 90 million homes. As a side note, the fact that they’re in 90 million homes is why it is very unlikely to ever have a show on wine or even organic foods on the air. They don’t want to alienate any of the non-drinking viewers or preach to anyone about the wonders of organic foods, especially if they can’t afford the extra cost or find them easily. As an extension of that, the Network doesn’t necessarily want to alienate the “non-chef/home cook” too much either and that’s why they need people like Rachael Ray and Paula Deen. But… they also need the balance provided by a Mario Batali and Bobby Flay.

Wine alienates viewers?! Organics are offputting?! Call or write your cable or satellite channel, demand a wine network!

Swords, sandals and a taste of…California

Want free wine? It can be yours for the next few days courtesy of…HBO. Roll the tape [source: AdAge]:

HBO will offer complimentary bottles of “Rome” cabernet sauvignon at more than 100 eateries in the three cities to promote the second-season launch of its sex-blood-and-togas series, debuting Jan. 14. But rather than have restaurant servers introduce the product by saying “And our house wine tonight is brought to you by HBO,” consumers will be presented with a polite card at their tables: “A taste of ‘Rome’ awaits you. Ask server for details.”

Mmm, cabernet, swords and sandals. Sounds authentic? Hardly. But at least the promoters recognize as much.

Though intended to give diners an authentic taste of the show’s premise, the “Rome” wine was not shipped in from Italy; it was produced in California. HBO’s senior VP-consumer marketing, Courteney Monroe, was unable to secure an Italian wine vendor, but she doesn’t believe the promotion fails logistically. The detail is as subtle as the promotion was intended to be.

Somehow, I bet the special effects are better than the wine…(hat tip: UTB)

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Fast Food Nation, reviews and Q&A

I have assigned the book Fast Food Nation to political science undergrads. Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction account about “the dark side of the all-American meal” really makes political economy theories about labor and markets seem much more relevant and grounded. Heck, even if you’re not a polisci student it is still a great read, weaving together compelling stories that may change your eating habits forever.

So it was with great relish (but not ketchup) that I attended an advance screening of the new movie “Fast Food Nation” yesterday with director Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser in attendance. The movie is a fictional account–written by Linklater and Schlosser–that weaves in much of the material from the original book. Even though the material is dark, it’s got a lot of great acting and terrific characters, most of whom journey from innocence to cynicism–or just started off cynics anyway.

Since it has little relevance to wine despite being very worthwhile I’ll leave the reviews to the pros. Check here for AO Scott’s review in the NY Times. Or get a roundup of reviews over on metacritic.

But I did record the Q&A with Linklater and Schlosser so I will put that up here. You can learn about how they got access to slaughterhouses, their thoughts on potential lawsuits, and just how much Bruce Willis got paid for his excellent cameo.

Audio here (35 minutes)

Check out the movie, which opens in 321 theaters today.
Fast Food Nation, official site
NY Coalition of Healthy School Lunches, screening organizer

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