At Z Movies: Winestock Film Festival

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By Kelly MacConomy

There’s no more whimsical wine pairing than a buttery, cold, clean Chardonnay with a bowl of caramel kettle corn in front of a big screen showcasing Hollywood’s homage to oenology. Oenophiles in the DMV love movie nights. Area vineyards have been screening movie favorites throughout the warm-weather season. The Wine Reserve in Waterford has continued to schedule Friday Dinner and a Movie nights into the fall at their Loudoun County winery. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Caddyshack and Father of the Bride were among the al fresco film favorites featured this past summer, with the next movie screening on tap for October 7. The very popular Bourequin food truck will be on site if you forget your picnic basket!

Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery in Stafford is another nearby winery hosting special events for the film buff oenophile. “Sipping Under the Stars” was sold out all summer featuring film attractions such as Dirty Dancing, Pitch Perfect, and Under the Tuscan Sun, a Z~Oenology best bet with an open bottle of a Big Tuscan, two glasses, and a pasta puttanesca by moonlight!

Hollywood loves wine. Here’s a wine-lover’s list of favorite films of the vine…..

BOTTLE SHOCK

This 2008 indie film was made on an astonishingly low $5 million budget starring the late great Alan Rickman, then newcomer-heartthrob Chris Pine, character actors Bill Pullman and Dennis Farina, with diverting cameo appearances by veteran TV stars Bradley Whitford and Joe Regalabuto.

The film focuses upon the battle of the bottles which shocked the wine world: The 1976 Judgment of Paris in which wine guru Steven Spurrier, played by Rickman, pits the best of Napa in a raised glass, mano a mano, blind vetting up against their French counterparts. The backstory, centered on the family frictions of the Chateau Montelena winemaking dynasty, blends great acting, a solid script and a soupçon of suspense.

Z-Oenology rating 97 points- less than perfection due to slightly over-the-top pretty boy Chris Pine’s first-time-lead overacting.

SIDEWAYS

The film that tanked the Merlot grape. Seriously, Merlot wine sales torpedoed following those immortal words spewed by a tipsy Miles, expertly portrayed by Paul Giamatti: “NO!!! If anyone orders Merlot I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any f-ing Merlot!!!” The centuries-old Merlot grape, used in almost all Meritage-style blends and red table wines, saw a precipitous drop in production predicated by the unexpected popularity of this award-winning film. The perspicacious production of Pinot Noir (Miles has a thing for the delicate, hard-to-grow vine) soared 170 percent after the film’s release in what became known as “The Sideways Effect.”

Also starring Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, this über-oenophile story entertains as few wine-loves-labor-lost, comedy of oeno-romantic errors movies do, with a brilliant script, skillful actors and a cinema verité rarely executed in a run-of-the-vineyard rom-com. Named the AFI Movie of the Year in 2004 and nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Thomas Haden Church) and Best Supporting Actress (Virginia Madsen), Sideways won an Oscar for the Best-Adapted Screenplay by the director Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor.

Z~Oenology rating 99 Points- near perfection save NO ONE puts a 1961 Cheval Blanc in a styrofoam cup paired with a greasy spoon burger and fries! NO ONE!!!! Plus, as much as I adore the irony, it’s a classic Bordeaux blend and 40 percent Merlot!!!!

A GOOD YEAR

Wine and the vineyard cultivation take a back-seat reserve in this 2006 film starring bad boy Russell Crowe as Max Skinner, the disenfranchised corporate raider/banker living in London, turned soft as a grape by the romance of Provence and memories of scenes from boyhood. Max finds love and redemption in romantic reverie following the vine and misguided profiteering while engaged in a pas-de-deux cherchez la femme.

In vino veritas. Max finds truth in wine and true love- beguiled by a ravishing Marion Cotillard, haunted by Albert Finney in flashback as his vineyard-owner uncle, and ghosts of a young Freddie Highmore as Max in his carefree days revisiting childhood, ultimately encountering the enchantment of all things Francophile and oeneophile.

Z~Oenology rating 95- only because it’s a bit hard to suspend your disbelief about a relenting, love-struck Russell Crowe. 90% of filmgoers loved it even if the critics were less yielding and not so resigned to the happy ending.

FRENCH KISS

Kevin Kline stars as a disinherited conman thief who has purloined a Cabernet Sauvignon root stock from a Napa winery that has provenance in his centuries-old family vineyard in Provence, as well as a priceless diamond necklace stolen in the hopes of financing his oenophile dream of starting anew. He smuggles it through customs into France in the carry-on of a hapless, unsuspecting lovelorn Meg Ryan who is in hot pursuit of Timothy Hutton, the fiancé who jilted her for a French femme fatale. Jean Reno stars as the Parisian detective tailing Kline, ultimately proving that when it comes to wine, women and love, the French really do have savior-faire.

Z~Oenology rating 100 because it’s Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan in Paris. And the O’Henry ending paired with the wooden winemaker’s box scene melts my Z~Oenophile heart.