Finding the apocalyptic visions of the last episode too sobering, Sean and Cody liquor up with some California chardonnay to tackle the first comedy on the Green Screen list. In Bottle Shock, wine academy president Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) tries to shake up the Paris wine scene by pitting the snobby old guard French vintners against the rebellious upstarts of California’s Napa Valley in a famous 1976 tasting competition. Can the mostly golden but sometimes poop-brown fluid wrought by the awkward father-son combination of Bill Pullman and Chris Pine, as the beleaguered vintners of Chateau Montelena, stack up against the European heavyweights? Environmental issues explored include the history of viticulture, settler colonialism in old California, and peoples’ relationship with the land they live and work.
What really happened in the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” competition? Why did California wine have such a terrible reputation for most of the 20th century? How did a handful of Eastern European refugees from Communist oppression save the California wine business? Who wouldn’t be flattered to have Alan Rickman play them in a movie? How do you pronounce “terroir”? What was up with those Orson Welles wine commercials from the early ‘80s? Did Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters play at Woodstock ‘94? How can Chris Pine’s wig be even worse than William Shatner’s in Star Trek IV? Why were you so much more likely to watch this movie on the back of an airline seat than in a theater? The answers to these questions flow like cheap cabernet from a bottle of Two Buck Chuck in this tasty episode of Green Screen.
Original trailer for Bottle Shock.
The real Steven Spurrier, in 2016. Photo by Sarah Stierch, Creative Commons 4.0 license.
A statue of winemaker and consultant André Tshelistcheff which stands today in the Napa Valley. Photo by YuriVict, Creative commons 3.0 license.
Mike Grgich, the winemaker who created the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that triumphed in Paris in 1976. He refused to have anything to do with Bottle Shock. Photo by Silverije, Creative Commons 4.0 license.
Article (archived) from 2007, reporting Steven Spurrier’s intention to sue the makers of Bottle Shock. The lawsuit was apparently never filed: https://web.archive.org/web/20140416182316/http://bordeaux-undiscovered.co.uk/blog/2007/08/new-movie-bottle-shock-to-be-sued-by-spurrier/
Profile (archived) of the real Gustavo Brambila, who did not create the Montelena Chardonnay, but who did work with Mike Grgich both at Chateau Montelena and Grgich’s own winery:
Odette Kahn, one of the French judges at the actual 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting. She was so outraged by the result that she tried to withdraw her ballot. Photo by Jean-Michel Kahn, Creative Commons 3.0 license.
One of Orson Welles’s immortal Paul Masson commercials, circa 1980. This is one of the less bizarre ones.
Orson again, completely smashed and trying to advertise wine. This is actually more sad than funny.
Website of the real Chateau Montelena: https://montelena.com/
Website of the real Stag’s Leap Winery, co-winner of the Judgment of Paris (warning, they’ll want to know your birthday): https://www.stagsleap.com/
Next Movie Up: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)