There are so many things to love in this movie it’s hard to know where to start. The writing and the acting are just about perfect. So how about … the wine?
Describing fine wine to me is like describing a sunset to a blind man. I can accept that people can distinguish fine nuances, but for myself, I can barely distinguish a red from a white with my eyes closed. Sideways has the best of both worlds here. It takes wine very seriously indeed, and still pokes gentle fun at its pretensions. And when the characters begin talking about the process of wine, the infinite variations a master vintner must take into account to produce a fine wine, the metaphors are very good indeed.
We had an added bonus in that they made this picture in our back yard. Not only that, but they got it right, which is rare in a movie. Often the setting is simply scenery. Anyone who knows San Francisco knows the car chase in Bullitt is bunk. Couldn’ta happened. I’m not complaining, mind you; I know the constraints of moviemaking, and you use the locations you can, the best way you can. But in Sideways the setting is a character: the Santa Ynez valley, the small towns of Buellton and Solvang and Los Olivos, where Lee and I had lunch with our good friend David Crosby a few weeks ago. And not only can you find all the places in this movie (some with the names changed, such as Fess Parker’s winery becoming Frass Canyon Vineyards … and later I found out that frass is a word meaning “insect excrement”), you could probably make a road map of all the places they drove, and it would make sense.
It’s been big business around here. Wine sales are up, and you can take Sideways tours that visit all the locations and get very, very drunk.