How many of you are like me? When someone mentions the year 2004, you think it really wasn’t that long ago. It is in the 2000s, so it can’t be that long.
Wait? What?! Ten years? It has been an entire DECADE since 2004 and the movie Sideways hit theaters and televisions (and Merlot’s bottom line). It doesn’t seem possible. And yet, it doesn’t seem like that far away. Ten years…that isn’t that long, right? I watched Sideways again this past week, just to gauge how long a decade really is in wine years.
When I watched Sideways for the first time, I was just at the beginning of my wine journey. I was drinking wine exclusively, and had been for some time, mostly because I never could stomach beer or hard liquor (except a great margarita on the rocks with salt; that I still enjoy).
I started by drinking wine coolers. Sun Country wine coolers in the two-liter bottle still make me smile because of the fond times I may or may not remember. Of course, I did some Bartles and James in there, too. Then by my mid-to-late twenties I had moved to sweet wines, then German whites, following a very typical wine palate evolution. I had just turned thirty when I watched the movie, and was a mom with two young children at home, so to even watch an adult movie meant I was staying up late on a weekend after the kids had went to bed.
My first and lasting response to the movie was not wine related (as I am sure is true for many). I just could not get over what a TERRIBLE person the character Jack was! What a creep. I was a bit annoyed with Miles’ character. All of his sniveling and whining got in the way of me enjoying his wining through the Santa Ynez Valley. Keep in mind, this was before I had been to California to visit or had been to any wine country, for that matter. It was before I fell in love with Pinot Noir myself. And it was before I turned forty.
When I rewatched the movie, my first impression was still what a complete and total jackass (excuse my French, but the wordplay is intended) Jack was. A decade of life experience had still not softened me to a man using a woman, any woman, as his self-esteem booster. I also was a little less patient with Miles. I found him more than just a bit annoying. I was sorry he wasn’t more of a grab-life-by-the-horns type of forty-something…without the sexual promiscuity of Jack.
However, what did resound more with me was Miles’ love of Pinot Noir. Though I don’t degrade Merlot as he did, his speech on the Pinot grape was not only true and beautiful, it was symbolic of life…a symbol, which as a fellow English teacher, he should have been able to apply to his own life (which I think, by the end, he did). I loved the sniffing and swirling. I actually understood the wine terms he used. And I knew the areas Miles and Jack visited and discussed.
"It's a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It's, uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it's neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression."
Don’t let being annoyed with one character and totally disgusted by another make you think I didn’t enjoy the movie. A strong response to films like that usually means I was very engaged in the storyline, which was the case here. Plus, if I am to speak completely honestly, when Miles goes to grab Jack’s wallet from the frightening sex-capade scene between waitress Cammi and her white-trash husband, I was cheering for Miles. I wanted him to overcome something in his life…anything! I was so happy that he did. (And of course, very pleased when his love life appeared to turn around at the end of the movie.) My overall review of the movie was positive, more so the second time around. Anyone who loves wine and complicated characters will appreciate this film.
So, is a decade a long time? The answer is yes! Though 2004 doesn’t seem like it should be that distant in the past, it is. Though the movie stayed the same, my life experiences and wine experiences have changed me so much that my response to the movie changed also. From a novice wine drinker with two young children at home ten years ago to a formally educated wine lover six months away from an empty nest today, my reaction to Miles and Jack was very similar; however, my reaction to the wine and wine country was very different. Time changes people…and wine. I look forward to watching Miles and Jack again in another decade to see what I think of them and their juice. But, good Lord, I will be FIFTY then! Yes, time does fly.