This movie had been in my Netflix queue from day one; before that, it was in my Blockbuster queue. Now, being an anal geek, I have a queue-purging algorithm. It told me that I should either get this movie, or delete it from my queue. So I decided to bump it up to the top. And it wasn't bad! I wouldn't have missed anything by not seeing it, but it was a decent way to spend an evening when there's nothing but reality shows on TV.
It is the fictionalized story of how California wines first gained respect among the worldwide wine connoisseur community in the mid-1970s. It concentrates on Chateau Montelena, where prickly winemaker Jim Barrett (played by UMass graduate Bill Pullman) is in debt up to his tastebuds, trying to get his Chardonnay exactly right. He is semi-assisted by his son, Bo (Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine); unfortunately Bo is kind of a laid-back hippie who is mostly out for a weed-fueled good time, something that irritates his straight-arrow father. Bo has a Hispanic buddy, Gustavo. And into the mix comes cute UC intern, Sam, who wants to learn the vineyard biz.
Meanwhile, in Paris, the British Steven Spurrier (played by Alan Rickman) is trying to get some respect among his peers. He gets the bright idea of a blind taste test between California and French wine. And he jets off to California to see if he can rustle up some good ones.
So, a little family drama, some broad humor, and a lot of people making a big fuss over how good various wines are. Up front: Alan Rickman's understated and subtle performance is a big main reason to watch this. A small fraction of actors can communicate volumes with a lip twitch or the tiniest nod of the chin. Rickman is one of those.