sideways movie pinot noir

Ah, the classic Sideways. I am a professional sommelier, and I won’t lie. I’ve watched every wine movie that has ever come out, even the romantic comedies. Why? Because when you’re into wine, you want to know all about it, and you want it to be part of every aspect of your life. Of course, you don’t have to be a somm to love wine movies; if you’re a wine enthusiast, you’ve undoubtedly seen your fair share of wine movies in your days.

There’s one wine movie, though, that changed me. It changed the wine scene as we know it! Sideways. The movie came out in 2004, directed by Alexander Payne and produced by Michael London. Somewhat of a low-budget film, it perfectly portrays the Santa Ynez Valley wine-growing region on California’s Central Coast. But most importantly, it introduces us to a unique character, Miles Raymond, who has more in common with the wine lovers I know than they’d like to admit, including myself.

The Plot

Don’t worry; there are no spoilers here. Sideways is the story of two friends, Miles and Jack, taking a weekend trip to the wine country in a fun and original way of celebrating Jack’s bachelor party.

Miles is a recently divorced, failed writer with limited social skills but an absolute wine fanatic. Jack wants to party. The way the characters complement and contrast each other throughout the film is hilarious and cynical. And you get to enjoy their mishaps and adventures as they explore the vineyards and wineries on California’s central coast.

What’s most interesting about Sideways, though, is what happened after its release; it changed the people’s perception of wine and steered the wine market in an unexpected direction; the market went sideways.

sideways movie

The Effects of the Movie on the Wine Trade

There’s no doubt who benefited the most from the movie Sideways’ success was Santa Barbara County and the winemakers who call it home. Now, it’s not uncommon to see wine lovers from all over frolicking in the region’s vineyards, often visiting the same wineries featured in Sideways along the now called “Sideways Wine Trail.”

But Sideways did more than promote wine tourism; it increased wine consumption nationwide. Suddenly, everyone wanted to become a wine drinker. And here’s the exciting bit. In the movie, Miles displays his love for Pinot Noir in the most heartfelt fashion, so much so that Pinot Noir sales increased on the West Coast by 16%.

Interestingly, Miles also looks down at the fruit-forward but uncomplicated wines made with Merlot, single-handedly crashing the Merlot market. Even today, almost 20 years after its release, Pinot Noir is considered the wine for connoisseurs, and California’s Merlot is at the very least considered an entry-level wine, not that I agree.

The Bottom Line

Sideways is a beautiful movie best enjoyed with a glass of wine. It’s also a reminder that popular culture can change our perception about the things we like and the stuff we buy. But, most importantly, it is a fun way of laughing at ourselves, wine lovers, and how snobby we sometimes look. So, are you a Miles or a Jack?

The Cast

Paul Giamatti … Miles
Thomas Haden Church … Jack
Virginia Madsen … Maya
Sandra Oh … Stephanie
Marylouise Burke … Miles’s Mother
Jessica Hecht … Victoria
Missy Doty … Cammi
Alysia Reiner … Christine Erganian

Frequently Asked Questions

sideways movie pinot noir
Sideways: A Sommelier Reflects on this Classic Wine Movie
The wine movie that changed America and the world. Every sommelier should watch this lovely movie and grapple with the underlying assumptions about inherent in this flick.
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A Beautiful Movie for Wine Lovers
Sideways: A Sommelier Reflects on this Classic Wine Movie

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