The other night, I was sitting at my local wine bar, and I noticed that an awful lot of people seemed to be ordering
Pinot Noir. "Huh," I thought. "That can't be because of Sideways ... can it?"
Well, according to this article by Matthew Verrinder, maybe it can. Writing for Reuters, Verrinder reports that sales of Central and Northern Californian pinot brands were up anywhere from 10 to 50 percent in the last four weeks of last year, and that wine makers, distributors, and retailers alike are attributing the spike to a specific scene in Alexander Payne's film in which Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen fetishize the pinot grape and process:
"People come in and immediately say, 'Where's the pinot noir?"' said Steve Villani, manager of Columbus Circle Liquors in Manhattan. "After a while, we began to ask them if they saw the movie, and they laugh out loud and say, 'yes."'
Meanwhile, National Public Radio's All Things Considered aired a story this afternoon on the Sideways-fueled explosion of tourism in Santa Barbara. According to Ina Jaffe, the Hitching Post winery and restaurant, where Madsen's character waits tables in the film, has become the "ground zero" of the "Miles and Jack Wine Tour", inspired by the film and co-promoted by Fox Searchlight and the Santa Barbara Tourism Council. Listen to the story at npr.org.
The interesting thing about both of these items is that they pretty much exclude the issue of snobbery - the Reuters article mentions that pinot is typically the province of the most advanced wine geeks, but steers clear of asking those geeks how they feel about having their special love co-opted by film fans. And Santa Barbara is not exactly accustomed to this kind of attention - after all, more than one critic, after seeing the film last fall at Toronto, mis-identified its location in their reviews as Napa Valley.
All I'm saying is, I'd be interested in hearing how the townies and oenophiles are reacting to all this.