Do you recall the movie Sideways that was popular in 2004? For those who didn’t see it, Sideways is the story of two middle-aged friends, Miles and Jack, who set out on a final week of fun before Jack gets married. They drive north from Los Angeles to the wine region around Santa Barbara in Miles’ sporty little convertible. Jack is a less-than-successful actor just looking for a good time, but Miles is all about the wine, fancying himself as something of a connoisseur. They visit a number of wineries where Miles says things like “the estate chardonnay is quaffable but far from transcendent” and “the cab franc is hollow, flabby and overripe”. Later at dinner with some women they’ve managed to meet, Miles, in full snob mode, says "If anyone orders Merlot I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any #@!% merlot." In contrast, Miles frequently waxes poetic about the wonders of Pinot Noir.So now you’re thinking, great movie review, but what does this have to do with anything? Well, it turns out that this simple little movie has had a profound effect on the wine industry. So much so that its impact has become known as the “Sideways Effect”. People who had never heard of Pinot Noir began drinking it in abundance and people who thought they were chic drinking Merlot suddenly wanted nothing to do with it. The California Highway Patrol reported a jump in highway incidents in Santa Barbara County, saying the movie led to a virtual stampede to the Santa Barbara wine country, causing a rash of drunk driving arrests and crashes. The area has 90 tasting rooms.
Cellar NotesTo be fair, here are both a Pinot Noir and a Merlot you might like. The Pinot Noir is unusual in that it is under $20; hard to find since Sideways. It is from Monterey County, reflecting my bias for central coast Pinot Noir. The Merlot is also unusual in that it is a blend. Merlot is commonly a component of Cabernet Sauvignon blends, but rarely is it the predominant variety in a blend, at least among new world wines. I’ve classified both of these wines as soft, so even white wine drinkers shouldn’t be afraid to give them a try.
A note about vintage – If you are unable to locate a vintage shown in Cellar Notes, with some significant exceptions, you may find the next vintage year very similar. Modern viticulture and production methods have reduced, although not eliminated, dramatic year-to-year variation.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.~Author Unknown
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes. The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
Now, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions; things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else; the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first, he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Take care of the golf balls first; the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented. The professor smiled. I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of glasses of wine with a friend.