Movie Review: Sideways

Miles and Jack at the
Hitching Post II Bar enjoying some Pinot. enjoying some Pinot. enjoying some Pinot. enjoying some Pinot.

GrapeRadio and Michael Geoghegan of Reel Reviews have joined forces in an insightful look at the smash hit movie: Sideways.

We discuss the film and its impact on Merlot, Pinot Noir and the beautiful wine country of Santa Barbara, California.

If you would like to continue the Sideways experience here are a few helpful links:

Wineries in the movie:
Sanford Winery
Andrew Murray Vineyards
Firestone Winery
Fess Parker Winery (Frass Canyon)

Other show links:
Hitching Post II Restaurant
Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant
Sideways Tour Map

Click Below to Play the Show:

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Show #17
(41:19 min 19 MB)

20 Responses to “Movie Review: Sideways”

  1. 1 Miles Jotdan Apr 7th, 2005 at 11:54 am

    Great commentary on one of my favorite movies. I need to get over to Santa Barbara fast before all the good wine in consumed. I loved the link for the map that lays out Miles and Jacks journey. Keep the shows coming. I need more.

  2. 2 Daniel Jackson Apr 12th, 2005 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for a awesome review. This was my favorite moviee for 2004. Maybe the fact that I am a wine geek had something to do with that. Wish I had a 61 Chevel. I sure would drink it out of the proper stemware.


  3. 3 Chris Bartholow Apr 12th, 2005 at 8:44 pm

    It was great to hear your different opinions on why Niles did not savor his 61 Cheval. I have a different opinion on why Niles drank his wine from a paper cup in a fast food joint. To him life was on hold until he got back together with his ex-wife, hence the meaning of Sideways – putting one’s life on hold hoping it will get better. The bottle, like his life, was sideways waiting for that time when he would get back together with his ex-wife and share it with her. Once he realized that time was never going to happen he could not separate the wine from that wishful event. So he opened it up and drank it with no ceremony, giving it the respect he had for himself – not much.

  4. 4 Jay Selman Apr 13th, 2005 at 7:46 am

    I must confess, I can’t get the 61 Cheval scene out of my mind. The more I think about it, the more I think I am right. However, after thinking about Michaels take on it, (Chris B’s explanation somewhat mirrors Michaels), those explanations seem just as plausable. I would love to talk to someone in the movie about it. All that being said, we all agree, we wish we had the chance to drink the wine.


  5. 5 paul Apr 13th, 2005 at 10:38 am

    okay, i hate to admit it, this show confirmed my suspicion that i am a wine geek… i used to just call myself a wino (in an attempt to make wine more accessible to my friends), but its official, i’m now a wine geek…

    apparently, the book makes it clear that “sideways” refers to getting plastered, preferable on red wine… alexander payne may have had something else in mind and made it more open to interpretation.

    whitcraft pinots are very thought provoking wines. my actual notes from a 2000 whitcraft bien nacido pinot “4/2004 Very intersting. Bit gamey and meaty with some interesting flavours. Thought provoking…” and on a 2000 whitcraft bien nacido q block “9/2004 Medium colour, lighter berry core infused with some herbal elements. Not as earthy as the other 2000.” bob describes them as being very “distinctive”.

    with regards to interesting and descriptive tasting notes, my favorite one that i love to quote is from pierre rovani on a 1999 tony soter beacon hill pinot, “At first, the nose of the 1999 Pinot Noir Beacon Hill had aromas reminiscent of roasted bone marrow, a smell I adore…”

    finally, the wine highlighted at the los olivos cafe and asked about by michael was incorrectly identified (i think by jay) as a pomerol. they were drinking pinot. michael accurately called it a pommard, which every wine geek knows is a small village in the cote de beaune. and the true wine geek could tell from that label that the producer of wine was dominique laurent.

  6. 6 Jay Selman Apr 13th, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    I confess, In my wine snobbery, I just figured that Michael just got it wrong ( I did not remember the bottle). I just assumed it was a pomerol
    I would have never guessed Dominique Laurent (given Miles adversion for oak).

    I have been calling myself a wine geek all these years and now I can say I am a wino not a wine geek. I could not pass the test Paul mentioned. I guess I will just have to try harder next time and drink more wine.


  7. 7 Steve Apr 13th, 2005 at 10:50 pm

    Miles is clearly battling depression. Wine is his passion and may be the only thing keeping him interested in life at the beginning of the film. The divorce destroyed him. He enjoys teaching and stated that his chosen profession does not allow him to attain certain wines.

    He won’t drink Merlot and dislikes Cab Franc because he knows he cannot afford to partake in Merlot at it’s best, Petrus, and Cab Franc at it’s best, right bank Bordeaux.

    He cannot outwardly express his frustration with his lot in life marriage and career wise, and channels the aggression at his inability to fully enjoy what makes him happy: wine.

    Miles loves Merlot and Cab Franc.

    One of your more eloquent listeners can explain this paradox better than I…so someone please do.

  8. 8 Chris Bartholow Apr 14th, 2005 at 8:27 am

    Steve, I am not sure I completely understand the paradox you present. But let me layout how I see his life and this might help – I doubt I will do it eloquently so my apologies upfront 🙂

    Miles said his life was never better than when he was with his ex-wife. He was depressed because he had convinced himself that life would only get better when he is back together with her. Everything depressing about him, all his failures, all his hang-ups seemed to be directly tied to his belief that only when he is with her again will he be able to live. He had put his life sideways along with the 61 Cheval Blanc until they got back together. His mediocre book even displayed the lack of passion that was in his life. In my opinion, had he gotten that book deal he would still have been depressed, just initially happy.

    He liked Pinot Noir because it was difficult to make and full of complexity. I think he was pointing out how difficult and complex life was to him and that if everything is perfect he would be back together with his wife. Pinot represented this perfection he was missing in his life, this happiness and completeness.

    Maya told Miles this about wine: “I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.

    She was telling him that he was peaking and should be living his life and that life is not static and people evolve. Complexity was not about difficulty to her – it was about growing. It was time to get off his side and live life. Read my above comments about why he drank the 61 Cheval the way he did.

    As far as his dislike for Merlot and the fact that he was savoring a Merlot/Cab Fran blend (Cheval) I think this is overstated. I think he only recently started to love Pinot because of how it seemed to reflect his life after his ex-wife. When he was with her a fine wine like Cheval Blanc was something to share. California Merlot has had a bad name even before the movie. Some of the best wines in the world are Merlot, but some of the worst are too. The average guy started buying California Merlot in the 90s and maybe the average wine snob “wanna be” started disdaining soon after that to distinguish himself from the average guy. I don’t know. But I have heard people’s somewhat irrational dislike for Merlot for awhile. And Miles wasn’t happy and people that are not happy tend to criticize others to compensate for their own shortcomings. I think the whole Merlot aspect of the movie was more coincidental as opposed to ironical or paradoxical.

    Just my opinion.

  9. 9 Michael Apr 14th, 2005 at 9:23 am

    Paul, you have made my day. Wine geeks be damned! The film geek gets the wine, a Pommard, right! 😉

  10. 10 Alex Winnett May 3rd, 2005 at 9:17 pm

    Hey guys,

    I am a big fan of the show. I just heard your review of the movie “Sideways”. I agree, it was definitely one of the best films of the past

    I just wanted to make a bit of a clarification. You were wondering at what restraunt Miles was drinking his bottle. Well, I just happen to
    know. I spent six months living in the Santa Maria Valley and I can emphatically tell you that restraunt is called Orcutt Burger.

    In fact, it is the Santa Maria branch of Orcutt Burger. They have huge portions of fries and the best veggie burger in the Valley. Highly recommended.

    Thanks again guys,

  11. 11 Oli Jul 28th, 2005 at 12:35 am

    ooh, “Sideways” is the nice film, I rewatched it again recently).. Thanks for wineries links =)

  12. 12 MK Feb 23rd, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks to your podcast, I’ve found a nice distraction on my 2 hour commute to my new teaching gig. I enjoyed your show on the vintage ports, and was wondering about a show on some of the tremendous red wines from Portugal, particularly from the regions of Alentejo, Douro, Dão, and Palmela.

    Please keep me posted.

    Best Regards,

    M Kehren

  13. 13 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 24th, 2006 at 8:00 am

    MK, you are soooooo RIGHT! We will cover these wines/areas. I promise.


  14. 14 Jason Sep 18th, 2006 at 2:16 am

    Why is “Sideways” titled Sideways? Thanks, Jason.

  15. 15 GrapeRadio Bunch Sep 18th, 2006 at 7:03 am

    Jason, it’s a reference to being out of control, over-indulging or getting drunk.


  16. 16 Robert Lobel Oct 30th, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    I too loved the movie for the comments posted above, and also for the fact that Mile’s mother was played by Marylouise Burke who happens to be my second cousin. Imagine having a relative in THAT movie regardless of the size of the part. Hope to get out to that area real soon.

  17. 17 Neal Clark Jun 25th, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Again, sorry for this comment being 3 years old, but I actually hated the movie. I didn’t like the character of the friend (Jack) played by Thomas Hayden Church. I didn’t like how the movie ended. I wanted more, I wanted to know that things worked out for Miles. I appreciated the emphasis on Pinot Noir, which was great. I appreciated how Virginia Madsen talked about Pinot during that late night party. But Jack’s behavior and how Miles dealt with it just ruined the movie for me. I rented it and told my wife that I really just didn’t like it, with as much of me wanting to like it because of the focus on Wine and Pinot Noir. I guess character development was more important for me than the focus on wines.

    Just my thoughts.


  18. 18 Dan May 10th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I talked to one of the owners of Ravenswood in Sonoma and he told me that Sideways dealt a devestating blow to the whole industry because of the Merlot bashing. He said that profits from merlot went down to roughly 30% of what they had been for roughly 2 years. Merlot was and still is a trendy pick for those who may not know a whole lot about vino, but it’s still delicious. Other than that tidbit, I thoroughly enjoyed sideways and thought that the beautiful areas of California they were driving through was a great secondary character to the Miles and Jack relationship.

  19. 19 Eddy Sep 19th, 2013 at 11:01 am

    To be honest with you guys – of course I kinda enjoyed at least the fact that there IS a radio-conversation-thing about Sideways, but:

    You really seem to be complete idiots. Regarding the evaluation of the movie, regarding wines and especially regarding: the maddening, cold-hearted, bigheaded, empathy-lacking manner in which you “describe” the character Miles. You are so far off in so many parts, I even don’t want to talk about it.

    Hereon I’m gonna open a bottle of Laurent’s Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Charmes from 2008, which isn’t oaky at all by the way, and which Miles likely would have like damn much, and gonna get drunk on it, cause that’s what wine enthusiasts do!

  20. 20 Eddy Sep 19th, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Just to add, since you probably won’t like the “idiots” part in my comment:

    what annoyed me e.g. was the way you talked about Miles as a looser and laughed about him, showed no compassion or empathy at all: as if you were any better. Only because you perhaps do bang a woman after her wonderful Pinot-story, this isn’t less miserable at all. The opposite is true. And please don’t tell me you guys don’t watch porn.

    With Mile’s character a certain type of story-telling about a certain type of character in modern societies and their necessities is evolved that CLAIMS compassion. And critical reflection on societal reasons that make this person suffer.

    That – in my eyes – is one of the most important parts and one of the biggest opportunities in reading books, watching movies. You at least miss it, or perhaps even boycott it.

    The final Cheval Blanc scene in the burger restaurant of course does not show any suicidal tendencies, again, the opposite is the case. Miles finally manages to get rid of Victoria, he activly escapes his fate of always being miserable about his last marriage, he is DOING something. And he is doing what Maya told him. In this moment, he is leavin Victoria behind and turning towards Maya. You can clearly see on his face how very much he ENJOYS drinking the Cheval Blanc from the plastic cup, this wine in this moment is the best wine experience he ever had.

    Because there is no objectivity in wine tasting (I mean, of course there is, but…) since wine drinking and tasting it exactly won’t make you forget the wonderful or wretched circumstances you are in. Only getting drunk can fulfill this. Sadly only for some hours.

    I really can’t get over the fact that you guys really mean it when you say: “Ohhh that must have been a horrible wine experience when he drank that Cheval Blanc from a plastic cup.” Come on, are you serious?

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