Inspired by true events, Bottle Shock pours itself with a certain amount of class, though not much subtlety.
Randall Miller's crowd-pleaser stars Alan Rickman, Dennis Farina, and Bill Pullman in a David vs. Goliath tale in a time when California wines weren't thought of as fine by many around the U.S.
A blind-tasting contest during the Bicentennial year is put together by Rickman's haughty Steven Spurrier. It's a way to try to improve his declining wine business in Paris.
Farina is nicely garrulous as Spurrier's stateside buddy who gets him to pick up competitors from the U.S. where wines have garnered more respect. Spurrier believes, however, that, as good as they may be, they won't have a chance when up against the best from France's vineyards.
Pullman's stubborn Jim Barrett chucked a law practice in San Francisco to get in debt by running Chateau Montelana in Napa Valley. Barrett is very skeptical of Spurrier who offers monetary compensation for what he offers from the winery, as well as those around him.
The plot devised from Miller and his co-writers also involve Barrett's bubbling, wildly coiffed chateau-assisting son Bo (Chris Pine). Bo is more interested in alluring intern Sam (Rachael Taylor) than attending to the small business starting to make a name for itself. He wants to make sure that the striking Sam doesn't respond to the signals sent by employee Gustavo (Freddy Rodriquez) who has plans of his own when it comes to wine. Elisha Dushku also registers as a jaded bar owner.
The story may be a little too much when pertaining to getting the wines, including a surprising '73 Chardonnay, to the event. Yet, if some feel it it too rigged the taste for wine is often a pleasure, even for those non-connoisseurs.
Rickman again proves himself an appealing farceur, even in this mostly arrogant light, with enjoyable debates with Farina. And, besides the preening panache, finally open-minded Rickman, Bottle Shock proves much more delightful than those old Gallo jugs with some lustrous widescreen lensing by Michael J. Ozier.