If you’ve ever felt you had foreign competition you could never beat… or worried whether your son was ever going to straighten out his life and come into the business… or discovered half a warehouse full of product that was out of spec… cancel your plans for this evening and drive as far as it takes to see Bottle Shock, the feel-good comedy/romance of the decade for anyone running a small manufacturing business – or any small business, for that matter.
Well, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to call wine making a manufacturing business. But wine making is in the same NAICS category as manufacturing, so I’m going to count it in.
Here’s a synopsis of this based-on-a-true-story film.
In 1976, France was to U.S. wine makers what China is to U.S. toy manufacturers today. An unbeatable competitor. And then something happened. An English wine merchant living in Paris got the idea of putting on a bi-centennial blind taste test comparing French wines with wines from America’s Napa Valley… in order to remind people “how important France has been to American history.” This really happened.
The heroes of the story are a father, Jim Barrett, owner of the Chateau Montelena vineyard, and his likeable but totally irresponsible son, Bo, both real people. Barrett senior has given up his partnership in a local law firm in order to pursue his dream of being a vintner, but when the story opens, he’s on the edge of failure. And then, the opportunity to enter the Paris contest arrives. It is David and Goliath to the max. I won’t give away the details of the plot. But I will say that it’s an object lesson in the value of quality to a business. And it’s a lot of fun.
The two producers, Marc and Brenda Lhormer, have their own David and Goliath story to tell. They had been running the Sonoma Valley Film Festival in California for several years when they came across a script for a movie about a vintner in the neighboring Napa Valley that they just had to make into a movie. They raised money (mostly from friends), hired a director with Sundance Film Festival connections (Randall Miller), and just like that, shot the movie. To use (Marc) Lhormer’s words concerning the risk involved, “We’re definitely crazy.”
They tried to sell Bottle Shock to a major Hollywood distributor, but when they couldn’t get a deal they liked, they decided to distribute the film on their own.
When I chatted with Lhormer on Monday, the movie had grossed an average of $6,000 on 48 screens over the previous weekend, “not a home run but at least a double or a triple.” They’ll be on 117 more screens soon, hoping for similar results, which will allow them to fund even more openings.
I’ll admit, the movie does have a little bit of over-the-top dialog about wine, e.g. “You have to have the soil under your fingernails to understand wine,” but this can be overlooked, and the movie as a whole is terrific. (If you’re wondering, it’s “PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and a scene of drug use.”)
One final note: Bottle Shock will probably only play in your area for a couple of weeks. So don’t put it off or you might be too late.