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By: John V
California wine country has been a popular honeymoon and vacation destination for a while, but the movie "Sideways" drew a great deal of attention to the Santa Ynez Valley and surrounding area of Santa Barbara, and especially to the California Pinot Noir and Napa Valley. Pinot noir is one of the many incredible wines that growers and vintners in Napa and across California produce regularly, and it has been grown there with passion since the early 20th Century.

The history of the Napa Valley and the Pinot grape reads like a story about an inevitable meeting. This grape was cultivated in France, legend says by monks until the French revolution. It thrives in mildly cold and wetter climates. This makes the valleys of Northern California and Oregon ideal for the grape. The first commercial winery in Napa Valley was established in 1861, with hundreds more opening by the time prohibition began in the 1920s. It was during this time that Pinot Grapes took hold in the valley. After prohibition, a spirit of camaraderie pervaded across California among its wine makers. When the United States' most important post-prohibition wine-maker told vintners in California to start making Cabernet Sauvignon because it was better suited to the soil, it opened the way for small growers to focus on the classic French grape. This led to Pinot Noir being grown and produced in smaller batches, which contributed to growers' ability to pay closer attention to each year. By the 1950's, Napa had begun to gain some notoriety across the entire country, if only among wine circles.

Then, in the 1970's a Napa Valley Cabernet won critical acclaim at a blind taste test in France, and all of a sudden the entire region had the attention of the international wine community. All of a sudden, California Pinot Noir and Cabernet were expected to be able to stand up against wines grown in the country of the grape's origin. However, for the next three decades California Pinot Noirs would remain in the shadow of the famous Cabernet as well as the Merlots of the region and a few other more aggressively marketed reds.

Then, the movie Sideways came out in 2004. It obviously drew attention to the Santa Ynez Valley, as mentioned. The main character also repeatedly argued that Pinot Noir is his favorite wine, and far better than Merlot. This single component of a movie about many things had a dramatic impact on California Pinots, and on the Napa Valley more than any other region because so many good Pinots come from there.

In fact, many argue that "Sideways" caused a very significant increase the sales of Pinot bottles in the $20 to $40 range. At the same time, it also depressed the prices of Merlots across the country. The increased attention and demand for the wine gave growers and vintners a stronger incentive to work on the grape and the wine, and increased market size. It allowed them to showcase the quality wines they had been able to develop since the time when the Pinot Grape began to only be grown by small farms. It has remained popular since.


The Napa Valley and California Pinot Noir Overtook Other Wines in the Area after the Movie "Sideways" Drew Attention to This Less Popular Wine. Pick Some up at
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