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Wine Moves at the Palms Springs Film Fest

Open Wine Bar at the Movies
Photo by Jason Kempin

We are once again enjoying the glam at the 25th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, where the likes of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep and Bono as well as a flock of other appearing celebs jump into town. And we’re in the mix too, where we vino literati get to dream out loud with our favorite film and wine pairing schemes that this film fest allows us to imagine.

With more than 400 screenings of over 100 films from over 40 countries, this desert’s successful event is further enhanced when we open up our imagined international theatre wine-bar—which, as you’ll notice, is fully stocked! (Film notes quoted herein are provided by psfilmfest.org.)

More movie houses are attempting to increase their business by transforming their snack bar to an open bar. And we are more than happy to put up with those clear plastic cups as long as they make available—and keep pouring, the good vino. Wine and theatre go back beyond Ancient Greece, and, although wine friendly movie venues are the minority report, that doesn’t stop us from dreaming out loud of a wine we’d like to enjoy for each different film we catch.

The Arts mix well: Art of film, Art of wine—It’s a natural!

As with food & wine pairing, where one teams the different combinations of flavors, densities, touch, and nuance of the meal to the points and counterpoints of a designated wine, movies offer us the same, if not a broader matrix of jump-off points. Film origins, story lines, titles, geography, and even character names can imaginatively take us to a myriad of wines around the world.

Just a few years ago, this film fest offered movies with titles like, “Cooking History” and “Mediterranean Food” that screamed out for wine and dispensed easy pairings on a silver screen platter. Last year was testy, this year is leisurely.

Wine selection is always a breeze if we simply pair with movie titles: “The Grand Seduction” is a great warm-up to those new (or skeptical) to wine-movie pairings. Here, you would wish to bring that one wine that seduced you to real wine appreciation: that vino epiphany scenario you still can recall. Mine was the ’78 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cab. What was yours?

Of course, we can go deeper into the story: “The Grand Seduction is a droll comedy featuring a superb performance from Brendan Gleeson as one of the down-on-their-luck Newfoundland villagers determined to trick a big-city doctor (a delightful Taylor Kitsch) into settling in their costal community.” This is a seaside story—so we’re probably talking seafood. Bring that white wine that won over your heart and stomach.

“Love and Lemons” is the culinary comedy of the festival about love, friendship and the courage it takes to follow your dreams. Agnes is a chef and she loves cooking and has nothing left to lose when a friend asks her if she would like to be part owner of a new restaurant . . . pretty much required in a culinary comedy, the food is gorgeously photographed.”

Better bring your wine A-game to this one. Your appetite will be lusting so have a wine that can work with an onslaught sensory shoot. A sturdy red wine always works but an extra-dry Champagne with all those lemony flavors could be the sexy move here with the bubbles getting you through the entire film.

On the serious sides of things, “The death of Nelson Mandela unleashed a torrent of tributes and reminiscences – but not many secrets. In the fascinating documentary “Plot for Peace”, the French businessman Jean-Yves Olivier lets out a doozy. Turns out that this rather nondescript man traveled up-and-down the African continent brokering a peace treaty between warring African factions and Cold War combatants; in so doing, he made way for the end of apartheid in South Africa.”

To get an absolute taste and feel for this film, it’s time to discover the wonderful wines of “the Cape” (South Africa). We Californians can immediately associate with the well-known wine investor Charles Banks—owner of Sandhi, Wind Gap, Qupé and Mayacamas). The widely respected South African Stellenbosch winery, Mulderbosch, was bought last year by Banks. Keen to take Mulderbosch wines to the next level, Charles began to focus in on some of the old vine material available—especially the Chenin Blanc, known as Steen.

This $13 Chenin Blanc owns a powerful nose of guava, lime zest and ripe pear braced by honeysuckle and orange blossoms. A juicy palate with opulent passion-fruit finishing off with tart grapefruit characteristics. A perfect sensual metaphor for the film.

And while we’re at it, another fantastic Mulderbosch is their $11 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé A sexy pink color with lively hues. The nose combines aromas of ripe blood-oranges, cherry-drops and black currant cordial with fragrant sandalwood whiffs and racy acidity. (You can find these wines at Total Wine & More in Palm Desert just before heading out to the movie.)

In the film Enemy, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a bored professor who is shocked and thrilled to find an actor who looks just like him. As he sets out to track down the actor, their lackluster lives become bizarrely intertwined. Gyllenhaal delivers the (dual) performance of his career.” Movie reviewers deem this as a “Cult thriller”.

Now we're not sure how this immediately gets cult status but I’m very aware of the Napa Valley Cult Cabernets that everyone drools over. You know those great Cabs whose fruit is ethereal and where Martha Stewart cries over them: The Harlans, Grace Family or Colgins etc. Now if you're going to enjoy any of these cult classics--even in a dark theatre--wine lovers will smell them out, so better bring an extra bottle.

See you at the movies! Cheers!

Rick Riozza wittily titles himself the "sommelier-about-town" in the desert publication CV Weekly wine and food column: the Vino Voice where his beat is to eat, drink, and cover the environs of Palm Springs. A freelance writer, a contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine, palmspringslife.com and the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery, you can find him conducting wine tastings, food & wine pairing events and fun wine seminars. Contact winespectrum@aol.com