In 1976, Steven Spurrier ( Alan Rickman "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"), a British merchant working in Paris is searching for a way to raise awareness of his failing Parisian wine shop, and develops an idea to educate the French about California wines. On the advice an expatriate Maurice (Dennis Farina "Get Shorty"), he decides to find the best French and American wines in the world and find participants for an exclusive tasting competition.
We first meet the Barrett family as father Jim (Bill Pullman "Independence Day") and son Bo (Chris Pine "Smokin' Aces"), a golden-haired surfer dude, are struggling to create the perfect chardonnay at their vineyard in the Napa Valley, but find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Although their Chardonnay is a fantastic wine, no one except the locals knows about it. The market is wholly dominated by the Europeans.
Hoping to learn something about life in a vineyard, college intern Sam (Rachel Taylor) arrives at Chateau Montelena and quickly befriends Bo and his buddy Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez - TV's "Six Feet Under"). Menwhile Spurrier is surprised at the quality of wine he's finding in the U.S., especially that coming out of the struggling Chateau Montelena.
Based on actual events, director Randall Miller ("Class Act") presents both sides of the Barrett's dilemma: a dad too serious to see beyond his failures and a son too laid back to take anything, except sex, seriously. Rickman is especially amusing as a nose-in-the-air elitist whose efforts to humiliate California backfire, to history-making effect. When Barrett asks him, “Why don’t I like you?”, Spurrier memorably retorts, “Because you think I'm an ass. And I'm not really. It's just that I'm British and you're not.” An idiotic love triangle dilutes what should have been a sharper focus on the fascinating shift in the facts about the wine-industry that makes up the heart of this gorgeously photographed, but merely pleasant little film.