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Review: "Bottle Shock"

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

The sip heard around the world occurred in 1976 at a blind wine tasting by an all-French panel of judges. Known as the Judgement of Paris, the results from that tasting being that "S'Napa-Noma Valley" wines were introduced across the planet.

On that day, California wines bested France's grand crus across the board. Naturally, the outcome rocked wine snobs off their seats.

In 2008, a movie was made about the struggle of just one of Napa Valley's newest vintners Chateau Montelena. It starred Alan Rickman, Chris Pine and Bill Pullman. While considered a small film by Hollywood standards, the subject known as "Bottle Shock" was the impenitence for the film.

The term describes what can occur when wine is produced under reductive conditions in the absence of oxygen to minimize oxygen from getting into the wine; yet, oxygen can enter into the bottle during bottling causing bottle shock.

The play stars Jim Barrett, as T. J. Mannix, a divorced, ex-lawyer, turned winemaker struggling to make his over-mortgaged dream a reality, did not know about this phenomenon. Mannix gives an outstanding performance along with Gustavo Brambilla, played by Patrick Ortiz, who plays one of the cellar crew.

On the technical side, the scenic design by Jo Winiarski is amazing. The lighting design works well, enhancing the set. Janet Pitcher was on the mark with costume choices while prop master Holly Lapp kept everything in place.

While the book written by James D. Sasser, with music and lyrics by Charles Vincent Burwell, closely follows the film; this production directed by J. Scott Lapp could use a bit more blending.

"Bottle Shock" runs until July 23 at the California Center for the Arts, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., in Escondido, with lots of free parking. Call 800-988-4253 for tickets or visit

Out of 10 this play is rated 8.

P.S. Chateau Montelena Chardonnay now sells for $79.99 per bottle.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected].


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