Mr Rogers died, American troops invaded Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was captured. The year was 2003. Do you think you could persuade any reasonable Pinot Noir winemaker that a small-budget Hollywood movie would turn their world upside down?

Rex Pickett’s Sideways hit the screens in 2004 and nothing has been the same for Pinot, and certainly Merlot, since. It remains rather remarkable to this day how often the movie comes up when you visit regions known for their Pinot Noir. Marketers, winemakers, and tasting room folk credit Miles and Jack for the boom in Pinot popularity and sales.

If you love Pinot or just reading about wine you know the story. Now, Pickett is back along with Miles and Jack and gallons of Pinot Noir in Vertical. It’s the Sideways sequel.

The novel was released last year and talk of a Sideways follow-up has stayed hot since. During an October 2010 visit to Paso Robles, locals were discussing a possible movie. And having completed the novel, there is no question itwill be coming to a screen near you.

The Vertical story picks up after Sideways. Miles novel is made into a wildly successful movie and he’s in big demand. Buddy Jack is divorced and has hit hard times. Miles’ elderly mother is in failing health in Southern California and wants to go live out her life with a sister in Wisconsin. It’s not hard to see another road trip coming. Miles recruits Jack, packs up Mom, hires a Filipino caretaker and they’re off through California wine country and then to Oregon before taking Mom home.

Miles has been invited to host the International Pinot Noir Festival in McMinnville setting the scene for more over-the-top drunkness and sex.

Pickett has mastered storytelling and attention to detail but he’s shown no ability to exercise self control. Wading into the first few chapters you might be shocked by the raunchy descriptions of the orgies centered around Miles and Jack.

Pickett includes a level of detail on the sexual forays of our favorite author that just didn’t advance the story. It often reads awkward and out of place. It goes from making the reader uncomfortable to worse when Jack suffers from a problem erectile dysfunction medications warn you about in their wonderfully odd commercials.

But he does tell a wonderful story that serves as a screenplay for what could be another very successful movie. There is plenty of sex, winery name dropping, Willamette Valley wonderfulness, and Pinot Noir. It’s really a two-part novel. The first two-thirds of the book is the two buddys’ madcap roadtrip with the final third of the pages serving as a moving novelette about a middle-aged man dealing with the health and well-being of his aged mother.

Pickett has been spending time on Sideways for the stage. There seems little question Vertical the movie can be far behind.

If moviemakers can sign Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church for Miles and Jack, a hit seems assured. How about Betty White in a serious dramatic role as Miles’ Mother?

If you like wine and good story telling you’re going to like Vertical. Or, you can just wait for the movie that’s sure to follow.

Send comment or questions to: hewitthoward@gmail.com

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