Sip and See: How Wines Can Accompany Films

Dean Handy from te Au Bon Climat Tasting Room

As cliché as it may sound, uncorking a bottle of wine presents a moment of opportunity. While wine can be enjoyed entirely standalone, it is typically accompanied by food, conversation, music, and sometimes movies. Wine and entertainment have had an intertwining relationship since Greek theater, so it seems only natural that sometimes sipping a wine leads to slipping into a story. 

Any bottle could be enjoyed with any film, but for the sake of experiment, I wanted to find out which Au Bon Climat wines could be elevated by fine cinema, and vice versa. I have chosen three wines that I believe structurally and thematically lend themselves to the experience and pleasure of cracking open a bottle and settling on the couch in front of the screen. Each wine will be paired with a film from its vintage date to establish a sense of time and the cultural conditions under which these wines and films were produced. Wine and film are both works of art that require intention, craftsmanship, and understanding. It makes almost too much sense to enjoy these arts together for a deeper appreciation of the relationship and synergy that exists between wine and storytelling.

Movie: Whiplash (2014) 

Wine: Clendenen Family Vineyards 2014 “Punta Exclamativa” Nebbiolo

a bottle of Clendenen Family Vineyards 2014 “Punta Exclamativa” Nebbiolo being held in front of a screen playing the movie "Whiplash" from 2014

Jim Clendenen perfectly encapsulates the essence of his 2014 Nebbiolo with his subtitle “Punta Excalativa”, which means ‘exclamation point’ when translated from Italian. On the palate, the wine is soft, structured, pronounced, and lingering. The nose, while initially intense with aromas of spice and whiskey barrels, slowly turns into beautiful dark fruit. The journey of this Nebbiolo as it goes from fierce and powerful to soft and harmonious parallels the story one finds in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. The film follows Andrew Teller, a first-year music student who plays the drums and hopes to land a spot in a highly-competitive music conservatory. Throughout the film, Andrew is pushed to his limits by his music instructor in an intense and unforgiving fashion, but by the end of the film, the viewer is left to consider whether or not these extreme conditions are necessary to produce high art. The whole film is accompanied by punchy jazz that does not let up, similar to the story that unfolds. 

Whiplash is a film that has a pronounced point to make, even if it is not immediately apparent in the chaotic and fast-paced structure of the film’s beginning. Enjoying a glass of “Punta Exclamativa” while watching this film will reveal how intense care and dedication to one’s craft can result in a complex multi-layered end product. Both the film and wine trace how a product of art necessitates time, dedication, and understanding to result in one point of exclamation– a point that remains lingering on the mind and palette of the viewer and drinker. 

Movie: Baby Driver (2017) 

Wine: Clendenen Family Vineyards 2017 Syrah/Viognier 

a glass of Clendenen Family Vineyards 2017 Syrah/Viognier being held in front of a screen playing the movie "Baby Driver" from 2017

If the feeling one gets from Syrah/Viognier and the film Baby Driver could be captured in one word, it would be style. The Syrah and Viognier are grown together at the Rancho La Cuna property and then co-fermented, a practice seen in the Rhône region. The best part about pouring Syrah/Viognier in the tasting room is the surprise guests get when learning about the stylish and unique practices that go into the bottle. Surprise and style are also elements one can detect on the palate, as the interaction between these somewhat opposing grape varietals works magnificently. The pepper and medium body one expects from Syrah is reined in by the supple richness of the Viognier, resulting in an unexpected mix of blackberry, cream, and earth tones. 

Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver follows the structure of Syrah/Viognier in the sense that surprise and style are at the forefront of the film. The movie follows Baby, a getaway driver who works for a heist crew, but Wright inserts a stylish plot device, as Baby is unable to perform his best unless a killer soundtrack is pumping through his earbuds. Another fundamental component of the film is the fast-paced, yet carefully crafted dialogue which makes the film not only fun but complex. Uncorking a bottle of Syrah/Viognier and firing up Baby Driver is a combination that will not let you down. Surprise, fun, style, and cleverness are tenants of both this wine and film and will leave you wanting a sequel… and another bottle. 

Movie: Us (2019) 

Wine: Au Bon Climat 2019 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir

a bottle of Au Bon Climat 2019 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir being held in front of a screen playing the movie "Us" from 2019

Jim Clendenen demonstrates his masterclass winemaking practices with one of the last vintages he produced in his 2019 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir. Simply put, it is a deep and dark iteration of a pinot noir that keeps you engaged with a sense of balance and thought-provoking complexity. Similarly, Us is an attentive and grippy horror film that has the viewer leaning into the thought of a dark and hidden world. The makeup of the film tracks the structure and practices of the wine, as the Sanford grapes are fermented 50% whole cluster and spend 20 months in 50% new french oak to unlock a rigorous smoky profile from these pinot grapes. This results in one of Jim’s most unique takes on the pinot noir varietal, one that asks you to look at pinot noir from a new perspective. 

Jordan Peele’s Us is his sophomore film as a horror movie director, and it leans heavily into themes of an unearthed reality. These themes are accentuated by Peele’s clever use of lighting, shadow, and color which are pervasive throughout the film. Since the film hinges on the viewer finding this dark and hidden world on their own a plot synopsis will not be provided, but one can guarantee it will be engaging. Drinking 2019 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir when viewing this film is undoubtedly a complimentary experience. Both the wine and the film ask the viewer to be engaged, questioning, and thoughtful, Furthermore, the deep nature of each art piece begs the enjoyer to ultimately lean fully into a world that had not previously crossed their mind.

— Dean Handy, Au Bon Climat Tasting Room

Immerse yourself in the world of wine and cinema with these thoughtfully curated pairings. Don’t miss the chance to elevate your movie nights and experience the enchanting synergy of wine and storytelling. You can purchase these exceptional wines for your own ‘Sip and See’ experience in our online store. From the intense journey of the Clendenen Family Vineyards 2014 ‘Punta Exclamativa’ Nebbiolo, mirroring the transformation of ‘Whiplash,’ to the stylish surprise of the Clendenen Family Vineyards 2017 Syrah/Viognier, perfectly complementing ‘Baby Driver,’ and the deep complexity of the Au Bon Climat 2019 Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir resonating with the gripping horror of ‘Us.’ Be sure to let us know if you have any suggestions for our next installment of ‘Sip and See.’ Cheers to the delightful pairing of fine wines and captivating films!