A packed house—including some 70 members of a “Somm-tourage”—filled the Uptown Theater in Napa on Wednesday to take in a screening of Somm: Into the Bottle, a sequel to 2013’s film Somm, which itself premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival three years ago.
Somm followed the anxious travails of a quartet of guys studying for the taxing Master Sommelier exam, likening it somewhat overdramatically at times to war.
Writer/director Jason Wise, a Wine Enthusiast Top 40 under 40 this year, returned to the subject of wine for a second time here, accompanied by many of the stars of the first film, including Brian McClintic, Ian Cauble, Fred Dame, Geoff Kruth and DLynn Proctor, all now Master Sommeliers.
The first film was an anxiety-fueled dive into a sub-culture of extreme wine aficionados studying for their golden ticket away from the day-to-day workings of a restaurant floor, a ticket each of the main subjects has since successfully cashed. McClintic and Cauble are now running online wine retail sites; Dame works for Southern Wine & Spirits and continues to mentor aspiring Master Sommeliers around the world; Kruth is head of the Guild of Sommeliers; and Proctor is Winemaking Ambassador for Penfolds.
This second film utilizes all their years of acquired knowledge to help tell a broader story of wine in 10 separate sections, from the rigors of farming and production and the perils of history, especially war, to the debate—mostly one-sided in this case—around scoring wines with points.
It’s a fun and informative romp through all the wonderfully noble and quirky things about wine, from the Champagne region’s ability to triumph over tragedy time after time, to the vaulted status given to the mold that grows in European cellars.
In addition to the sommeliers, including Rajat Parr, Laura Maniec and Aldo Sohm, there’s the occasional perspective of retailers and winemakers. None were so memorable as the Napa Valley’s own Carol Meredith, a grape geneticist and vintner, who states early in the film, “Can there be any other business where there is so much bullshit?”
Her quip was much appreciated by the wine industry-heavy audience, but never fully explored in the film. It would have been fun to see her take some of the sommelier perspectives a bit more to task.