It had to happen sooner or later.
Rex Pickett, author of the novel “Sideways,” has written a sequel titled “Vertical.” The book will be self-published on Amazon.com in November. It’s currently being reviewed as a potential movie project by Fox Searchlight, which made the original, as well as by producer Michael London and director Alexander Payne.
The film, which starred Paul Giammatti as Miles and Thomas Haden Church as Jack, told the story of two middle-aged men wandering around Santa Barbara wine country. It was an unexpected smash hit, and had an even less anticipated effect on the wine industry—“Sideways” ignited the current craze for Pinot Noir, which became the most popular red wine in America. No one doubts that the sequel will be made.
According to Pickett, the plot picks up the fortunes of the two men seven years later. Miles is a well-known writer, and a successful movie has been made from his novel (a la Pickett). Jack is more degenerate than ever—he’s divorced, drinks too much and can’t hold a job. When Miles receives an offer to be the Master of Ceremonies at the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon, the two men take off in a rented van for the Willamette Valley. Along the way they stop at Santa Ynez, Buellton, the Hitching Post, Justin Winery, Domaine Chandon and Gary Farrell.
After “Sideways” was released in 2004, it became the most influential wine film ever made, grossing more than $250 million. A Japanese-language remake of the movie came out in 2009. It single-handedly transformed Pinot Noir from a niche grape in Caifornia to the wine everyone wanted to drink. It also provided the last rites for the Merlot craze, which had been gradually waning since the grape variety became popular in the early 1990s.
What about Miles’ famous refusal to drink any Merlot? Pickett says now that it was misinterpreted. He claims that Miles was frustrated with Jack’s desire to have one last fling before getting married. Afraid that he would be blamed for allowing Jack’s infidelity, he says the first thing that comes to mind in an attempt to distract everyone from his friend’s actions. So relax, stop pouring that Merlot down the sink, and get ready for the sequel.