Share with your friends

BRENDA LHORMER, Producer, Bottle Shock: “The heart of the story is true – the competition in France, Spurrier’s role in facilitating the competition, the Napa vintners taking first place, and Bo and Jim’s struggles and ultimate victory as the owners of the winery who made the winning Chardonnay.
We would have loved to tell the entire story about the competition and all the wineries involved, it would have been impossible – one can only cover so much in a 100-minute narrative feature. Bo, Jim, Gustavo – REAL. Sam (the pretty blond intern) — FICTIONAL, but inspired by the groundbreaking and aspiring female winemakers who were out there working. Jo, the bartender — FICTIONAL, for fun.
Many will note that Mike Grgich, who was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena at the time, is not a main character, as we chose to focus on the Jim and Bo Barrett – the father/son story. We could only work through so many character arcs; and more importantly, when you are dealing with real life characters, there are many legal hurdles to contend with in order to portray them.”

Read on for more fun facts vs. fiction in the film or go online and buy the DVD to watch for yourself! Already seen the movie, CLICK HERE to share your story and enter the Bottle Shock Getaway Contest.

FACT: Jim Barrett was a tough leader and loved his family, but sometimes tussled with Bo, his laid back son.

FICTION: They didn’t really box, or have a boxing ring on the Chateau Montelena property.

FACT: The Boxing ring was built by Craig Sterns, the Bottle Shock Production Designer, and it resides, still today, at KUNDE Estates Winery in Sonoma (a key filming location).

FACT: Bo was an avid surfer.
FACT: Chris Pine, with blond hair, looked a lot like the real life Bo Barrett (who Chris played in the movie) in 1976

FICTION: We made Chris wear a (some would say pretty bad) wig. Chris actually has short dark hair.

FACT: Chris, like Bo, is very handsome!
FACT: Jim Barrett was a lawyer.

FICTION: Jim lived in Southern California much of the time; he wasn’t always at the winery in Calistoga, in Napa Valley.

FACT: Jim did divorce his wife Laura.
FACT: Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Chateau Montelena at the time of the historic Judgment of Paris in 1976

FICTION: Mike didn’t appear in a speaking role in the movie (he was in it as an extra) because the producers did not receive his life rights or full support.

FACT: Mike left Montelena soon after winning the Judgment of Paris competition and started his own wonderful winery, Grgich Hills. Gustavo Brambila (played by Freddy Rodriguez in the movie) actually went with Mike and worked for him for many, many years.

FACT: Gustavo did tinker around with wine making on the side; he started his own winery, Gustavo Thrace in 1999 where it thrives in Napa today.
FACT: Rachael Taylor (“Sam” in the movie) is from Tasmania. She loves wine and was very knowledgeable.  One of the kindest actresses out there.

There were no female interns at wineries in Napa Valley until 1982. She was a fictionalized character, representative of the many talented female winemakers who were working under the radar at that time in the 70’s.
FACT: There was a bar called Rays in Calistoga that the “cellar rats” and other workers used as a hang out spot.

FICTION: Producers used a bar in Glen Ellen (Sonoma Valley) and made up “Jo” (played by Eliza Dushku) to add a little more sex appeal to the movie.

FACT: Eliza was on set for only 3 days and had to go back to LA to shoot “Dollhouse.” She needed a lot of massage therapy, due to her work on the TV show. She was extremely sweet and professional.
FACT: According the Jim and Bo Barrett, the chardonnay did turn a slight brownish color which completely spooked them, right before the Paris tasting.

FICTION: The “bad” wine was not purchased by a hot bartender (the before mentioned “Jo”) who “saved” the wine when it turned back to golden color.

FACT: The brown-colored wine did turn back to a golden color before the wine was shipped off to the competition in Paris.
FACT: The 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting was held at the Intercontinental Hotel. Chateau Montelena took the top prize in the white wine competition; Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ Cabernet Sauvignon took the honors in the red wine category.

FICTION: The filmmakers chose to stage the tasting in an outdoor setting, in the KUNDE Estate Winery Ruins. Thus, the header, “Somewhere Outside of Paris.”

FACT: Many of the grapes in the winning Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, in Napa Valley, came from Sonoma County.
FACT: George Tabor was the only American, and only journalist, to cover the 1976 Judgment of Paris event. He wrote the book Judgment of Paris which was released in 2006.

FACT: The original Bottle Shock screenplay was written by Ross Schwartz and registered with the WGA years before the book came out. Marc & Brenda Lhormer (Producers) received the script from J. Todd Harris (Producer) in late 2005. And thus began the project called Bottle Shock, the movie.

FICTION: Bo Barrett did not attend the tasting event in Paris.

FACT: TIME Magazine published George Tabor’s article about the event that changed the way the world perceived wines from American and put Napa Valley on the map. Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay was memorialized at the Smithsonian soon after the historic event.
FACT: Steven’s Spurrier’s business partner in London, Patricia Gallagher, made sure that the Napa Valley wines selected for the competition were well handled and carefully shipped overseas.

FICTION: Bo did not go to the airport to hand over his Chardonnay. Hate to admit that. As the “airport” scene was just so much fun.
FACT: The Bottle Shock cast loved the Napa and Sonoma wines. Favorites: Plump Jack, Cade, Viansa, Gundlach Bundschu, Chateau Montelena, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Freemark Abbey, Heitz, and Buena Vista.

FICTION: All the drinking in the movie. No alcohol allowed on union sets. All the “wine” was cleverly crafted colored liquids by Propmaster Chris Ubick, and tasted like absolutely nothing. The martinis were water and olives. Yuck.

FACT: The bar scenes were filmed in a heat wave in Sonoma, and the cigarettes were real. Not the most pleasant experience.
FACT: Most of the rolling vineyard hill shots, as well as “Sam’s Cabin” scenes were filmed at Buena Vista Vineyards on Ramal Road in Carneros (Sonoma).

FICTION: Paris was not Paris. “Paris” was Sonoma.

FACT: The Chateau Montelena scenes were indeed filmed at Chateau Montelena.


  1. louis daniels

    Awesome movie, watched it and will purchase the movie
    as well, i own a small vineyard in the Lodi appellation
    it is hard work until you get harvest in the barrel !!!
    so that aspect of the movie was lacking but nevertheless
    gave viewers some of the ups and downs of the industry…
    Louis Smoke

  2. I have not seen this movie yet, but after reading the reviews, seeing the movie trailer, and now this “Fact vs Fiction” article, I simply cannot wait to see it!
    Best Regards,

  3. I wonder if Jim Barrett is as mean in fact as in fiction. I liked the movie but some parts were downright painful to watch.

  4. Bill Headrick

    Just saw the movie..very good! I grew up in the Napa Valley around the time period of this movie..relative has worked for wineries in the area so there was built in interest.

  5. Robyn Quintana

    Just saw the movie last night. Very entertaining! I live in Sonoma County and am very grateful to live in such a beautiful area. Thanks for sharing the story of the Judgement of Paris. I haven’t been to Chateau Montelena so will have to make a point of taking some friends for some wine tasting there.

  6. john harrison

    i live in petaluma,sonoma co.. Bottle Shock is a great story & movie.made me proud to live in wine country..i got goose bumps.

  7. Jeff hault

    Over the past few years I have been developing my appreciation of wines. This generated my interest in this movie. I just finished the movie last week and enjoyed it. I am glad to know that this actually had some facts correct. The movie is enjoyable not just because of the characters but also the story/history of the struggles that California wineries have had to go through to make a name for themselves. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has an appreciation for wines.
    Jeff Hault
    Lewis Center, OH

  8. Matt

    I find it hard to believe that there were not enough trials and tibulations in the truth to make a movie out of.
    If you want to make a movie about the history, then make it about what actually happened. If you want to make a feel-good fictional movie then fine, but don’t try to spin it into real history.

  9. Recently we took the “Bottle Shock” tour at Chateau Montelena. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes the movie . . . you get to hear the facts and the myths. The tour is $40.00 but at the end you are given a split of their chardonnay and a copy of the movie autographed by the real Bo Barrett. The say they sell this combination for $35.00 so the tour actually costs you $5.00.
    We also stopped at Gustavo Thrace to taste their wines and were treated to meeting Gustavo Bramlett, played by Freddy Rodriguez in the movie. Try to meet this down to earth gentle man.
    We have also visited the tasting room of Mike Grgich’s winery and they still have an exceptional chardonnay.
    We have watched the movie probably a half dozen times and see something new and interesting each time. I know much of it is fiction, but what a great story.
    Lee Pickles

  10. Robert Cheryl

    We, as well, have watched this movie about a half-dozen times, and just love it. This is a nice article, but what we wish might have also included fact vs. fiction on the reaction of the French. I doubt anyone spit up their wine upon hearing the Americans won. But that’s a microscopic nit-pick on what we felt was a wonderful movie.
    We loved this movie so much that we actually tried to make wine out of a zinfandel vine we planted in our backyard. We got 21 pounds of grapes three years after planting. It’s still aging, but our guess is Chateau Montellena, Gustavo Thrace and France have absolutly nothing to fear. Yet.

  11. Al Wave

    Another ‘Fiction': One cannot drive a VW Beetle from Fairfield to Sonoma/Napa on three tires! LOL! Cheers, for a fun movie!

  12. Aggie Lukaszewski

    Having grown up in No. CA, a 4th generation native, I could almost smell the soil while watching this delightful film. Not to be watched w/o a bottle of wine and cheese & crackers.

  13. Chris Steineke

    Having been a part of this story and knowing the truths, watching this movie frustrated me. My grandfather was partners with Jim and my Father was a prominent winemaker along with Mike Grgich at Chateu Montelena. I heartily agree with Matt’s post above. There is very little truth to this movie so do not think this is what it was like.

  14. P. Guarino

    One comment about the “fact” that states all scenes at Chateau Montelena were shot there. Yes and no. The scene where Mr. Spuririer enters the winery as he sees the sign for it is not the entrance to Chateau Montelena. It is presented as a wide open entrance with a very long dirt road upon entering. Having visited CM, the entrance is a heavily shrubbed and wooded entrance which leads to the parking lot, and you walk up a number of stairs to get to the Chateau. This said, the winery is beautiful and is a must see when visiting Napa.

  15. Tom

    Why can’t producers make movies without taking so many liberties with the story? I want to see what really happened not a bunch of made-up garbage like in Bottleshock. Hollywood is just awful.

  16. Matthew

    At the end of the movie it states that a bottle was accessioned at the Smithsonian “Institute”…no such place. It is the Smithsonian Institution!

  17. shane

    I liked the movie.

  18. Dutch Uncle

    My wife and I “found” this movie because of Alan Rickman, not because of the subject of wine. The first time we watched it, we had no idea how close to the truth (or far from the thruth) it was, and frankly, we don’t care because we enjoyed it as an entertaining story. It says fictionalized, and we assumed most of the details were made up (conversations, etc.) It doesn’t claim to be a documentary, and it *is* a fun film.

  19. I hardly ever go for light comedies of this type, but I really enjoy Bottle Shock. From the first notes of the score to the end, I love it. I do have an interest in wine and have visited Healdsburg every year for the past seven years. I’ve read the book, “Judgement of Paris” by Taber so I’m familiar with the real story. But I believe this is a fun, graspable film that teaches a bit about how wine making and marketing changed after Paris. Good fun!

  20. Patrick

    I live in Sonoma and remember when this was shot in town. My son went on to work at Kunde and I have shots of myself in the boxing ring with my dukes up. The old building where they filmed the judgement is not easy to get to and I viewed it from behind a barbed wire fence less my tear my pants trying to get a closer look. The bar is the Jack London lodge, where Jack used to drink. When I saw the scenes of Paris, I said “that’s Sonoma.” Fun movie to watch.

  21. Richard Canul

    Pleasant memories of weekend jaunts to the Napa/Sonoma Valley while an undergrad student in The City of San Francisco, rushed through my mind as the cameras panned over the vineyards and roads of the valley.
    Thoughts of drinking wonderful wine under a shady tree, breaking open fresh sourdough bread, and tasting dry salami, while feeling the warm breezes over the picturesque hills. Capped with thoughts of Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, “A book of verses underneath the boughs, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me singing in the wilderness”. Pleasant memories.


Join the conversation