'Sideways' Comes to Off-Broadway, Makes Peace with Merlot?

The original cult wine movie is coming to the stage, including a pre-show tasting of the much-maligned grape. Plus, man brandishes Champagne saber as weapon-saber

'Sideways' Comes to Off-Broadway, Makes Peace with Merlot?
Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti are not expected to reprise their roles ... as far as we know. The infamous spit-bucket scene remains to be seen. (© Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection / Courtesy of Peccadillo Theater Company)
Jan 27, 2020

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Merlot, the 2004 novel-turned-film that knocked back the grape for a generation is making a return. Sideways is coming to Off-Broadway in New York, making its debut on Feb. 20. Novel author Rex Pickett wrote the stage adaptation, 16 years after the "Sideways effect" sent shockwaves through the California wine industry with its wine liners. “The play is pure Rex,” producer Alexander “Sandy” Marshall told Unfiltered via email. “It’s full of tremendous wit and heart, and he’s kicked up the comedy a few notches. No holds barred.”

What else is new? The story still focuses on Miles, the Merlot-hating, Pinot-loving temperamental writer who takes his engaged buddy Jack through Santa Barbara wine country for one last bacchanal before married life. But “I think the play gives a fuller picture of the character of Miles," director Dan Wackerman told Unfiltered via email. "His failures, his aspirations, his relationship with Jack, his mother and his ex-wife.”

Sideways Grawlix Merlot bottle
The Grawlix Merlot bottle, adorned with the most famous grawlix in wine. (Courtesy of Wine Access)

In a different twist, Sideways The Experience puts the viewer in the taster's seat; online wine retailer Wine Access created a tasting in which audience members can take to the stage with the actors before the show to try some California reds and decide for themselves if Miles' haughty wine opinions have aged as well as the script. "We created a label [of Napa] Merlot that we’ll be featuring" called Grawlix, the term for typographical symbols used for curse words in comics, Wine Access head of wine Vanessa Conlin told Unfiltered, but with fruit from one of California's famed farmers, the team is betting it'll win over the crowd.

The tasting is modeled after the Santa Ynez trail that the movie made famous but also includes a Sonoma Pinot Noir for those who'd rather not curse their glasses. The production recruited chef Mary Giuliani, a regular on Good Morning America and The Rachel Ray Show, for paired snacks like a "red wine pasta doughnut." The show will run from Feb. 20 to April 12 at Theatre at St. Clement’s in Midtown Manhattan; tickets are available now.


Fired Restaurant Employee Menaces Coworkers with Champagne Saber

It's a corollary the wine world should heed: Just as, in the right hands, any pointy, bladed weapon can be a Champagne saber, in the wrong hands, any Champagne saber can be a pointy, bladed weapon. One restaurant in Dallas found out the hard way earlier this month.

It was a typical Monday at Paradiso restaurant when Vincent Briceno allegedly confronted his boss who had fired him, and began damaging property. According to police, Briceno then escalated by grabbing a Champagne saber and swinging it at non-Champagne objects and people. Once Briceno presumably realized no one was willing to put down their burger to duel, he turned himself in and was booked into Dallas County Jail, with bail set at $10,500. The would-be matador is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (Champagne saber) and criminal mischief.

“To clarify, there wasn’t a violent interaction, and beyond that we’re not able to comment,” restaurant spokeswoman Nadia Dabbakeh actually responded to Unfiltered via email, much to her credit.


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