Friday, April 15, 2016

Hollywood calling

                                                    3. Move White
                From The Far Side of Eden. (First post on 4/11, right)  

     Chardonnay was hot. Jayson Pahlmeyer decided to make one of those, too. A practical decision. He chose Merryvale as the custom crusher because he knew the winemaker, who could get him a discount. Jayson designed his own label—pink and turquoise, to the horror of all who saw it—and sold it all at five dollars a bottle. He couldn’t believe how much money could be made, even at that price. Hey, wine was profitable! It wasn’t starter mansions, but it might one day match, and complement, the real estate deals.
     Looking back, Jayson would say that two coincidences put his wine on the map, the first being the visit from Randy Dunn, who introduced it to Robert Parker, publisher of The Wine Advocate and a tectonic force in the global wine market, on one of Parker’s much-heralded visits to California. The artful blend of cabernet and other varietals that Dunn had put together for Jayson received ninety-four points out of a possible hundred in Parker’s ranking system, a single event that catapulted it into the ranks of what were already being treated as cult objects.
     The second coincidence involved Jayson’s chardonnay, and a phone call. It came “from the production manager of a movie being made, no big deal in California. The production manager had seen a ranking of the chardonnay—the pink and turquoise label had been replaced by something more acceptable by this time—in Wine Spectator. It, too, had been ranked in the nineties, not astronomical but well ahead of the pack. The production manager wanted a case of it to use in the movie, not for the quality but for the wine’s unusual name—Pahlmeyer—and its relative inaccessibility. And the production manager wanted it for free.
     “My chardonnay costs twenty-five dollars a bottle,” Jayson told him, and hung up.
     Then he recalled hearing that a bottle of Taittinger appearing in Top Gun, with Tom Cruise, had garnered a hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of free publicity. The appearance of a can of Budweiser in another movie had supposedly received two hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ worth of free publicity. This new movie, Disclosure, would star Demi Moore, Michael Douglas, and, if Jayson went along, a bottle of Napa Valley chardonnay with his name on it. He called the production manager back.
     When the movie came out, Jayson went to see it. The plot turned on one person’s trying to get another person into bed, with his wine as a seduction tool. Jayson thought, “So what?”
     Then his telephone began to ring, and it never really stopped. Requests for Pahlmeyer wine also came in the mail—by the bagful. He could have sold four hundred thousand cases of Pahlmeyer chardonnay if he’d had them. When the movie was re-released it started all over again. Ditto after the European release, and the television rerun. Each successive wave brought more calls and more mail.
     Somewhere in there Jayson began to see that success depended on something totally unpredictable, mysterious, and, if lightning struck—and lightning had—uncontrollable.

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