'Sideways' Sequel: Will Merlot Be Forgiven?

Cool weather in California has some worried about the sugar content in this year's wine grape harvest. But wine lovers still have reason to raise a glass. A sequel to "Sideways" is on its way, at least in book form.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine has interviewed Rex Pickett, author of "Sideways", which Alexander Payne turned into an award winning and highly profitable film for Fox.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways.

Pickett's written a sequel called "Vertical", which will be available next month. The new story takes place seven years later, as Miles has become a successful author, and his book is turned into a famous movie (sounds familiar). As Miles' career goes vertical, the career of his good friend, Jack, has gone sideways ... or worse.

"Miles’ mother has had a stroke and she wants to be with her sister, in Wisconsin," Pickett tells WE. "Miles gets offered to be the master of ceremonies at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, in Oregon, as I was. So he hatches up this hare-brained scheme where he leases a handicapped-equipped van and hires a pot-smoking Filipina caretaker and, with his mom’s Yorkie terrier, they all take off with Jack to Willamette Valley, on their way to Wisconsin."

There are stops in California wine country, from Santa Ynez, where the original story took place, up through Napa.

Will there be another movie? Pickett says Fox Searchlight and director Payne are reading the book and he's hopeful they can create another winner.

But, like wine, the same vineyard doesn't always provide the same results. This year's Pinot Noir could be next year's Merlot. Pickett says his agent didn't want him to write a sequel. "I think he thought I needed to broaden my scope," the author says. "But everywhere I went, when people found out I wrote Sideways, they’d say, 'When’s the sequel coming out? I want to see Jack and Miles again.'"

Apparently debating the best path to take "Vertical" vertical, Pickett has published the book himself.

Finally, no word on whether Merlot gets a reprieve in the sequel. In "Sideways", the varietal is vilified in a single devastating line. Some people actually stopped buying Merlot for a time because of it (um, like me, but I'm drinking it again). "I had no idea it would have such an impact," Pickett says, "because to me, it was just Miles being a bit of a snob at that very moment."

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