Vertical — Book Review

Before Sideways was a hit film from director Alexander Payne in 2004, it was a novel by a relatively unknown screenwriter named Rex Pickett. The success of that comedy and subsequent enthusiasm of his publisher turned Pickett into a celebrity among wine enthusiasts – to say nothing of California Central Coast winemakers, who thrilled at the surge in tasting-room visits and sales of the protagonist’s favorite wine, Pinot Noir.

So quite unexpectedly, this down-and-out screenwriter, who didn’t get his book published until the movie was being made, fell into the lap of the bitch-goddess of fortune and fame. I well remember running into him at the Paso Robles Zin Fest the following year, when he served as guest of honor and autographed copies of his novel at Justin Winery, a scene he re-creates in his new novel, Vertical.

As you might gather, Vertical is a sequel to Sideways. It follows the further adventures of Miles and Jack, his wayward companion in debauchery, womanizing and wine-guzzling. This time the boys drive through the scenes of their earlier notoriety in the vineyards of Santa Ynez Valley to head for the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Ore., a state whose Pinots can compare with any in the world including Burgundy’s…

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