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Monday, December 30, 2013

'Oz and James Big Wine Adventure California' DVD: Best British Invasion Since 'Doctor Who' in Utah

Oz & James Big Wine Adventure - California DVD
This review of BFS Entertainment's DVD release of "Oz and James Big Wine Adventure California" wraps up the trilogy of posts on a trio of BBC series that has the odd couple of  proudly slovenly "Top Gear" host James May and the more polished noted wine expert Oz Clarke pairing up to explore regions known for producing wine and other alcoholic beverages.

"Oz and James Big French Wine Adventure" is the first entry in both the series and the reviews on these shows. The next post is on "Oz and James Drink to Britain," which is the third series in the trilogy of this group of BBC productions.

All three entries in this trilogy are extraordinary if only because they achieve the exceptional feat of making essentially a reality show thoroughly enjoyable. The very entertaining hosts and the almost complete lack of teasers, manufactured suspense, and minimal drama all contribute to this success. In addition, these shows provide informative and amusing lessons about wine, beer, whiskey, and other beverages that virtually every American consumes at a bar on his or her 21st birthday.

If forced to rank the three series, it would be necessary to state that they follow the pattern of most trilogies. "French" has the best blend of humor and wine education; "California" is very good but slightly falls in the "middle child" trap of trilogies in that it goes a little over-the-top,  and "Britain" brings the series back closer to the original.


"California" has May and Clarke driving a 42-foot luxury RV around California wine country; the element of mishaps, which include a bad scrape and difficulty negotiating back roads, related to that choice of vehicle introduce the tiniest dash of "National Lampoon's Vacation" into this otherwise moderately sophisticated series.

Our hosts additionally seem to place just a touch too much emphasis on what they perceive as a "wild west" element to California wine making. Examples include occasionally emphasizing that the rules that govern making wine in France do not apply in California and taking the audience on tours of one wine-making facility in an industrial park and another that revels in taking an anarchy-oriented approach to their craft.

A segment on the terrific bargain wine, which is known as "two (now three) buck Chuck," that involves the "vineyard" that produces that line of "vintages" more than makes up for any reality show element of the series. The company's president is entertainingly brusque and May and Clarke offer assessments that validate the opinions of Friends of Chuck.

Te following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of this visit to "Chuck's" home. It provides an excellent sense of the spirit of this great series.

The standard series-long challenge in "California" is a good and proper one; it has Clarke looking for a decent California wine that he can purchase in the UK for 10 pounds or less; the interim challenges that May creates for Clarke are more of a mixed bag.

The pair "just happening" to visit a region where a large classic car show is occurring prompting May to have his companion pair wines with automobiles in the show is entertaining and educational regarding both the vehicles and the vintages. It is additionally amusing payback from a "French" episode in which Clarke has May pair wines with each element of a three-course meal.

Other May challenges stray into reality show territory via stunts that included having May drink wine while driving a bumper car at an amusement park and tread water in a lake until he successfully identifies each wine that May tossed to him. These segments have a bad taste of a son getting a chance to exact revenge by humiliating a parent.

 The final rating of all this is a solid 90 out of a 100; Clarke and May are clever blokes who put on a good show, are excellent sports, and have an very good (if not perfect) sense of when too much is too much. They also leave as wanting a fourth series, perhaps set in Australia.

Anyone with any questions regarding any series in the "Wine" trilogy is welcome to email me. You are also welcome to email me.