Sideways New Zealand by Rex Pickett

Sideways New Zealand

Have you viewed the film Sideways (adapted from Rex Pickett’s book of the same name) where the lead character Miles Raymond introduces his about-to-be-married actor friend Jack Manse to Pinot Noir during a trip to northern California wine country? There are high jinks galore, Jack not being the most faithful fiancé. The popularity of the film launched Pinot Noir into orbit around the world. Winemakers in the region call it the Sideways effect. I love the movie. A huge laugh with a dash of poignancy.

Now the Central Otago Wine Growers Association (COWA) is hoping to repeat the effect in New Zealand.

They discovered it wasn’t difficult to persuade Rex Pickett to visit New Zealand. With sponsorship from COWA and Air New Zealand, he was on the first plane Down Under when the Covid lockdown was lifted.

His visit resulted in another enjoyable read, Sideways New Zealand and there is talk of a film to follow.

Again, Miles is the key character. He’s purchased a half-acre plot in Central Otago, and — with the help of a friendly female winemaker — planted Pinot Noir vines. He lives in a rented cottage nearby and befriends a special needs cat, Max. In between attending to his grapes and the ‘very’ friendly female winemaker, he conceives a book — A Year of Pure Feeling. An eccentric publisher agrees to take it on.

A young inexperienced publicist organises innovative book tour signings — not in bookstores but with a variety of book clubs, many in different wine regions from Otago to the North Island. As it happens, his friend actor Jack is filming in Australia. And Jack invites himself on the road trip as co-pilot of Miles and Max’s campervan. It is a journey of laughs, tears and soul-searching for Miles.

While reading Sideways New Zealand I wondered if it was all truth and no fiction. The descriptions of Central Otago (an area I know well), the visit to Kaikoura’s Esses vineyard (close to where I live) and his Cape Palliser disaster, are so real that I kept wondering — is this a story about Miles or Rex Pickett?

Sideways New Zealand is a very entertaining read. Treat yourself to a tasting. I’d like to know what you think.


Sideways New Zealand
Rex Pickett
Blackstone Publishing


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