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Eastbound Westbound

By Alan Ng | July 7, 2023

If you’re a history buff, who likes to sip wine while reading a thick tome of non-fiction, then Julien Couson’s Eastbound Westbound is the perfect film for you. Hosted by wine journalist Jeffrey Davies, the documentary takes us back to 17th-century France, where French ambassador Thomas Jefferson was touring Bordeaux’s vineyards, looking for a way to strengthen Franco-American diplomacy and grow his own vineyard at Monticello. The film opens with Davies being handed a letter from Thomas Jefferson by Prince Robert of Luxembourg. From here, Davies goes on a journey following the travels of Jefferson through Bordeaux and tracing not only the history of Jefferson but the innovations in winemaking over time.

Featured in the documentary are the previously mentioned HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg (Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion in Pessac-Léognan, and Quintus in Saint-Émilion), Alfred, Justine and Noé Tesseron (Château Pontet-Canet in Pauillac and Pym-Rae in Napa Valley), Claire and Gonzague Lurton (Château Haut-Bages Liberal in Pauillac, Château Dufort-Vivens in Margaux and Acaibo in Sonoma) and finally Denise Adams (Château Fonplégade in Saint-Émilion and Adamus in Napa Valley). Much of the history centers on why Jefferson was so fascinated by French wine and how this passion fueled the diplomatic partnership between the U.S. and France, which aided the defeat of the British during the American Revolution. Then Davies dives really deep into who ultimately turned Jefferson into such a wine connoisseur.

“…who ultimately turned Jefferson into such a wine connoisseur.”

The other focus is on the wine and wineries of France’s Bordeaux region and why it produces the best wine. With such great advancements in winemaking and wine technology, the irony is that many vineyards spotlighted here innovate by reconnecting with the past. With all that science offers, the best wine relies solely on nature to produce the best-tasting grapes, fertile soil, and non-chemical pest management. One of the critical terms bantered about is biodynamic, using old-fashion farming methods such as having horses till the soil and companion crops allowing nature to enhance the grape’s flavor and propagate crops.

As a documentary, Eastbound Westbound has everything you want if you’re a wine fan. The French landscape is gorgeous. The history of the U.S. and France is only elevated with the inclusion of Thomas Jefferson and the region’s connection with California’s Napa Valley. Lastly, there’s wine, a lot of wine. I’ll be honest. I think this documentary will appeal to anyone who takes their wine seriously. Not so much so for the layperson, but as someone who just likes to keep learning, I was in all the way.

For screening information, visit the Eastbound Westbound official website.

Eastbound Westbound (2023)

Directed: Julien Couson

Written: Frederic Lot, Jeffrey Davies, Julien Couson

Starring: Jeffrey Davies, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

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"…has everything you want if you're a wine fan."

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