Director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) triumphs again with Milk (2008), the edifying true story of 70s-era gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. Sean Penn brought the larger-than-life Milk to the big screen so convincingly that he won his second Oscar for the role, doubtless to the chagrin of fellow nominee Mickey Rourke.
The film opens in New York in 1972 on the eve of Milk's 40th birthday, when he picks up Scott Smith (James Franco), who becomes his lover and soul mate. At the time Milk is living a stifling life in the closet working for the conservative establishment. Milk comes out, drops out and the two lovers chase their dreams to San Francisco, setting up a little camera shop in the Castro District, San Fran's first fledgling gayborhood.
Castro Camera becomes a hub of gay activism against the violence perpetrated on the gay community by the police at the time. In tandem, Milk spearheads many initiatives to harness the purchasing power of the gay community, culminating in the successful boycott of Coors beer.
Buoyed by his successes, Milk heroically decides to enter into the theatre of politics to fight tirelessly for the gay movement, running many times for City Supervisor and once for a seat on the state assembly. He loses time and time again, but each time with greater support and a higher profile than before.
In 1977, he finally wins for City Supervisor, becoming the first openly "queer as a three dollar bill" man to be elected to U.S. political office. Much rejoicing ensues. However, Milk meets his nemesis Dan White (Josh Brolin) in office and a battle festers, pitting each man's ideals and agendas against the other with tragic consequences.
Milk was to the gay community what Martin Luther King was to African Americans: a symbol of hope and freedom from society-sanctioned oppression. Fittingly, the film about him is deeply moving, and one I hope will continue to inspire many generations to come.
Equally inspirational is the Silverado Vineyards
Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($27.95 CDN, $20.99 USD). The winery is located in the famous Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley, located less than 60 miles from San Francisco.
Coincidentally, Ron and Diane Miller moved to the Stags Leap in the early 70s, acquiring land and growing grapes privately for some time. They started the construction of Silverado Vineyards in 1981 with a passion to bring affordable wines to market, all shining examples of the Napa Valley's special terroir. With vineyards peppering the Napa Valley, their end goal is to allow each grape varietal they produce to fully express its unique character.
The soil of the Miller Ranch vineyard is silty and deep, perfect for producing spicy and bold whites. The Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is just as lively as it is lovely, with a pale straw color and vibrant citrus and melon notes on the nose.
The palate is very dry and citrus continues throughout with a hint of pink grapefruit. But beware…at 14.5 percent alcohol, this baby really packs a punch behind an unassuming, elegant façade. Oh, and Robert Parker likes it too, to the tune of 89 points. Drink now, drink often.
On June 28, 2009 when I return home parched, spent and sunburned from Toronto's 29th annual Gay Pride Parade, I'll be cracking the screw-cap of this great wine and raising a glass with enormous pride for all my gay friends, alive and dead. Thank you, Harvey Milk, for everything you did.
Jill Vanderkooy, Sommelier and certifiable bon vivant, has worked in the wine industry for over 10 years, has been drinking wine for 25 years and is a true devotee of film across all genres. Her liver thanks you for reading.