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Posted October 2005

Santa Barbara, CA Wine Tours Taken Sideways

When folks in Buellton, CA heard about a little-known author writing a novel about their town, they were a bit under whelmed. Rex Pickett, who penned Sideways, would often visit Santa Barbara’s nearby wine country, chatting with locals and telling them he was writing a book about the wine country. But it wasn’t until movie scouts came to town that the owner of the now-famous Hitching Post 2, Frank Ostini, really knew something big was about to happen. Really big.

Santa Barbara's Firestone WineryThough the wineries in Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, Los Olivos, Buellton and Lompoc have been quietly gaining influence for the last 20 years or so, it wasn’t until Hollywood came to town that this noteworthy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay-growing region got major national exposure.

The film’s main characters, Miles and Jack, spend a week tasting wine, eating, golfing and having some rather complicated romantic interludes that inevitably involve more eating and drinking—especially of the region’s emerging Pinot Noirs.

Many local businesses are taking advantage of the interest sparked by the movie, offering Sideways packages that include everything from maps to replica dinners, hotel stays and winery tours.

But whether or not you’re a fan of Jack, Miles and the rest of the Sideways characters, there’s plenty for visitors to do-- from windmill spotting in the Danish town of Solvang to ostrich-riding, golfing, beach-tripping and, of course, sipping through the ever-growing list of wineries in the region.

WINERIES:

Santa Barbara's Foxen WineryFess Parker Winery: One of the largest and most popular wineries in Foxen Canyon, Fess Parker is owned by former Hollywood icon, Fess Parker (of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett fame). A savvy real-estate investor, Parker purchased the 714 acre Santa Ynez ranch in 1987, building a large-scale winery, restaurant, inn and spa on the property. The winery, open less than a decade, has built a reputation for Pinot Noir and Syrah. The winery also offers a value-priced red blend, “Frontier Red” for $10. Called “Frass Canyon” in the film, it is the spot where Miles drinks the spit bucked after a pourer refuses to serve him a full glass of wine. The winery, seeing brisk business from Sideways fans, has distanced themselves from the association with Frass by humorous t-shirts with the slogan, “You bet your (image of a donkey’s posterior)  we’re not Frass.”
Fess Parker Winery, 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos, (800) 841.1104. www.fessparker.com


Firestone Winery: Long before Sideways, Firestone put itself on the map as the winery co-owned by “The Bachelor” hunk and trust-fund heart-throb, Andrew Firestone. Aside from Andrew, the winery is best known for its Chardonnay. The film featured Firestone’s barrel rooms as a makeout spot for Jack and Stephanie.
5000 Zaca Station Road, Los Olivos, (805) 688.3940. www.firestonewine.com

Foxen Winery: One of the smaller wineries on the tour, this boutique winery is located on land once owned by William Foxen, an English sea captain who purchased most of what is now Foxen Canyon (about 9,000 acres) in the late 1800s. Co-owner Dick Dore is the great-great-grandson of Foxen, and since 1985 has been making solid Pinot Noirs.
Foxen was a minor player in the movie, its small tasting room, once Dore’s great-grandfather’s blacksmith shop, is  featured in a split-screen sequence of the movie when Jack helps himself to the wine when the pourer goes to help another customer.
Foxen Winery, 7200 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria, (805) 937.4251. www.foxenvineyard.com


Kalyra Winery: Taken from the Aboriginal word for, “A wild and pleasant place,” this small Santa Ynez winery is owned by Australian-born winemaker, Mike Brown, who’s day job is as winemaker for nearby Buttonwood Winery. Kalyra wines are a side-project that’s taken on a life of its own, featuring primarily Rhone varietals. Brown also makes wines in Australia, under the M.Brown label. At this wild and pleasant place, Jack meets the wild wine-pourer, Stephanie, who shares a few romantic days with him—and ultimately, a motorcycle helmet-to-the-head.
Kalyra Winery, 343 N. Refugio Rd, Santa Ynez, (805) 693.8864. www.kalyrawinery.com


Sanford Winery: Sanford is a family-owned producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a passion for sustainability and organic growing practices. The winery is built from hand-made adobe bricks and 95-year-old recycled timbers. The nearby tasting room is little more than a rustic, converted dairy barn, with shelves nearly bursting with wine, architecture and 60’s counter-culture tomes. Look for Chris, the cowboy-hat-wearing pourer who appears in Sideways as…himself. With Chris looking on amusedly, Miles educates Jack on the finer points of wine-tasting, describing a glass of Pinot Gris as having a “soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of nutty Edam cheese.”
 

WHERE THEY ATE:

AJ Spurs: Though cowboy and chuck wagon decor speaks more to sidling up to the bar for a shot of tequila—or at least a beer—this casual-dining outpost and saloon has an extensive wine list highlighting many local producers. The menu features mostly steaks, ribs and hearty ranch-hand fare.
 
Hitching Post II: This favorite local restaurant has roots that date back more than 50-years, though the Buellton outpost has only been around since 1986. Owned by the Ostini family, the original restaurant in Casmalia featured “Santa Maria-style BBQ” focused on hearty steak and poultry dishes. In Buellton, the restaurant also includes more refined items like ostrich steaks, quail, duck and seafood.

In the movie, you’ll hear the characters at the bar ask for a “Highliner”—those in the know will recognize it as the restaurant’s own brand of Pinot Noir from its Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Winery. Within walking distance of their hotel, Jack and Miles spend several evenings chatting with the bartender, eating dinner and flirting with Maya, the waitress who gains Miles’ affection.

Solvang Restaurant: Become an honorary Dane for the day in Solvang, a transplanted European hamlet with flower-lined streets, and all the Aebelskiver you can eat. Originally a small colony of Danish immigrants, the tiny town of Solvang held onto its customs and traditions, including traditional Danish architecture, foods, and celebrations. Today, tourists can experience the Old World charm of Europe in a town spotted with windmills and tulips…all within a few minutes of the Santa Ynez vineyards.

Solvang RestaurantThe Solvang Restaurant is a favorite breakfast spot famous for their tiny ball-like pancakes called Aebelskiver. Topped with raspberry jam and served up with a side of Danish sausage, they’re a perfect way to get the morning started. Though it just got a cameo in the movie, Miles and Jack share a cup of coffee at the restaurant.

Solvang Restaurant, 1672 Copenhagen Dr., Solvang, (805) 688.4645, www.solvangrestaurant.com

Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant: You’ll find locals lining up for this popular upscale eatery that features many local wines and regional dishes. Menu items include chicken, sandwiches and pizzas for lunch and Mediterranean-influenced entrees like chicken parmigiana, pasta and salmon for dinner. Don’t miss the chocolate scream dessert: homemade vanilla ice cream, a flourless chocolate cake and caramel sauce.

Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant 2879 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, (888) WINES4U

WHERE THEY SLEPT:

Days Inn Buellton: Home of the big windmill, the Days Inn Buellton isn’t particularly fancy—your standard motel with a pool, cable tv and an ice machine. The big appeal is the star-factor…the hotel is featured prominently in the movie, specifically Jack and Miles’ room, #234, which is constantly booked.

114 E. Hwy 246, Buellton, (805) 688.8448.

Special Note: Wine Valley Inn offers a special Sideways package that includes a bottle of Firestone Wine, a $25 gift certificate to the Solvang Restaurant, map of selected spots featured in the movie and more. www.winevalleyinn.com

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Photography courtesy of the Santa Barbara CVB





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