2004 wine-focused movie, Sideways — Photo courtesy of Amazon
Many identify California wine country as Napa Valley or surrounding Northern regions. However the Central Coast is not to be overlooked for the residents of Southern California who are looking to enjoy a wine tour without the lengthy drive or flight up north. Unknown to many is the area just two hours from Los Angeles: Santa Barbara County.
Just above the city are world-renowned wineries and vineyards, including many who have gained recognition from their use in movies such as the 2004 hit, “Sideways.” Taking a tour through this region is a pleasure for both wine connoisseurs and cinema enthusiasts, as several blockbusters have also turned to the county’s scenery and attractions as use for their own backdrops. If you plan to make a weekend trip in hopes of recognizing some of your favorite labels and locations, this is the tour for you!
Our tour begins in the namesake of this wine region: the often appropriately titled “American Riviera.” Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination in itself, bringing in visitors from all over the world to its red roofs and beachfront downtown. Santa Barbara is thus a likely choice for the location of many central coast wine tasting rooms and shops, recognizing the desire for fine dining and fine wine among tourists. The picturesque city has also captured the attention of many directors as well, who choose to set up scene in titles such as “It’s Complicated,” “No Strings Attached,” “Monster-in-Law,” “Seabiscuit,” and “Grindhouse.”
Just off East De La Guerra Street is a small center called El Paseo. Located here is a popular restaurant destination for “winos” called The Wine Cask. The restaurant features full lunch, dinner, dessert, and cheese menus, and is made up of several surrounding tastings rooms according to your experience preference. You can enjoy dinner in the elegant Gold Room or enjoy great wines by the glass with locals at Intermezzo.
The wine isn’t the only reason to stop by El Paseo, however. The building, also housing several businesses and offices, was the where Meryl Streep’s character in “It’s Complicated” meets with her physiologist for permission to proceed with her affair with her ex-husband. The tiled hallways and Spanish architectural touches make up a lesser known historical faucet of Santa Barbara, as well as the recognized filming locations of “it’s Complicated,” seeing as much of the movie was shot in town.
The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore — Photo courtesy of Luxotic World
If you should choose to stay in Santa Barbara for the night before embarking into wine country, you can follow in the footsteps of “It’s Complicated” by staying at The Biltmore. This is where the scene in which the characters of Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are caught by their daughter’s fiancée. But he renowned hotel has also been featured recently as the wedding site in “No Strings Attached” and the actual wedding site for many, including (now unwed) Kim Kardashian among others.
However, if you prefer wine relations rather than cinema, another destination hotel in the area is Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort. Owned and operated accompanying the Fess Park Winery and Vineyard in Los Olivos, the resort is another preferred choice for those who are interested in getting a head start on the history behind the wine region.
Once you leave Santa Barbara for the northern parts of the county, you will travel along the 101 through the Gaviota Pass. Look familiar? This stretch of freeway and tunnel was featured in “The Graduate” as Benjamin makes his way to Berkeley in his new Alfa Romero. Soon you will take the 154 and arrive in Santa Ynez. This is where the interwoven tour of wineries and the filming locations of “Sideways” begins.
Kalyra Tasting Room — Photo courtesy of Brad Chowen
Santa Ynez is home to numerous wineries. In “Sideways,” Miles and Jack meet Stephanie at the Kalyra Winery, located on North Refugio Road. Kalyra, which also has a tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara, still serves its wine tastings at the same bar Miles and Jack were served theirs. The wintery has sweeping views of the vineyard from a large balcony where you can sip their Santa Barbara varietals, blended with Portugal, Spain, Australia, and more.
Just above Santa Ynez is the city of Los Olivos. There are several intertwined locations for both wine enthusiasts and movie buffs here, beginning with lunch at Los Olivos Café & Wine Merchant on Grand Avenue. Dinner and wine was enjoyed by the characters of “Sideways” here, just like it can by you! Then you can head up through the vineyards to several of the tasting sites from the movie, including Andrew Murray Vineyards, Fess Parker’s Winery, and Firestone Winery.
Foxen Winery — Photo courtesy of Wine-dingroad.com
The farthest north traveled by Miles and Jack in “Sideways” will end your wine tour in Santa Maria. Although it is not recommended to copy the poor etiquette of filling up your wine glass when the pourers are not paying attention like the duo did, you can still enjoy a tasting at the same Foxen Winery. This sustainable and solar-powered winery still operates a popular tasting room and organizes special events. If you should choose to explore more sites in the area, don’t forget to take particular note of the Santa Maria sand dunes. The dunes have recently been discovered to be a filming site for “The Pirates of the Caribbean III: The World’s End”
While you return south along Highway 1, there are several more filming locations from “Sideways” throughout Buellton, Lompoc, and Solvang, including restaurants and even the ostrich farm! Tracking down the cinema scenery can make for an entertaining return from wine country and a fascinating look at the central coast wine industry as you dwindle back into the city of Santa Barbara, which again is full of restaurants where you are sure to find your favorite wine from the trip offered at a local restaurant. A perfect way to savor your last moments in the “American Riviera” before returning to “Tinsel Town.”