Buellton – wine tasting Sideways-style during a pandemic

We would have been on a wine tasting trip in Buellton a month ago. In honor of missing yet another trip due to the pandemic, today I reminisce about a beautiful dinner atop H Club in Hollywood last year with Visit Buellton and the winemaker Frank Ostini of the Hitching Post.

Today I look back – at this dinner sipping on saucy Hitching Post reds where our evening pinnacled with a private viewing of the film SIDEWAYS, in honor of its 15-year release – paving the way for world recognition of the Buellton wine area while also drumming up demand for pinot noir around the world.

Hitching Post II

Making its debut in 2004, the cult-classic film Sideways put the California wine area on the map, a mere 2-hour drive from L.A. just north of Santa Barbara and near Solvang. In honor of this beloved movie, a Sideways Festival was even held in October 2019 in Buellton, California. Now with around 70 wineries in Buellton alone and some 220 wineries in Santa Barbara County, Buellton is the perfect place for a drive or overnight stay post-pandemic.

Hitching Post II

Prior to the screening, the movie producer Michael London (Milk, House of Sand and Fog) and Hitching Post winemaker/chef/owner Frank Ostini shared some interesting stories – divulging how hard it was to get money to make the movie, which ended up costing 17 million dollars. Powerful agents had Brad Pitt and George Clooney playing the major roles, but director Alexander Payne’s face went pale. They quoted Payne as saying, “I can’t do it. I just don’t want famous people playing these characters.” The director just felt it wouldn’t be the same movie with stars.

Create your own Sideways tour through Santa Barbara Country wine country by using this map and you might just find yourself quoting the film along the way.

Sideways Inn

Some of our favorite Sideways movie quotes:

Jack Lapate: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.

Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!
Miles Raymond: It tastes like the back of a fucking L.A. school bus. Now they probably didn’t de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine bullshit. Fuckin’ Raid.
Jack Lapate: Tastes pretty good to me.

Some people come to Buellton to relive the movie or just to get out of city life and explore the peaceful areas of  Solvang, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez all nearby.

Consider the following during your visit:

Juicy burgers for lunch should not be missed at Hitching Post II. Did you know Buellton was dubbed the “Home of Split Pea Soup” in 1924? The former Days Inn, once the Windmill Inn, is now Sideways Inn, a luxury boutique hotel where Room 234 is always requested. Ostrichland is another attraction that has grown like crazy where people can feed ostriches and emus.

Restaurants for Dine-in:

  • AJ Spurs
  • Mariscos La Rancherita
  • Mother Hubbards
  • Pea Soup Andersen’s
  • Figueroa Mtn. Brewing
  • Ellen’s
  • La Tequila

Wineries open on weekends:

  • Buscador
  • Cholame
  • Kalyra
  • Loring

Although leisure travel is not allowed in the state just yet, the hotels in Buellton are open and can accept essential travelers.


  • Sideways Inn
  • Marriott
  • Hampton Inn
  • Flying Flags RV Resort
Flying Flags RV Resort

What else did we learn about the film Sideways?

The oak tree at end of movie still stands, but a storage facility is built around it where there is a courtyard with a mural. Sanford Winery still exists. There was a boar hunting sequence that didn’t end up in the film.

Rex Pickett was a struggling writer at the time. He pulled some 300 manuscripts out of the back of his car – and he was loosely based on the character Miles in the movie. The producer went to Stanford and hung out with Rex. They liked to go up to Los Olivos from L.A. The film was first released at a couple theaters at a time and was really based on an unpublished manuscript.

Santa Ynez Ranch

Why did this little movie have so much success?

The producer and Hitching Post owner:  I think the movie resonated with people because people could relate to the experience and the feelings, and of course, drinking great wine. There is something romantic about a movie that celebrates food and wine – the poetry that captures what we take for granted—the honesty between the two main characters, the love of 2 guys.

Wine road trip?

Escape the big city, and enjoy world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thanks to a mild climate. Today tasting rooms may not be your preferred option due to the pandemic, but buy a bottle of wine to savor on the vineyard grounds or sip a Merlot at the Hitching Post with outdoor seating. Besides over 200 wineries and tasting rooms in Santa Barbara County, local distilleries (whiskey, vodka, limoncello, and moonshine) and breweries were popular too. We can bet most tasting rooms will shift to outside.

For more information about wine tasting in Santa Barbara, read our past article on Darling Magazine and learn more about the Santa Ynez Valley and beyond in Where to Wine in Santa Barbara: Part 2.


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