celebrating Santa Ynez Valley wines
and the movie that made them famous
Outdoor screening, tasting events,
set locations tour highlight October weekend
Fifteen years ago, the sleeper hit Sideways catapulted the Santa Ynez Valley wine country into international fame. Today, not so much an aged-to-perfection film, Sideways is a cult classic that never goes out of style. To toast the movie’s anniversary and the wines it made famous, the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance will hold Sideways Fest from Oct. 18 through 20.
“We are excited to produce an event that embraces the energy of and celebrates everything Sideways. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy the wines and locations of the movie, and still have time to visit our tasting rooms and explore our backroads,” notes Barbara Satterfield, Executive Director for the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance and long-time employee of the Hitching Post II Restaurant.
Sideways Fest kicks off with a Friday night Sideways screening at the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater, a panel discussion with individuals involved in the film’s production, and a de rigueur wine tasting. Viewing the film isn’t necessary to enjoy the weekend fully. But it will, however, enhance the experience.
Just in case you haven’t seen the movie, or it has been a while, here’s a synopsis: Debuting in 2004 and filmed on location, Sideways is the adaption of Rex Pickett’s novel of the same title. The story focuses on two men in their 40s, Miles Raymond and Jack Cole, who visit the Santa Ynez Valley wine country for a week-long, two-man bachelor party in honor of Jack’s upcoming nuptials. They meet two local women, taste a lot of wine, and … The movie stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh.
First-time viewers will want to pay close attention to location shots, as Saturday’s morning bus tour will retrace Jack’s and Miles’ trek. For example, the hotel where they stayed (the one with the big windmill off Highway 101), the then-Sanford Tasting Room, and the Hitching Post II Restaurant with its famous in-house Highliner Pinot Noir. Saturday’s schedule includes time for a self-guided tour of Solvang, the Danish Capital of America.
Frank Ostini, owner of the Hitching Post II Restaurant, recalls, “Sideways brought well-deserved international attention to the wines and the beauty of Santa Barbara Wine Country. We said Sideways would come and go, and we’d be here for the next 50 years. Turns out Sideways will outlive all of us and be viewed by wine lovers forever. Now we say with pleasure, ‘Sideways forever!’”
The festival will hit fever pitch on Sunday at Buellton’s River View Park where a gathering of Sta. Rita Hills wineries will pour their Pinot Noirs, and other Santa Ynez Valley wine producers will join them. There will also be a special Merlot tasting. (The currently much-maligned Merlot is thanks to a scene from the movie depicting the varietal in an unflattering light, which caused sales to plummet.) Other activities are a Sideways Saab photo booth, a Food Truck court, and live music, among other celebratory happenings.
“No one had any idea the impact Sideways would have on the Santa Ynez Valley. Not a night goes by at the restaurant that someone doesn’t ask about the movie or come in to get their picture taken in the bar, even after 15 years! People come from all over the world to experience the Sideways adventure and drink Pinot Noir,” explains Satterfield. “More importantly, it alerted Southern Californians that there is a beautiful wine region just a few hours away. People come to visit two or three times a year to enjoy.”
Coinciding with harvest, Sideways Fest is the perfect time and place to visit and enjoy the Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Well, any time is a perfect time in the region, just as any time is the right time for a fine glass of wine from the Santa Ynez Valley, whether it be Pinot Noir or Merlot.
For details and tickets to all the Sideways Fest events, visit sidewaysfest.com.
To learn more about the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance, visit staritahills.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.