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Sideways Movie Put Spotlight on Santa Barbara Wineries
By Cary Ordway

The big movie hit “Sideways” put the spotlight on California’s Santa Ynez Valley, an excellent choice for travelers wanting great scenery, world-class wines and, now, movie locations that you’ll remember from the film.

Sideways Wine Tour Santa Barbara

Miles and Jack Wine Tasting

This is an idyllic and pastoral region of small towns, ranches and, of course, a few dozen wineries that are scattered over an incredibly picturesque countryside. The movie Sideways, which follows a couple of middle-aged men as they discover the charms of this region and the truths of their existence, won great accolades as a comedy/drama but, interestingly, it also turned out to be an effective travelogue.

That’s not been lost on the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau, which rushed to print with a detailed color brochure offering visitors a map of filming locations for the movie – a handy guide for the movie-goers smitten with the ambiance so skillfully revealed in the movie’s cinematography. From all reports, plenty of people have, in fact, targeted the region for vacations or weekends and it’s still a common site to see visitors pulling out their big, green over-sized Sideways brochures to check their bearings while searching for yet another location used in the filming of the movie.

There has even been a bit of overkill, according to some local residents. A few disgruntled locals complained that the traffic brought to town by the movie was a double-edged sword – good for business, bad for the area’s roads. Not only were roads getting clogged during the height of the movie’s popularity but some say they were getting clogged with people a wee bit tipsy from all that wine-tasting. The TV show Inside Edition was recently in the area checking out all the fuss.

Much ado about nothing is the response of most locals, who have been pleased to see the area get national publicity and finally find its rightful place on the tourism map. During our March visit it sure didn’t seem overly crowded but, then again, we were there midweek and one should expect weekends will be entirely different.

Like other visitors, we grabbed our Sideways brochure and went on a scavenger hunt of sorts, searching out locations in Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Buelton and Solvang that were featured prominently in the film. There was the Days Inn Buellton where Miles and Jack stayed and the parking lot where Stephanie beats on three-timing Jack. Or how about A.J. Spurs, the western-themed restaurant where Jack meets his one-night stand, Cami. Had to see the Sanford Winery, where Miles teaches Jack the basics of wine tasting and, of course, Fess Parker Winery where the server refuses to serve Miles a full glass of wine so he guzzles the spit bucket instead.

Altogether there are 19 Sideways locations detailed on the map, all quite recognizable from the film. Some locations even have the unmistakable Sideways logo posted on their signs lest anyone not realize that their particular business or location will now live in movie infamy.

Show biz also figured into one of the two places we stayed while in the Santa Barbara Wine Country. Middle-age folks won’t have any trouble recalling the name Fess Parker, who cornered the market back in the 50’s and 60’s for coonskin-capped, buckskin-wearing movie mountain men. If you’re a certain age, you remember Parker as Daniel Boone. If you’re older than you want most people to know, you remember him as Davy Crockett, a premiere figure in the stable of Disney TV characters back in the days of the Wonderful World of Disney.

Unknown to most visitors, you can visit with this one-time TV icon on most Thursday nights at Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos. The inn’s guests are encouraged to join Parker for a handshake, a glass of wine and even some musical entertainment. These word-of-mouth gatherings make it hard sometimes to find a vacancy at the inn on Thursday night.

Our room at the inn was everything you might imagine for a historical country inn located in a quiet small town surrounded by gorgeous scenery. The inn has been refurbished and updated to the point that guests get the best of both worlds – old-world charm with new-world convenience. Our room was comfortable and spacious, decorated with exquisite antiques, flowers and living palms. The high ceilings featured white-washed beams while the windows were shuttered. Classic paintings were on the walls and floral bed coverings matched table and chair covers. Our fireplace was outlined by hand-painted tiles.

Downstairs, the Wine Cask restaurant is a small, intimate room, serving cuisine that is well-known for being some of the best and most innovative in the Santa Barbara area.

The small downtown area of Los Olivos includes several galleries, shops and dining places and we especially enjoyed stopping in the Judith Hale Gallery, with its amazing collection of illustrations, sculpture, paintings and jewelry. Across the street is the Los Olivos Café and Wine Merchant, the place where the two couples in Sideways enjoy dinner and several bottles of wine.

We spent a little more time than usual visiting Santa Barbara Wine Country and we wanted to experience one other lodging we had heard about – the Santa Ynez Inn. Located in Santa Ynez, this is an unusual Victorian bed-and-breakfast because it is not a historic building at all – the inn was built from scratch just four years ago. That offers the advantage of everything being new – floors, carpeting, plumbing – which will appeal to travelers less interested in the historic aspect of their accommodations.

The Santa Ynez Inn is certainly among the most luxurious inns we’ve enjoyed. The lobby’s carved wood stairway seems as if it was transported from the movie Titanic. Portraits of U.S. presidents decorate the hallways. Our second-floor room was over-sized and felt like a sanctuary filled with antique-inspired furniture, and special items like crystal chandeliers and crystal-based lamps. The floral curtains parted to reveal a view of the countryside and small balcony with table and chairs. Another sitting area, made of travertine, was adjacent to the fireplace and both travertine and marble were used extensively in the larger-than-usual bathroom area. A jetted tub and separate shower area were just as you would find in the most expensive hotels.

The luxury inns we chose were the perfect complement to days spent in this magnificent countryside driving from winery to winery, from each Sideways location to the next. But then again, if you want the true Sideways experience, you can always opt for the motel used in the movie. Just don’t follow the script too closely.


WHERE: Santa Barbara Wine Country is about 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara on Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass).

WHAT: Santa Barbara Wine Country includes several small towns and a scenic countryside that is home to dozens of wineries and vineyards.

WHEN: Any time of year.

WHY: Santa Barbara Wine Country has become famous because of the movie Sideways. This area is charming and rural, and you can reach it easily from Santa Barbara which, of course, is a major Southern California tourist destination with lots of charm and many tourist attractions.

HOW: For more information on Santa Barbara Wine Country, phone the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau at 805-966-9222 or visit

Cary Ordway is a syndicated travel writer and president of Getaway Media Corp, publisher of websites that focus on Washington travel, Oregon travel, California travel, Idaho travel, Montana travel and British Columbia travel

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With over 200 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms at your disposal, The Santa Barbara Wine Country is chock full of opportunities for you to devise an unlimited number of wine tours. If you want to take your own guided Sideways tour in a Santa Barbara wine tours limo just click on the link. The Sideways wine tour is great, but there’s a myriad of other possibilities available. To find out more about Santa Barbara area wineries and the Santa Barbara wine tours available to you, click on the link.