Every April, we undertake our most decadent indulgence: a week-plus long trip to California in which we taste wine, hike scenic vistas, and generally explore. Our main area that we visit is called the Central Coast; it extends from Monterey Bay down to a little bit south of Santa Barbara County.
The Central Coast isn’t part of everyone’s consciousness like, say, Napa or Sonoma, but it’s positively top-tier. The closest the area has come to pop-cultural prominence was in 2004, when one of its southern counties was featured in the Oscar-winning movie Sideways. So, on this, our 8th year of visiting, we decided to go down to Santa Barbara County, map out all the spots Miles and Jack visited in Sideways and follow in their footsteps. (Minus the midlife self-destruction.)
We drove down to Lompoc in the Santa Rita Hills and started out at the first stop on Miles and Jack’s journey: Sanford Winery. As the movie told us, this region does amazing pinot noir and chardonnay, and Sanford was no exception. Our favorite sampling from this visit was the 2012 La Rinconada Chardonnay, which had a lovely, balanced butteriness to it due to its aging in 40% new oak.
Our palates appropriately whetted, we moved on to Los Olivos and visited Firestone Vineyards. This is a huge estate, and its tastng room doesn’t quite have the same intimacy as that of a small producer — but everyone who works there is knowledgeable and the scenery can’t be beat. Here, the standout was their 2012 Malbec, which had nice tannins and hints of tobacco and leather.
We rounded out our first day’s tastings by traveling out to Foxen Winery. Foxen actually has two locations nearby one another; a larger building located on the vineyard premises, and a smaller tasting room affectionately known as “The Shack.”
The Shack is what Miles and Jack visited (as that was the sum total of Foxen’s locations in 2004). Our favorite thing that we tasted there was the 2012 Pajarito, a merlot/petit verdot blend with a robust, meaty, leathery character that we totally loved.
After an afternoon of tasting, it was time for a meal. So, of course we had to dine at Maya’s workplace, The Hitching Post!
As if to prove a point, we washed it all down with The Hitching Post’s top-notch housemade merlot. Take that, Miles!
The next day, we started fresh, Jack-and-Miles-style, at the Solvang Restaurant.
Solvang was founded by Danish settlers, and Danish heritage is part of the city’s DNA. Here, that heritage manifests in the form of a delicious breakfast pastry known as Æbleskiver. If my memory serves, Æbleskiver is Danish for “Holy shit these are scrumptious!” They’re basically the love children of a pancake and a jelly donut that got down in a bed of powdered sugar and angels’ laughter. My only regret about our visit to Solvang Restaurant is that we didn’t buy a mold from them to make our own Æbleskiver at home.
Appropriately refreshed, we made a trek over to Kalyra Winery, which is where Sandra Oh’s character Stephanie worked in the film. It has a fun surfer vibe, and we most enjoyed their tart, toasty, and summery 2013 Grenache Blanc. Since it doesn’t appear to be available online, you could also go with their Rare Tawny Port, which is, to use a very technical wine term, completely bangarang.
Later that day, just like Jack, we took a trip through Ostrichland USA (except clothed, and during business hours).
After successfully avoiding any ostrich bites, we moved on to do some tasting at Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard. Don’t recognize that from Sideways? Well, Fess Parker is the only winery to be featured in the film under a pseudonym. That’s because it is the site of Miles’s wine-tasting low point, where he guzzles mixed-up wine from the spit bucket. Fox and I avoided any such incidents, even picking up another bottle of really tasty port, but the same can’t be said for every member of our party.
We wrapped up day two of our tour with a visit to AJ Spurs; you may know it as the place where Jack picks up a waitress, only to get caught in flagrante delicto by her husband later that night. While we had no such adventures, that stew was pretty darn good…
That left us with only one major location to visit: the good ol’ Windmill. Believe it or not, we almost completely forgot about it; fortunately, we were able to swing by and get a snap of it as we departed for further adventures up in San Luis Obispo County.
So that was our Sideways tour; even without all the drama of a failed book deal and an impending fear-based marriage, it was pretty fun. We highly recommend going down to Solvang and Buellton and trying it for yourself!