Fifteen years ago, the sleeper hit “Sideways” catapulted the Santa Ynez Valley wine country into international fame. Today, “Sideways” is a cult classic.
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 – 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,” said 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 wine tasting.
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 wedding. They meet two local women, taste a lot of wine, and complications ensue.
The movie stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.
Saturday’s morning bus tour will retrace Jack’s and Miles’ trek. For example, the hotel where they stayed (now the Sideways Inn, with the big windmill off Highway 101), the then-Sanford tasting room, and the Hitching Post II Restaurant and its famous in-house Highliner Pinot Noir. Saturday’s schedule includes time for a self-guided tour of Solvang.
“Sideways brought well-deserved international attention to the wines and the beauty of Santa Barbara Wine County. 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!’” recalled Frank Ostini, owner of the Hitching Post II Restaurant.
The festival will hit its peak 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 also will 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.
“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,” explained 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.”
Details and tickets to all the Sideways Fest events can be found at sidewaysfest.com. To learn more about the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance, visit staritahills.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.