Based on the novel of the same name by Rex Pickett, 2004's 'Sideways' tells the story of two old friends taking a getaway: Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a frustrated unpublished novelist with a broken marriage under his belt, who both masks and drowns his feelings of inadequacy in his love of wine. And then there's Jack (Thomas Haden Church), a struggling actor and reprobate intent on having one more bender before giving up his "freedom" and settling down with just one woman. Both are weighed with the disappointments of wasted youth and missed potential, and are on one last huzzah of a road trip through the vineyards of the central California coast before returning to reality for good. a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jfer/87583028/">
Based on the novel of the same name by Rex Pickett, 2004's 'Sideways' tells the story of two old friends taking a getaway: Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a frustrated unpublished novelist with a broken marriage under his belt, who both masks and drowns his feelings of inadequacy in his love of wine. And then there's Jack (Thomas Haden Church), a struggling actor and reprobate intent on having one more bender before giving up his "freedom" and settling down with just one woman. Both are weighed with the disappointments of wasted youth and missed potential, and are on one last huzzah of a road trip through the vineyards of the central California coast before returning to reality for good.
Writer-director Alexander Payne not only deftly captured the lingering regrets that haunt these two middle-aged so-called lives, but paired that storyline with a paean to wine culture that impresses in and of itself. Miles' carefully planned weekend for Jack, set within Santa Barbara county's Santa Ynez Valley, soon gets them both off the beaten path and sends them on an unexpected journey soaked with wine and women.
Location as Character: The Santa Ynez Valley and its wines in particular served as a backdrop to key points of Miles and Jack's mid-life crises and breakthroughs. These were all real-life places that couched the movie in reality, but also enhanced the flavor with some fresh and piquant notes. Indeed, wine has been referred to as the fifth main character of the movie.
Jack was at the Kalyra Winery when he met uninhibited vino pourer Stephanie (Sandra Oh), and Miles and Maya's romantic played out over their shared passions for wine. The Fess Parker winery (called Frass Canyon in the movie) was where Miles got the fateful call that his book wouldn't be published, and infamously downed the enormous spit bucket. Miles met waitress and fellow wine enthusiast Maya (Virginia Madsen) at the Hitching Post, and also extolled the virtues of its Highliner pinot noir. Los Olivos Café (pictured above and to the right) was where Miles declared his abject hatred of Merlot, and where he, Maya, Jack and Stephanie met for dinner. The Days Inn Solvang was the duo's home base during their wine-soaked weekend.
Historical Significance: The small independent movie was a critical hit when it was released, ending up on many Best of 2004 lists and garnering five Academy Award nominations -- winning one, for Payne and Jim Taylor's adapted screenplay. It was the vehicle that resuscitated Oscar nominees Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen's careers. 'Sideways' also had a marked effect on the wine world: Miles' rant against merlot villified the popular red, and his glowing praise of the pinot noir, known for its complex, difficult-to-perfect flavor, resulted in a 45 percent jump in sales of the wine the year after the movie was released. Not only that, but Payne's film uncorked a whole new moviegoing set of oenophiles, established the Santa Ynez Valley alongside Napa and Sonoma as a premier California wine destination and inspired in a whole slew of 'Sideways'-themed winery tours.
Fun Facts: The windmill at the Days Inn in Solvang (the self-proclaimed "Danish Capital of America") was used as an Interstate 101 Landmark. Fess Parker Winery was established by the Fess Parker, the actor who played Walt Disney's Davy Crockett in the 1950s and Daniel Boone in 1960s (and who just passed away on March 18 of this year). The Hitching Post was known more for its wood-fired steaks than its Highliner pinot noir until this movie came along. Back before the grapes moved in, people predominantly grew barley and garbanzo and lima beans in the Santa Ynez Valley, or used the area as cattle grazeland.
Directions: The Santa Ynez Valley is situated off the central coast of California between the 101 and Highway 154 about 125 miles up from Los Angeles and 40 miles north of Santa Barbara. Nestled between the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountain ranges, it consists of six distinctive towns, including Ballard, Buellton, Los Olivos and the faux Danish town of Solvang.
Visitor Info: Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café is located at 2789 Grand Avenue in Los Olivos. Up until the end of last year, the restaurant still offered a $35 'Sideways' tasting menu that includes a glass of either chardonnay or pinot noir. But those looking to authentically recreate their 'Sideways' experience and dine at the same table as the quartet are out of luck: That seating arrangement was set up in the store's gift shop.
Fess Parker Winery is situated at 6200 Foxen Canyon Road in Los Olivos. The Tasting Room & Visitor Center is open Monday to Sunday from 10AM to 5PM, with tasting fees at $10 per person.
The Days Inn at Buellton – Solvang is located at 114 East Highway 246 in Buellton (look for the telltale windmill) and operates as a standard operating hotel. Miles and Jack stayed in room 234.
The Hitching Post II is at 406 E. Highway 246 in Buellton, and is only open for dinner.
categories On The Scene