I'm planning to go to San Diego and LA for 2 weekes, in september. I'll rent a car, so I'll like to spend a day visiting the Santa Barbara wine country area. What places do you recommend to visit? I'd like to see kind of quaint ranch-style vineyards, nice to take pics, but also with good wines to buy, and not so expensive.
You will really enjoy the ranch wineries all along US 101, esp. near Santa Maria Valley, Los Osos, the Santa Barbara appellation, and spots north and south of there. The chardonnays are my faves...rich, full-bodied, well-known around the world. Even Fess Parker formed a winery there. The places are quaint, family run, rolling hills, some with picnic grounds, good tasting rooms, intimate tours. Nothing like the deal up north of me in Napa, good for what it is, though. I was just down to San Simeon [fantastic Hearst Castle...consider, and the elephant seals; Cambria overpriced] and traveled east to 101 from San Luis Obispo on the coast [check out that neat town full of history and students and reasonable food] and loved the wineries up and down this area. Been there several times before. Pick up a local map from the chamber of commerce of a medium sized town as you pass through. They furnish the latest news, better than we can do, addresses, hours, days closed.
Enjoy...that and San Diego, where my bro lived for 20+ years.
Winery tours of Santa Barbara wineries have become real popular ever since the movie "Sideways" was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards earlier this year (though Million-Dollar Baby won).
Most of the spots in the movie are featured on wine tours given by operators in the area--though if you want to just rent a car and do it yourself, here's what you need to know.
The bar featured in the movie is located on Highway 246 in Buellton just about 1 mile east of Highway 101. It is called the Hitching Post. The restaurant where they ate in the movie is located in Los Olivos and is called the Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant. The tree where they supposedly wrecked their car on the way back to Los Angeles is also in Buellton less than 2 miles from the bar. To get to it, take Hwy 246 west from where it cross Hwy 101, then turn right at the first signal light. Go down to the end where you'll see a Best Western and the street ends. To the left is the tree where they wrecked the car--if you watch the movie, you can see the Best Western in the movie shot.
The winery they visited in the movie (where he gets in the fight) is, Fess Parker Winery (in the movie it was called Frass Canyon). Other wineries featured in the movie are Sanford, Andrew Murray, and Firestone. Sanford is probably the best of these--especially for Pinot Noir--which is what the movie was about.
Oh, I forgot to mention that you can get a map of these locations at the following website:
By the way, here's what's really going on in that movie in case anyone saw it, but didn't totally understand: Miles is a wine lover who visits Santa Barbara with his friend to forget about his recent divorce.
Miles said his life was never better than when he was with his ex-wife. He was depressed because he had convinced himself that life would only get better when he is back together with her. Everything depressing about him, all his failures, all his hang-ups seemed to be directly tied to his belief that only when he is with her again will he be able to live. He had put his life sideways along with the 61 Cheval Blanc until they got back together. His mediocre book even displayed the lack of passion that was in his life.
He liked Pinot Noir because it was difficult to make and full of complexity. I think he was pointing out how difficult and complex life was to him and that if everything is perfect he would be back together with his wife. Pinot represented this perfection he was missing in his life, this happiness and completeness.
Maya, the heroine of the movie, told Miles this about wine: “I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ‘61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.
She was telling him that he was peaking and should be living his life and that life is not static and people evolve. Complexity was not about difficulty to her – it was about growing. It was time to get off his side and live life.
Miles had only recently started to love Pinot because of how it seemed to reflect his life after his ex-wife. When he was with her a fine wine like Cheval Blanc was something to share. But finally he was beginning to realize that he needed to move on, even if it wasn't so clear to him just yet. In the meantime, however, since he wasn't moving on he criticized everything and had no confidence.
In the move, California merlot wine was criticized by Miles. California Merlot has had a bad name even before the movie. Some of the best wines in the world are Merlot, but some of the worst are too. The average guy started buying California Merlot in the 90s and maybe the average wine snob “wanna be” started disdaining soon after that to distinguish himself from the average guy. But I have heard people’s somewhat irrational dislike for Merlot for awhile. And in the movie Miles--like a snob--wasn’t happy. And people that are not happy tend to criticize others to compensate for their own shortcomings. It makes for an interesting view on wine and on life.
Thanks Calcruzer for all that info. Yes, I just saw the movie and enjoyed it, though my wine passion started long before, but it was with this movie that I learned that there are closer wineries to Sta Barbara (I just knew about north Cal.)