This is the final post from our travels in California. On the way back from Monterey, we spent a few days in the Santa Ynez area. This area was not as well-known as California's other wine-growing regions until the indie film Sideways put it on the map. It is still not as built-up or overrun with tourists as Napa Valley, at least not during the week when were there. We were told that it can get quite busy on the weekends since it's only a two hour drive from Los Angeles.
The major nearby population center is Santa Barbara but we stayed in Santa Ynez, which was much smaller and right in the middle of the wine country.
The hotel was the Santa Ynez Inn, a well-maintained and spacious property that included a generous hot breakfast and evening wine and hors d'oeuvres and dessert in the rate.
We had drinks at the Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant which turned out to be first of many locations that were featured in the movie, although we noticed that the wall of wine bottles that were behind seated diners in the movie were actually on the opposite side of the room in what is usually the wine shop.
We had dinner at Mattei's Tavern. The steaks were large and flavorful, especially when accompanied by an excellent Foxen Cabernet, motivating us to visit Foxen the next day.
In the morning we had signed up for the Back-Country Wine Tour given by Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours. Our guide, Arturo, picked us up in an open Jeep and drove us around the area, sampling the wines from Kalyra (where Sandra Oh first appeared in the movie), Artiste, Carhartt, and Bridlewood. He explained how the climate in the valley was too cool for Cabernet but just right for Pinot Noir and how Sideways had greatly increased the profile of the area.
We picked up lunch at Panino in Los Olivas and we ate it outdoors at the table in back of Carhartt's tasting room. We also tasted some olive oil from Global Gardens which unlike our wine, we could ship home to Massachusetts, a state with very weird laws about importing wine.
After our tour, we drove ourselves to Foxen, which we recognized as another location in the movie. It is out on Foxen Canyon Road, well past any place where you would expect to find a winery - just keep driving long after you think you must have passed it. You can also get the Sideways Map from their web site.
For our last dinner in the area, we took Arturo's recommendation (in addition to working in the wine industry he has cooked in some high profile restaurants) and had a delicious meal at Trattoria Grappolo. Be sure to have it with the 2003 Stolpman Poetry Red.