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Touring Santa Barbara's 'Sideways' Universe

Frank Ostini, owner and chef of the Hitching Post restaurant featured in the film <i>Sideways</i>, holds an empty bottle of his signature pinot noir wine, signed by the cast, director and producer of the award-winning film.
Ina Jaffe, NPR
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Frank Ostini, owner and chef of the Hitching Post restaurant featured in the film Sideways, holds an empty bottle of his signature pinot noir wine, signed by the cast, director and producer of the award-winning film.

You've seen the movie -- now drink the wine. The Oscar-nominated film Sideways has not only been a critical and box-office success, it's made stars out of the wines of Santa Barbara County.

NPR's Ina Jaffe explores the Sideways universe, following the trail blazed by the movie's characters as they grapple with their personal demons while searching for the perfect glass of pinot noir.

First stop is the Hitching Post restaurant, where actor Paul Giamatti's character Miles meets beautiful waitress Maya, played by Virginia Madsen. Before the Sideways craze, the Hitching Post was best-known for its steaks, grilled over a wood fire. But now visitors are demanding the Highliner pinot noir.

"Last night, we ran our stock of Highliner down to the last bottle," says Hitching Post owner-chef Frank Ostini. "And we can't run out of this wine -- we think people are making the journey to be here, and we want to have what they've come for." He also says demand for his Highliner pinot noir -- a wine that wine-snob Miles considers superior to any other -- has doubled.

And Sideways tourists are indeed coming to Santa Barbara County -- some of them following a map provided by the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau that highlights each of the locations featured in the movie.

Wineries and stores are hosting Sideways-themed tastings. Tickets for the one at the Wine House in West Los Angeles sold out in a single day, at $50 a head. That price included a copy of the novel Sideways, signed on the spot by author Rex Pickett.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."