It's not always easy to retrace the footsteps of major movies, but one which has been well-documented is the 2004 feature Sideways. Set in Santa Barbara Wine Country, it charts the misadventures of two middle-aged men, would-be novelist Miles (Paul Giamatti) and washed-up actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church). Jack's about to get married, Miles is lost, but they soon find themselves drowning in wine and women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen). And it gets very messy.
Sideways works well as a central California travelog. The characters may be all-over-the-place, but the setting is perpetually bright and sunny. It starts in San Diego, then heads north to the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County. It even tells you where it's going: Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Lompoc and Solvang, places that are at once beautiful and a little peculiar.
The region is lined with vineyards, but speckled with old-fashioned windmills and buildings that can best be described as quaint. Solvang itself is an authentic Danish village, whatever 'authentic' means. Jack and Miles pass such local meccas as pea soup heaven Split Pea Anderson's in Buellton, and stay nearby at the Days Inn.
The list of locations used is exhaustive: the Kalyra Winery in Santa Ynez; western-themed restaurant A.J. Spurs, wine bar Hitching Post II, and Sanford Winery in Buellton; and Solvang Restaurant, Mission Santa Ines, and the Alisal Guest Ranch golfcourse in Solvang.
Other locations were the Firestone Winery, Fess Parker Winery, and the Los Olivos Cafe and Wine Merchant in Los Olivos; Ocean Lanes bowling alley and the farmers' market in Lompoc; and Gaviota State Beach (pictured bottom).
When the movie came out, the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau were keen to promote California's other wine country, the so-called American Riviera. They quickly brought out a color map of filming locations for the movie. People took note and the region was inundated with visitors. So much so that some residents complained that local roads were getting clogged with tipsy tourists.
Things have died down now, with the streets back to normal. Since Sideways, Hollywood has moved on, and other films have been shot locally, from Pirates of the Caribbean III to Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (recognize the roads?). Probably a good time to grab a map, a glass of wine, and explore. – Roshan McArthur