About an hour south of San Luis Obispo is the best place on earth. There are luscious rolling hills and countrysides that stretch into the Los Padres National Forest and beautiful beaches with golden sand. Within this small community is a huge industry that you may have seen in an independent film that won several Oscars a few years back. I am talking about the Santa Ynez Valley, and the movie I am referencing is “Sideways.”
My family has always loved wine. Living in wine country, we have the best selections of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot and Tempranillo California has to offer. Our climate is comparable to the south of France and northern Spain in which these varietals prosper. My parents taught me about the art of wine when I was young, and how to appreciate a fine glass of fermented grape juice. (“Grape” was my first word, by the way.)
When I turned 21, I went to work in the wine industry, and took courses on the processes that turn my favorite fruit into a wonderful drink. I worked at a tasting room in Santa Ynez, and really got my hands dirty. I was able to talk about wine all day long, taste it directly from the barrel and put together events on my favorite subject.
When I heard about this movie filmed in the valley, I was so excited because it was a way to see our little community on the silver screen. I went with my best friend, who also worked in the wine industry at another vineyard, and we were filled with anticipation as the lights in the movie theater in Buellton went down.
As the movie went on, and on, and on, I was utterly horrified. There was my hometown, spun into this land where “wine tasters” come from Los Angeles when they want to get laid by tasting room baristas or trashy waitresses, and run naked in the street. It was awful.
Almost immediately after the movie I really noticed a change in the clientele that came into my tasting room. A sub-culture of wine tasters piled into tour buses and just wanted to get trashed. Wine tasting was no longer an art where it’s frowned upon to get drunk, but people took the ounce of wine I poured into their glasses, and pretended it was a shot of cheap whiskey. They didn’t want to hear where the grape came from or it’s history. They just wanted to be loud, obnoxious, rude assholes that left a tornado of destruction in their wake.
My sister worked at another winery a few miles up the road. It’s a beautiful place that looks like a romantic hacienda, and a cave where the barrels are stacked in a picturesque setting that almost looks like something out of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” She was working a lovely Sunday afternoon, when a bus full of overweight, middle-aged men came crashing through to get wasted. One man offered my sister $200 to drink the spit bucket. (For those who don’t know what that is, a spit bucket is where you spit the wine out because if you swallow a lot of wine your palate becomes dull and you can’t appreciate the flavors and aromas. Or you don’t want to get trashed.) Just because Paul Giamatti’s character does it in the movie doesn’t mean people actually do this.
Conversations turned from how wonderful the wine was, or what kinds of food to pair a Cabernet Sauvignon with, to the movie and what wineries were featured in the film, and do baristas really have sex with the customers.
One day when I was at work again, some drunk guys came in and one guy got a little too close for comfort and asked me out. And no it was not flattering, so I kicked them out.
I’ve had it with this movie and the people it brought to my town. Don’t just go wine tasting to get smashed and drive around the area, because the cops are on the lookout for those people. They love pulling over the idiots who think they can cruise around, top down and drunk just because the characters in the movie got away with it.
The baristas will kick you out when you get a little too frisky, and the waitresses are not whores. The Valley is not some place to run naked in the streets, please have respect for those who are serving you. They are more inclined to give you tastings that aren’t on the list, or bigger pours, or a discount on the price if you are nice and engage in conversation.
Santa Ynez Valley is a lovely place to visit and spend a day at beautiful wineries with people who want you to be there and enjoy the atmosphere. Hopefully, the presence of the “Sideways” enthusiasts will go away and they’ll make another movie somewhere else and the attention can navigate away from the Valley.
Feel free to come and savor the wine, just don’t grab the barista’s ass.
Raiza Canelon is a journalism senior and a reporter for the Mustang Daily.