the Ways of Average Joe cum Connoisseurs
A tsunami hits the Maldives. A nightclub is bombed in Bali. A dumpy,
middle-aged man slurps Pinot Noir. If the third description sounds
as if it has nothing to do with the first two, then perhaps you’re
not a follower of the tourism industry. Ever since the success of
dumpy, middle-aged Miles (Paul Giamatti)—the movie’s
main character—has joined the ranks of phenomena that have
had a significant effect on where people choose to travel.
(left) Slurps Pinot Noir with Jack
on a quiet little novel by Rex Picket, "Sideways" is a
seemingly simple movie. Miles and his buddy, Jack (Thomas Hayden
Church), head to the Santa Barbara wine country for a week of golfing,
vintage sipping and ruminating on life as a precursor to Jack’s
impending wedding. Hardly the stuff to lure you away from a holiday
in Paris or Tibet. Yet for many travelers, it has done just that.
How? By showing regular people behaving regularly (and sometimes
abominably) in a realm commonly perceived as being snobbish, exclusive
and essentially off-limits to the mortal man. Suddenly that realm
is accessible, and as a result—take note, travel marketers—it
is desirable. J. Walter Thompson couldn’t have come up with
a better campaign.
course, the Santa
Barbara wine region—and its laid-back attitude—deserves
a little credit, too. Take the Days Inn Solvang/Buellton, for example.
If you saw the movie, you’ll know this place immediately.
It’s where Miles and Jack bunked during their week of soul-searching
and hangovers. But for years before "Sideways" came out,
it played another significant role. It served as an Interstate 101
landmark, with its windmill architecture and giant sign announcing
Pea Soup Anderson’s restaurant. If you want to understand
how unpretentious this area actually is—despite the influx
of "Sideways" influenced events—simply
hop on the Days Inn website. You’ll see not a single mention
of the movie. But you will see the property’s claim as being
the “world-famous” birthplace of split pea soup. You
have to love a destination for eschewing Hollywood in favor of its
more—how shall we put it?—humble attributes. And this
is no doubt another reason why so many travelers do.
than a year after the movie came out, you could plug “Santa
Barbara” and “Sideways” into your Google search
engine and come up with more than one site offering a downloadable
map to Miles and Jack’s road trip—visit the Hitching
Post, where Miles meets love interest Maya (Virginia Madsen), or
the Fess Parker Winery, where a despondent Miles drinks from the
spit bucket. Local hotels boast "Sideways" specials, wineries
have "Sideways" tastings and the annual Santa Barbara
Festival is even capitalizing on the movie during its weekend
tasting spree. As a byproduct, "Sideways" is also affecting
the wine drinking habits of the Average Joe cum connoisseur. National
Public Radio reports that the Hitching Post is having a hard time
keeping up with the demand for the Highliner Pinot
Noir favored by snooty Miles, and further afield, the last time
we were in Bristol Farms in Newport Beach in search of a Pinot Noir,
we were told that the store could scarcely keep this new favorite
varietal in stock. There is no doubt in our minds—"Sideways"
is destined to become a bellwether for chambers of commerce around
by Kim Fay