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In Santa Ynez Valley, A Toast to 'Sideways'

"A lot of people are trying it because of the movie. And hopefully if they try it, they'll stick with it," Snider said.

At the rural Sanford Winery, a converted dairy barn at the end of a long gravel road, tastings run $5. Weekend crowds have more than doubled since "Sideways" was released nationally -- and the five Academy Award nominations the picture received have only intensified the buzz. You don't have to be a wine connoisseur to fit in. You just have to be willing to learn.

Frank Ostini and his Hitching Post II are popular with "Sideways" fans, who are invading Santa Ynez Valley, Calif. (Ric Francis/AP)

Just don't expect to bring home a bottle of the Sanford Vin Gris used in Jack's first wine-tasting lesson. It sold out before Christmas. But people are clamoring to get their hands on some.

"It does have strawberries, but Miles gets carried away," tasting room manager Mel Lewis said with a grin. "They added that part about the cheese."

The tasting room at Firestone Vineyard, one of the region's oldest wineries, is where the couples sneak out of a rambling lecture on pinot noir. But don't be disappointed when there isn't any pinot noir in sight; the winery doesn't produce it.

But it does make some pretty incredible chardonnays, syrahs and yes, even merlots. Despite all of Miles's badmouthing about merlot, it's still selling. That's Hollywood. Things aren't always what they seem. "Sideways" isn't a documentary, but for the most part, the beauty and quirks of Santa Ynez Valley are laid out with brutal honesty.

Miles and Jack engage in bad behavior. They cuss. They drink and drive. They're zealous participants in adultery and pornography. Not exactly the image Santa Barbara winemakers and business owners wanted to present to the world. But after being reassured by filmmaker Alexander Payne, winery after winery agreed to be part of the phenomenon. As long as their names weren't featured.

Down the road from Firestone, Foxen Vineyards, where Miles and Jack pour themselves more wine when their server steps away, is a bit of a trek from the other wineries -- but it's worth seeking out. Rustic wood fences line the wandering road that takes you past endless vineyards. Cows and horses graze unaware.

There is much more to the valley than the wine.

For $3, you can feed the ostriches that chase Jack as he runs naked back to the Windmill motel after being caught in the act with Cammi by her tow-truck-driving husband.

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