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You'll drink more than just Merlot at 'Sideways Fest'

Bakersfield man puts on wine festival in SB County
Posted at 10:09 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-18 01:09:20-04

It’s a movie that forever changed what we think of wine tasting—and sent sales of pinot noir soaring—while single-handily gutting interest in merlot.

The film Sideways becoming a cult classic among wine enthusiasts since it’s release in 2004—and one Kern County native is celebrating all that went right, and wrong in the movie—bringing people from all over the world for a 3-day festival, just a short drive from Bakersfield.

“Everyone was drinking merlot in California until that movie came out in 2004,” remembers Alex Neil—who has spent his career working in some of the best wineries in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez.

He’s referencing what become one of the most famous scenes from Alex Payne’s Academy Award winning film ‘Sideways’—where Miles, played by Paul Giamatti says to his unsophisticated co-companion wine buddy Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church “If anybody orders Merlot, I’m leaving! I’m not drinking any (expletive) Merlot!”

The film follows the two friends on a week long trip, one escaping the reality of an impending wedding, the other coming off a bitter divorce—the pair on a journey of self exploration and departure from the clutter in their lives—all while enjoying some of the best wines in the world, in the most beautiful backdrop of Santa Barbara county.

The film leading to what would become later known as the “Sideways effect.” Giamatti’s character Miles so obsessed with Pinot Noir— describing the grape predominately grown in the St. Rita Hills wine appellation as thin-skinned, temperamental and in need of constant care and attention.

A dozen years later those famous words leading Pinot Noir to become a mainstay of the California wine industry. And the movie became a source of Inspiration for wine enthusiasts all around the world. “It directly exposed the entire world to the fun of wine,” said Neil.

His own obsession with the film, and while serving on the board of the Sta Rita Hills Wine Alliance, Neil had an idea to create a 3-day festival—celebrating all things Sideways. ”Three days, three different events.
Sideways Movie Experience
The weekend begins with a Sideways Movie Experience on Friday, October 18th from 6-10 p.m. at the Solvang Theater—event goers will hear a panel discussion after the screening from Sideways personalities.
Sideways Bus Tour
On Saturday, October 19th from 11 a.m- 5 p.m. guests will hop on a shuttle and experience the Sideways tour first hand. Visiting the Sideways Inn, Peake Ranch, Hitching Post II and the Solvang Restaurant.
Sideways Wine Festival
On Sunday, October 20th from 12-4p.m. guests can enjoy the Sideways Wine Festival at River View Park in Buellton. Guests will enjoy more than 40 wines from the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Barbara County wineries.

“You get to taste a lot of great wine,” says Neil.

And Neil says he plans to give a little love to the varietal that’s been struggling to find it’s way into wine glasses for the past 15-years. ”Merlot is coming into it’s own right again, its bring re-discovered, we wanted to make sure that wine drinks could rediscover it in a positive light, what better way to do it than at Sideways Fest.”

For ticket information visit Sideways Fest