'Angelenos have an image of Santa Barbara as a conservative enclave to the north, but in fact, it's very sophisticated'
HOME BASE Los Angeles
ON LOCATION For his latest film, Sideways, an offbeat comedy about old college roommates on a wine-tasting road trip, Payne traded Nebraska, where he shot his last three movies (Citizen Ruth, Election, and About Schmidt), for Santa Barbara County. "Wine country there is burgeoning," Payne says, hoping his movie will raise awareness. "It's a traditional ranching area with wide-open spaces where I can breathe, think, and drive without obstruction."
WINE AND DINE While filming, Payne discovered the vineyards and restaurants of the nearby townships. "The wineries are newer and a little more folksy than Napa and Sonoma," he says. "Take Foxen [7200 Foxen Canyon Rd., Santa Maria; 805/937-4251], for example. It's basically a roadside shack that makes fantastic wines." The Los Olivos Café and the Hitching Post restaurant are both featured prominently in Sideways, but Payne also recommends Patrick's Side Street Café [2375 Alamo Pintado Ave., Los Olivos; 805/686-4004; dinner for two $65], which is famous for its fresh trout.
PASS THE POPCORN "One of my favorite theaters is the Arlington Theatre [1317 State St.; 805/963-4408]," Payne says. "I always wanted to have one of my movies shown there. With Sideways, I got my wish."
—David A. Keeps
WINE AND CHEESE SHOPS
El Rancho Marketplace (2886 Old Mission Dr., Solvang; 805/688-4300; www.elranchomarket.com)
Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium (2531 Grand Ave., Los Olivos; 805/668-4409; www.sbwines.com)
Bridlewood Winery (3555 Roblar Ave., Santa Ynez; 805/688-9000)
Firestone Vineyard (5000 Zaca Station Rd., Los Olivos; 805/688-3940; www.firestonewine.com)
Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard (6200 Foxen Canyon Rd., Los Olivos; 800/841-1104; www.fessparker.com)
Sunstone Winery (125 Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez; 800/313-9463; www.sunstonewinery.com)
A-ru Restaurant (225 McMurray Rd., Buellton; 805/686-9001) It's in a strip mall, the best sushi I've ever had in my life.