Wine Tasting Trip: Hitching Post Wines

One can hardly visit the Santa Ynez Valley and not notice the effect of the movie Sideways. I never visited before the movie so I can’t be sure what was different then (probably fewer tourists and less usage of the words “sideways” and “pinot noir”), but the impact of the film is obvious when you visit the area.

It’s the most obvious when you visit The Hitching Post II restaurant and bar on Highway 246 in Buellton. You can drive the route that Miles stumbled, you can hang out at the bar where he drowned his sorrows in Pinot Noir, and now you can even see pictures on the wall of the cast and crew when they were filming.

I was personally more interested to see what all the hype was about than I was in reliving the movie, but it was a bit surreal. Up until a few weeks ago my interest in Hitching Post was nil specifically because of all the hype and I’d avoided the scene on previous trips. This time though, I squeezed it into our itinerary for a few reasons.

First, I’d recently tried the Cork Dancer Pinot Noir at the Viceroy in Santa Monica at a friend’s birthday party. They have it on their Happy Hour menu (which goes until 9pm) for $6 a glass. That’s a deal for any wine in this town and it’s a great deal for good wine. The second reason we went there on this trip was that we were spending the night in Buellton and its gravity sucked me into a vortex of curiosity (that, and we needed to eat dinner in the small town). Lastly, I saw on their website they do a full wine tasting at their bar for $7 until 6pm. THIS was a reason to go!

We arrived around 5pm (we had a 6pm reservation–I HIGHLY recommend making reservations and going early. People were waiting in big crowds/lines for a long time.) and found a spot in the bar area which was eerily familiar (I’ve only seen the movie once but the images from inside HPII were burned into my brain). We ordered a couple of tastings and settled in to try the 7 pours of infamy before dinner.

(If you get bored reading the reviews of the wines, skip to the end where I talk about our dining experience.)

Note: The website is a little out of date and the wines available for purchase aren’t all the same vintages as I tasted so the notes and prices may be a little askew. Well, their notes might be… mine are probably as askew as they always are!

2007 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post “Pinks”, a Dry Rose – $18 per bottle

What they say: Beautiful aromas of strawberry, cherry and rainbow sherbet. Brilliant color and fresh crisp flavors makes this a joy to swirl and sip.

What Jess says: Mild and subtle. Cool and refreshing. Would go well with anything on a hot day. (Still biased by my favorite Rose of all, Beckmen Grenache Rose.)

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Cork Dancer Pinot Noir – $27 per bottle

Hitching Post Cork Dancer Pinot Noir

Hitching Post Cork Dancer Pinot Noir

What they say: A blend of six vineyards that stretch from Santa Maria through Los Alamos and into the Santa Rita Hills. Bright fruits, medium body, a well proportioned great drinking everyday pinot.

What Jess says: The nose was like other earthy local Pinot Noirs. (I find that Pinots from this area of a distinctive nose that I can always detect, no matter what the winemaking did to the wine.) It was a beautiful light red with a nice feeling at the back of the mouth. I detected berries in this well-balanced Pinot. I liked it as much as I did at the Viceroy, too. While I like this wine, I’m not sure most of us think $27 per bottle is an “everyday” wine.

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post St. Rita’s Earth Pinot Noir – $34 per bottle

What they say: Dark fruits, good structured blend of Sanford & Benedict, Fiddlestix and Clos Pepe Vineyards. All Santa Rita Hills. Aromas of earth and cherries. Deep purple color with warm flavors of berry and spice that linger.

What Jess says: The nose was detectably earthier and stronger than the Cork Dancer. When I tasted it my first response was YUM. Blueberries and blackberries slinking seductively across the tongue in this smooth well-balanced Pinot Noir. For $7 more, I’d choose this over the Cork Dancer.

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir – $42 per bottle

What they say: Aromas of berries and sweet Frenchy oak, bright young fruit tastes rich and round, poised to improve over the next 5 to 10 years. (Note: this is their flagship wine.)

What Jess says: The nose had a very particular smell about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. I tasted cherries. This wine was super smooth and a long, silky, wonderful finish. WOW. I can see why this wine gets so much attention and it tastes like it’s their pride and joy. But even still, we didn’t buy any of this wine because it’s still out of reach for most people.

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Generation Red – $18 per bottle

Hitching Post Generation Red Blend - Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Syrah, Refosco

Hitching Post Generation Red Blend – Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre, Syrah, Refosco

38% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 23% Syrah, 6% Refosco

What they say: Generation Red honors our parents and grandparents who first introduced us to wine at the dinner table, and our children, who have shown a keen interest in winemaking as inquisitive youngsters and excited young adults. With this bottling we focused on high quality sources: 20 yr old Cabernet Franc from Alisos Vineyard in the hills above Los Alamos, meticulously farmed Merlot from Westerly and Gainey vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, and small amounts of White Hawk Syrah and Bien Nacido Refosco. This blend is mainly Cabernet Franc and shows a young rustic character with dusty, smoky aromatics. Excellent with food.

What Jess says: The nose smelled “Cabby.” I tasted cola and “purple” fruit. I found the wine smooth and interesting (in a good way, unlike the Porque No! red blend from Napa I just tried that found to be interesting in a notsogood way). This wine said to me, “Buy me!” So I did. A great value in a unique and high-quality wine.

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Merlot, Santa Barbara County – $20 per bottle

What they say: I can’t locate their tasting notes on this one.

What Jess says: I’m not a fan of Merlot, but at this point my notes just say “too buzzed to care.” That’s me, slackin’ on the job!

2006 Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Syrah, Big Circle – $25 per bottle

What they say: This cuvee honors the Big Circle Riders who surrounded the cattle to bring them together are the roundup, where our style of oakwood grilling got its beginnings by feeding the cowboys after a hard day’s work. Today we gather Syrah grapes from various Santa Barbara vineyards, and bring them together in this wine that combines the structure and intensity of cool sites with the broad flavors of Syrah grapes from warmer vineyards.This wine is ripe, juicy and flashy. Showing notes of black cherry and cooked plum with polished edges.

What Jess says: Red berry and chocolate on the nose. Nice, chocolate, black cherry, pepper, and plum in the mouth. A little more expensive than I normally spend, I bought a bottle anyway because it was very good and I’d look forward to serving it to guests.

At this point in the evening, our reservation was up and we were drunk. WE is a noteworthy comment because Mitch RARELY gets drunk.  The tasting pours were very generous and we were on an empty stomach (especially Mitch because at least I’d had some snacks at the Vino de Suenos event earlier in the day where I’d met and spoke with Frank Ostini–super nice guy). We ambled over to the hostess stand, and were promptly seated as we walked past hordes of jealous restaurant-goers.

Folks, I gotta say, this place is like a time warp. What it’s not though is snobby or elitist. When I met Frank Ostini earlier in the day, our conversation led me to believe he’s a genuine guy who believes in the good things in life: Good food, good wine, good friends, and doing what you love with honesty and integrity. I got that sense at the restaurant, too.

Not everything we tried was a winner and the veggie tray that they brought out when were seated was peculiar, right down to the 1970’s aluminum serving dish the veggies arrived in. We ordered a couple of appetizers (I liked the mushrooms, Mitch didn’t) and dinner. Mitch had pork chops for dinner and I had a cut of their famous BBQ steak. The steak was incredible. The most flavorful, moist, and tender piece of meat I’ve ever eaten (and I eat a lot of meat). I can’t recommend the steaks highly enough.

At any rate, if you’re a Sideways junkie, a Pinot Noir lover, or just want to take a trip back in time to the late 70s, add the Hitching Post II to your itinerary and make a reservation!

Spectacular Fall Foliage in Santa Ynez Valley

Spectacular Fall Foliage in Santa Ynez Valley

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Wine Tasting Trips

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