It’d be a darn shame to visit the Santa Ynez Valley without stopping at the Hitching Post II, Buellton’s iconic steak and wine haven made famous by Sideways. That’s how we saw the situation anyways. So Sharon, Diana, and I made our way to Highway 246 from Stolpman Vineyards and had ourselves a visit.
Hitching Post II is famous for more than just its role in Sideways, of course. Owners Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley serve a mean steak and have been making their own wine since 1979. We were treated to some of their generous hospitality, and we got a sneak peak of their upcoming tasting room, which will be opening any day now! They are putting the finishing touches on a property directly next to their current restaurant, which includes an airstream trailer soon to be a kitchen for small bites. There’s a barn for events with some dubiously punctuated but warm-hearted signage. The furniture is being made by hand on site. You’ll be able to sit outside and enjoy the breeze or sit inside in the modern, cozy interior. And, not to mention, you’ll get to sip on Hitching Post wines, a lineup that mostly pays homage to their favorite grape, Pinot Noir, sourced from some of the best vineyard sites in the Valley. In 1981, when they found their first Pinot vineyard, they fell in love with the grape and it’s been the core of their wine program ever since.
Gray met us with a cool bottle of their Pinks rose--a refreshing, fruity blend of Valdigue and Grenache--then Frank joined us and we toured (Gray’s word was “sauntered”) around the new place. It doesn’t hurt that it’s on a beautiful plot of land, overlooking toasted rolling hills with oak trees and the neighboring ostrich farm. The day was sunny and breezy, and, with Gray and Frank’s friendliness and the smell of barbecue from the restaurant’s grill, plus a bit of extra amiability from the wine, we were pretty instantly enjoying ourselves. I have no doubt that patrons of the new tasting room will feel the same way. There’s a great welcoming feel to the space, with lots of room for your own sauntering.
Gray told us the story of how he and Frank met many moons ago when Gray was dining at his restaurant. Gray could tell that a jumpy customer looked like he was about to try an old dine & ditch. When he did just that, Gray ran after him and got his license plate number! Frank and Gray struck up a friendship and have been working together ever since. Gray was a salmon fisherman in Alaska for 28 years, when the season was over he’d come back to California and make wine with Frank. If any filmmaker out there ever wanted to make a wine-duo buddy comedy they should look no further than Frank and Gray! They are great friends and great fun.
We finished our tour with dinner and wine at the restaurant, and I had a filet mignon that knocked it out of the park. Great food, great wine, great views, great people--the Hitching Post II is a special place, and I can’t wait to head back to see the tasting room in action. Thanks again, Gray and Frank!
- Kate Soto