A Place to Pour: Iconic Santa Barbara Wine Label to Open First Tasting Room

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 5/17/18

The Hitching Post label is one of the most recognizable brands in Santa Barbara County. Consumers order it at wine shops and restaurants across the country, including the famous Buellton restaurant that shares its name. It’s never had its own destinations tasting room, however, until now.
 
This week, business partners and co-winemakers Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley announced that Hitching Post Wines’ first ever tasting will open in July. Mr. Ostini, the well-known chef who owns the Hitching Post II restaurant, has leased property that abuts his eatery, expanding his real estate holdings along E. State Route 246 from one acre to 12. The parcel is mostly open land that drops into a river basin that borders the popular animal haven, Ostrichland, but it’s also home to a wine tasting room that, until recently, housed the Loring and Cargasacchi brands.
 
Gray Hartley & Frank Ostini
“We’ve always wanted to have a tasting room, just never a satellite one in a place like, say, Santa Barbara or Los Alamos,” admits Mr. Hartley, who’ll be entering his 39th wine grape harvest with Mr. Ostini this fall. “Having it right next to Frank’s restaurant, though – that’s a natural.”
 
The Ostini-Hartley team has been making wine in Santa Barbara County since 1979, focusing primarily on pinot noir and on sourcing grapes from premier vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley. The Hitching Post label was born in 1984. The brand was propelled into the limelight by Rex Picket’s book, Sideways, and the Oscar-winning film it inspired in 2004. The restaurant is where the main character, Miles, comes to quench his sorrows – usually with Hitching Post pinot – and where he meets his love interest, Maya. The Hitching Post has been a household name among wine aficionados ever since.
 
“The wine business has always helped promote the restaurant, it’s always complemented it,” says Mr. Ostini. “But then it began to grow in a very organic way, so that now it stands on its own. And we’ve always been very serious about making it. So giving it its own tasting room just makes sense.”
 
Hear ye, hear ye
About 80% of the Hitching Post’s 17,000-case annual production is sold through distribution. The new tasting room will allow the winemaking duo to sell wine directly to consumers. “It’ll also help us grow our wine club,” adds Mr. Hartley, which ships wines out to members several times a year.
 
The Hitching Post tasting room, which will become the 10th wine tasting venue in the city of Buellton, will feature a patio and picnic grounds. Visitors will have the option to purchase food from a new limited lunch menu, which will be delivered “on foot or maybe by electric golf cart,” according to Mr. Ostini, from the famous barbecue-themed restaurant next door.
 
The signage for the new space, which will enjoy prime visibility near the Highway 101-SR 246 interchange, will also showcase a brand new look for the Hitching Post wine label.
 
“We just want to get people to the [Santa Ynez] Valley,” adds Mr. Ostini, “because it’s the true wine country.”
 
For more information, visit hpwines.com.
 
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