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Southern California

Give thanks for oak and grape at the Hitching Post II in Santa Barbara wine country

 (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: There's no better place to plot your Santa Barbara wine country adventure and -- if you're a carnivore -- sample steaks cooked Santa Maria style, over oak.

What: If you've seen the 2004 movie "Sideways," you might recognize this spot, a Buellton fixture since 1986. Besides a formidable list of local wines, the Hitching Post II features a long list of steaks, cooking according to Ostini family custom.

And outside, sprinkled between the horse farms and country-gentleman estates, more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms await. The region's wine boosters have organized nine routes for tasting that include Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, Los Olivos, Foxen Canyon and the Santa Rita Hills.

As for the first Hitching Post -- yes, it endures, run by another Ostini brother, beloved for its steaks since 1952. It's in the hamlet of Casmalia just outside Vandenberg Air Force Base.  

Where: 406 E. Highway 246, Buellton, Santa Barbara County, 138 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: Hitching Post II's main dishes typically run $26-$59.

Info: The Hitching Post II, Santa Barbara Vintners

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