Saddle Up For Alisal Guest Ranch's BBQ Bootcamp

Anyone who has seen Alexander Payne's excellent Academy Award-winning film "Sideways" — about a California wine-tasting roadtrip — has afterwards craved a bucket-list visit to the Hitching Post II. That's the Buellton, California, wine and barbeque mecca where the film's characters savored the best grilled steaks in the state, and waxed poetic about Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir (as well as the sins of merlot). It truly is a must-try combo, but even better is the Hitching Post's best-kept-secret: the ribs. Dry-rubbed, succulent, all-natural baby back pork ribs from Idaho's Salmon Creek Farms. They're cooked over a smoky red oak wood grill, seasoned only with the Hitching Post's garlicky Magic Stuff rub.

The Hitching Post II's head honcho Frank Ostini will share many of his time-tested cooking secrets to a lucky few on October 25-27. That's when Solvang, California's equally legendary Alisal Guest Ranch and Spa will host the ultimate barbecue bootcamp, with special guest Ostini. For more than 60 years, Alisal has treated grilling as a fine art and during this two-night, three-day program, guests will hone their grilling skills, learn the ins-and-outs of Santa Maria-style BBQ from Ostini and Alisal executive chef Pascal Godé. Special guests will include noteworthy local chefs and winemakers. The adults-only package includes a two-night stay; all meals, including special dinners with local winemakers, and brew masters; seminars on grilling methods and equipment, BBQ instruction, and spice blending; a BBQ recipe booklet; Western-style welcome amenities; and ranch activities include two-hour horseback rides, golf green fees, tennis, and bait and tackle for fishing at Alisal Lake. Rates start at $1,576 per person.  

On the central coast of California, barbecue has always meant grilling over an open fire of red oak, a style of cooking that goes back to the days of the Spanish Rancheros. "I took the family's concept of grilling over this wood fire and expanded it to other dishes such as grilled vegetables, quail and duck," Ostini says. "We look at ourselves as still honoring this culinary tradition, but building upon it using a few contemporary techniques and new ingredients."

The Hitching Post II mixes traditional Santa Maria barbecue with eclectic local ingredients and award-winning wines. Winemakers Ostini and partner Gray Hartley produce 10 exceptional Pinot Noirs, two Syrahs, and a Merlot-Cabernet Franc blend, crowning a wine list which has rightfully received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

The Alisal Guest Ranch Resort & Spa has been one of the country's Top 10 great dude ranches since it opened in 1946. It offers 73 telephone-and-television-free guest cottages and suites, 50-plus miles of horseback riding trails, two championship golf courses, a 6500-square-foot spa and fitness center, six tennis courts and a 100-acre spring-fed lake with water sports, including fly fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.