By Robin Dohrn-Simpson
Some of the best places in the world are the hardest to find. That adage holds true in the case of the Wine Ghetto in tiny Lompoc (pronounced Lom-poke), Calif. Here you won’t find expansive Tuscan castles. No 30-foot ceilings, regal fireplaces, 40-foot murals painted by famous artists, just inviting warehouse-style tasting rooms.
Located in the Santa Ynez Valley of Southern California, just north of Santa Barbara, Lompoc is the westernmost town in a cluster of villages with names like Los Olivos and Solvang. The rolling Santa Rita Hills are surrounded by horse farms, majestic California Live Oak trees and enjoy a gentle Pacific Ocean breeze that grapes love.
A Ghetto of 19 Wineries
The word ghetto is defined as a tight-knit neighborhood. That is what you’ll find here, a neighborhood of passionate winemakers, producing world-class wines. These winemakers prefer to focus on making wines not up-keeping large tasting facilities.
Nineteen wineries, give or a take a few at any given time, call the Wine Ghetto home. Here are a few, but don’t limit yourself to these – try them all!
Brian Loring produces Pinot Noirs that consistently make the top 10 California Pinots according to Wine Spectator Magazine. He has approximately 8-10 different Pinots at any given time.
Mark Cargassachi is a fabulous winemaker. And he knows Pinots. Put your trust in whatever he is pouring and try all of his wines. You will not be disappointed.
Palmina focuses on Italian varietals; Arneis, Barbera, Dolcetto, Lagrien, Malvasia Bianca and Nebbiolo are some of their wines. This lovely tasting rooms has tables and they serve breadsticks, cheese and salami to everyone. Their focus is to craft Italian varietals expressly made to complement and enhance food, especially local foods. Their philosophy is that wines should be an extension of the plate.
Flying Goat Winery
Owner and winemaker Norm Yost focuses his passions on Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines. Don’t be distracted by the funky name, his wines shine.
Instrumental in getting the new Ballard Canyon AVA approved where the Stolpman family grow their grapes, they focus on Rhone varietals: most notably their Syrah, Grenache, Sangiovese and Roussane.
This winery is also a bakery. There’s a tasting room in the front and a bakery in the back. They make awesome fresh bread in the morning. If you get to the ghetto early enough, make it your first stop and buy some of their artisanal breads.
You will find their wines all over southern and central California. But their New Vineland wines are cuvees only sold at the wine ghetto. Try their Chardonnay, Central Coast Syrah, Rim Rock Vineyard Syrah and the Santa Ynez Valley Sangiovese Dessert wine.
Bring a Picnic
The best way to approach the wine Ghetto is with an open mind and a picnic basket. All of the wineries are only a few feet apart, and you will need something in your stomach to help absorb the alcohol.
Currently there are no eating facilities in the quadrant. Food trucks are still forbidden. You can drive a mile or so to 319 E. Ocean Ave. and enjoy the local favorite: Floriano’s. (Be careful as the sign out front says Butcher Shop so you can easily miss it). They are famous for creative Mexican foods and their carne asada fries.
Begin or end your weekend with a day in the Wine Ghetto. Taste the winemaker’s passion. Don’t be surprised if you’re tasting the wines with the winemakers. It’s small, intimate and friendly.
For more detailed information visit www.lompoctrail.com.