06 Dec Lompoc, the Wine Ghetto and Beyond
We visited Lompoc. It was a Thursday…so limited wine tasting rooms were open, but it gave us a chance to do a few tastings and scope out tasting rooms we would like to return to. But perhaps you have never heard of Lompoc? Let me bring you up to speed.
Lompoc is located on the Central Coast of California in Santa Barbara County. From a wine perspective, it is the area just west of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. The Chumash Indians were the first known settlers here and enjoyed relative peace and quiet for what is thought to be 10,000 years until the first European Settlement was built in 1787 with the La Purisima Mission. The original mission was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake and was rebuilt several years after at another site. The mission is now a state park and is host to the Wine and Fire Event held annually by the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance. the name Lompoc comes from the Chumash Indian word “Lum Poc” for “Lagoon” (or for stagnant waters, but lagoon sounds better).
The city of Lompoc was Incorporated in 1888 and many wharves were built for incoming supplies to the coast. At the turn of the century the rail system took over transport of goods and slowed traffic to the coast by boats, but the new rail system ran from San Francisco to LA with a spur coming into Lompoc. The city is known as the City of Arts and Flowers and indeed they became know as the capitol for the flower seed industry. The area became agriculturally based and still grows many flowers.
In 1941 Camp Cooke was established as a Army Training base and was renamed Vandenburg Air Force Base in 1958 when the Air Force began using it as a test site for intermediate-range ballistic missles. In the late 1980’s this was to be the new spot for launching Space Shuttle Missions and the town grew and boomed with the expectation of people coming in to see the launches. Sadly the Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986 ended that program and the city struggled to find a way out of the recession they found themselves in.
They turned to Tourism and now in addition to their arts and flowers, they are home to many wineries with around 30 tasting rooms, which are typically open on the weekends.
The Wine Ghetto
The Lompoc Wine Ghetto came about in 1998 when Rick Longoria moved his winery operations to an industrial Warehouse in Lompoc. It was close to the vineyards and allowed an affordable space to make wine. Others soon followed suit, and while Longoria moved out of the Ghetto, in to a new facility down the street (in the historic JM Club), there are still plenty of great tasting rooms in the Ghetto.
We had tasted in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto before at Palmina by Steve Clifton and a little further outside the Ghetto at Brewer Clifton back in 2012. It seems like not so long ago, but really it has been a bit of time and things have changed. Brewer-Clifton was founded in 2001 by Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton. In 2015 Ken Frederickson and his team joined Brewer Clifton and recently the winery was purchased by Jackson Family Wines.
We also visited Fiddlehead Cellars during a Vintners Spring weekend event and enjoyed a great tasting with Kathy Josephs the winemaker there as well as some great home-cooked food!
Currently the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is home to 18 wineries and tasting rooms. In addition there are individual tasting rooms like Longoria and Brewer Clifton further to the West and just east of the Ghetto is the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center Where you can find 4 tasting rooms and several other wineries. The tasting rooms here include Zotovich, AVE, Kessler-Hawk and Transcendence. In the Ghetto you will find Ampelos, Arcadian, Bratcher, DSP, Fiddlehead, Flying Goat, Holus Bolus, Jalama, La Montagne, La Vie, Montemar, Morretti, Pali, Palmina, Piedrasassi & Stolpman. Check out the Lompoc Wine Trail for details and a map.
During this visit we stopped at A Taste of Sta. Rita Hills tasting room, which shares space with Moretti, located in the Wine Ghetto and then visited AVE and Transcendence located a short walk away at the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center.
You will find that most of the tasting rooms and wineries here focus on the varieties of grapes coming from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, meaning lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but there are other varieties available also.
While I was unable to get there, on Friday afternoons, Piedrasassi, Sashi Moorman’s Winery also has it’s Bakery open run by Melissa Sorongon. You can get fresh baked bread and taste some great wines all at one time. It’s on my list.
We will be sharing the details of our tastings in Lompoc in future posts. Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles . You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram