The Joys of Lompoc
A treasure-trove of fine wine that is fast becoming a mecca for in-the-know Central Coast wine tourists
Located auspiciously at the intersection of 12th and Industrial Way (just off Highway 246), what appears to be an utterly bland and uninspiring aggregation of identical aluminium-sided warehouses is, in fact, a treasure-trove of fine wine that is fast becoming a mecca for in-the-know Central Coast wine tourists. The signpost calls it the Sobhani Industrial Park.
Affectionately known as the Wine Ghetto, this industrial park is putting Lompoc on the map, right up there with Buellton and Solvang. It is a classic expression of just-get-on-with-it American free enterprise, housing an astonishing 20 little wineries that share equipment, cut costs by eschewing elaborate winery-building, but spare no effort or expense in the pursuit of the highest possible quality of wine.
Even Robert Parker is impressed, having singled out young, self-taught Ghetto denizens Greg Brewer (Brewer-Clifton, Diatom, Melville) and Steve Clifton (Brewer-Clifton and Palmina) as among the very best winemakers on the continent.
Santa Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance members Palmina (Steve and Chrystal Clifton's project devoted to Italian varietals), Flying Goat, Samsara (Chad and Mary Melville's 800-case garagiste winery), Fiddlehead (terrific sauvignon blanc) and Dragonette Cellars are all top Ghetto producers. Expect to be blown away by genuine cool-climate wines. It's not the focused flavour that knocks you for a loop - it's the precision, elegance and balance that comes with it, wine after wine after wine.
If it sounds too good to be true, there is a bit of a downside: many of the Ghetto wineries don't have tasting rooms, and the ones that do have restricted hours - typically weekends only, or by appointment. But given the sky-high quality, it is well worth taking the trouble to make appointments and schedule adjustments.
After an exhausting afternoon of having your mind blown, you will probably be a bit peckish. The place to go is Sissy's Uptown Cafe. Charming and homey, it's the kind of place where the house specialty is a grilled turkey breast, bacon and Cotswold cheese sandwich - it's enormous and it's delicious, too. Do not say no to the coconut cream pie.
And don't miss any of the other great attractions in Santa Barbara County.