After a great day of tasting mostly Rhône and Bordeaux varietals in Paso Robles on Day 1 of our trip to the Central Coast, we decided mix it up and head south to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, which is  between 1.5-2 hour drive south of Paso Robles.  While Paso is mostly known as home to Rhônes, Santa Barbara, in which the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is located, is mostly known for Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

We were introduced to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (“Ghetto”) a couple of years ago  to when we made a side trip there from the California Wine Festival at Santa Barbara to visit  Palmina.  We also visited last year after a private tasting at Loring Wine Company.  We enjoyed it so much we decided to return this year!

Here’s a quick 411 on the Ghetto…

  • Loose collection of wineries located in the Sobhani Industrial Park in Lompoc
  • 18 Tasting rooms representing 20 local brands
  • Great place to go wine tasting due to the proximity of the tasting rooms to one another – the wine version of “One-stop shopping”
  • While there’s plenty of Pinot, and Chardonnay being poured, there’s a wonderful diversity of wine being offered in the tasting rooms, including cool-climate Syrah, and Italian varietals.
  • The place exudes the passion and energy of the winemakers, and the folks staffing the tasting rooms are knowledgeable and friendly.

I like what the Lompoc Wine Ghetto website says…

You won’t find great estates with rolling hills here, nor opulent tasting rooms with soaring ceilings. What you will find is world-class wine, presented in a laid back atmosphere.

Day 2 – Saturday; April 28th

Before we hit the road, we enjoyed a great breakfast at Panolivo – a family bistro in Downtown Paso for breakfast.  Think French country inn meets California.  Definitely recommended.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto Wine Tour Breakfast at PanolivoPanolivo Egg Torta – Yum!

After breakfast, we were off to the prosaic landscape of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto…

The prosaic landscape of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

No bucolic scenary…It’s definitely substance over beauty.  But a gun shop in the midst of all those fine wines?

A Gunshop next to a winery - now that's Ghetto!It’s not every day you find a gun shop next to a winery…

Our first stop was Evening Land Vineyards:  

Address: 1503 East Chestnut Ave, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 736-9656
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 11AM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Evening Land was established by Mark Tarlov in 2005.  It specializes in producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their organically farmed estate vineyards.  The vineyards are located in three regions renown for great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit,  the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the Sonoma Coast AVA, and Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills.

Their wines are organized into four tiers – Blue , Silver, Gold, White label. Each tier has a specific geographic focus.  The blue label wines have the broadest focus, and the white label wine have the most narrow focus.  For example, there is a blue label “California” Pinot Noir, whereas the white label Occidental Vineyard Pinot Noir is a vineyard designate.  The wines are priced accordingly and range from $30-$120. Production is 5,000 cases annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2010 Evening Land Vineyards Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Blue Label
  • 2010 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Spanish Springs
  • 2009 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, CA
  • 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Memorious

My favorite was the 2009 Evening Land Vineyards Pinot Noir Memorious, which I scored 92 pts.  All the wines manifest a more European style – lower alcohol, higher acidity, and more minerality.

My two cents? – Recommended, especially if  you enjoy more Old World style wines.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto - Evening Land Wine Tasting Lineup

In addition to the aforementioned wines from Oregon and California, Evening Land also offers wines from from Burgundy.  We purchased this one…

Lompoc Wine Ghetto - Evening Land Burgundy wine

2009 Evening Land Vineyards Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes

We weren’t able to taste it,  but I picked up a bottle because I’ve never had a Burgundy, and I think Evening Land is a great place to start!  Now if I can only hold onto it for a few years!

Our next stop was Zotovich Cellars:

Address: 1500 E. Chestnut Ct.; Suite D, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 736-1600
Open Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm or by appointment
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Zotovich Cellars is a family operated winery producing 100% Santa Rita Hills Estate Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay & Viognier.   The partners in the winery are the owner Steve Zotovich, and his nephew Ryan Zotovich who is the Winemaker.  We had the good fortune of Pete Zotovich pouring for us.  According to Pete, they produce about 1,700 cases of wine annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2009 Zotovich Cellars Chardonnay
  • 2011 Zotovich Cellars Rosé
  • 2009 Zotovich Estate Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Zotovich Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Zotovich Syrah

Pete Zotovich displaying Zotovich Cellars Pinot NoirPete Zotovich showing a bottle of their Estate Pinot Noir

My favorite wine, hands down, was the  Syrah, which I rated 92 pts.  I very much enjoyed the Pinot Noirs as well.

My two cents? – Recommended. 

Next up? – Arcadian Winery

Address: 1515- B East Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 737-3900
Open Hours: Daily – 11AM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $15 (For 5 wines)
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Not exactly, though there is a small area with tables and chairs outside.

Arcadian is owned by Joe Davis.  He is a  believer in Old World (Burgundian) methods of crafting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  He has been making Arcadian wines in the Central Coast since 1996.  They are a true “urban” winery in the sense that they own no vineyards. Their wines are released after extended barrel aging.  They often lag the market by one or two vintages. For example, the most recent available vintage we tasted was 2007.  Production is 8,000 cases annually.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2006 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands
  • 2007 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir – Santa Lucia Highlands
  • 2006 Arcadian Jill’s Cuvée Pinot Noir – Santa Maria Valley
  • 2006 Arcadian Westerly Syrah – Santa Ynez Valley
  • 2006 Arcadian Purisma Syrah – Santa Ynez Valley

Arcadian Winery lineup of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah

It was a challenge to pick a favorite because they were all outstanding (90+ point) wines.  But if you twist my arm, it would have to be the 2006 Arcadian Jills Cuveee Pinot Noir, which I rated 93 pts.

My two cents? – Highly Recommended

Up next…Loring Wine Company

Address: 1591 East Chestnut Ave, Lompoc CA
Phone: (805) 742-0478
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 12PM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Loring has been a darling of Wine Spectator (“WS”) for a few years now, consistently earning 90+ point scores for their wines.  That’s actually how I came to know about Loring.  When I subscribed to WS a couple of years ago, I was reading an issue and amazed at how many high scores Loring received.  I found out who they were, and purchased a bunch of wines from their vaunted 2008 vintage.  Subsequently, when my wife and I went to the Wine Festival in Santa Barbara in 2011, we made it a point to arrange for a private tasting on our way to Santa Barbara.  We had a great private tasting hosted by co-owner Kimberly Loring who is the sister of owner/winemaker Brian Loring, who was also on hand.  They were very gracious hosts,and we came away impressed.  Back in 2011 they hadn’t opened their current wine tasting room in the Ghetto, so we were looking forward to checking out the new digs and of course, the current releases.  Like Arcadian, Loring is an urban winery in that they own no vineyards. While they focus primarily on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they also produce a Cabernet Sauvignon/Mourvedre blend called Divergence which has also received critical acclaim.  It’s expensive though at $100/bottle.

Loring’s wines can be polarizing. They tend to be unapologetically “big” ripe wines (I vividly recall Brian describing one of his Pinots as a “steak Pinot”…and you know what?…it’s true!) that some believe to overly ripe.  They have little in common with the Evening Land wines.  It does appear though, the alcohol levels have tapered off a bit the last couple of years.

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2010 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2010 Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay
  • 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Russell Family Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir
  • 2010 Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir
  • 2008 Divergence

Loring Wine Company lineup of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

My favorite wine was the Rancho La Viña Pinot Noir which I rated 92 pts.  And you’d be hard pressed to find a better value in Pinot Noir than their Appellation series Pinots (Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Santa Rita Hills),which I highly recommend.   

My two cents? – Highly Recommended, especially if you prefer the big, bold Pinot Noir

Last stop? –Longoria Winery

Address: 1700 Industrial Way, Unit A, Lompoc CA
Phone: (866) 759-4637
Open Hours: Friday-Sunday 12PM-5PM
Tasting Fee: $10
Food Available: No
Picnic Area: No

Longoria is an “artisanal” family winery established in 1982 by Rick and Diana Longoria.  It was the first winery located in the complex now know as the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Their estate vineyard is the Fe Ciega Vineyard, which is located in the western portion of the Santa Rita Hill AVA.   The vineyard is planted mostly to Pinot Noir.  It was planted in 1998.  Production is about 3,500 cases annually

Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2011 Pinot Grigio
  • 2008 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega Vineyard
  • 2010 Pinot Noir – Bien Nacido Vineyard
  • 2009 Tempranillo – Clover Creek Vineyard
  • 2009 Evidence

Longoria Winery

My favorite wine was the 2009 Tempranillo – Clover Creek Vineyard, which I rated 91 pts.  The 2010 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir was also outstanding!

My two cents? – Recommended

My winery of the day was Arcadian!  

All in all, it was a great day of wine tasting. After sampling 28 wines, all I can say is thank goodness for spit buckets (well at least for me because I’m the D.D….um my wife and her friend were a different story…let’s just say it was a quiet ride back to Paso;-) The Ghetto is a must stop destination for wine tourists in my book.

We did make one final stop after a full day off wine tasting…Surf Beach, which features a stop for the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner…very cool!

Surf Beach - just down the road a bit from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Surf Beach – just down the road a bit from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto

We’re already planning our return trip next year – Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!