The Rogue & Rebel Wine Ghetto
Temperance. Holus Bolus. Camins2Dreams. Flying Goat. Piedrasassi. Fiddlehead. These are just some of the names you’ll come across when researching Lompoc’s famed Wine Ghetto. If you seek an off-the-beaten-path tasting experience on California’s Central Coast, this is where it’s at.
What you’ll find are rogue and rebel winemakers tucked away just off the main drag in “The City of Arts and Flowers.” Comprised of thirteen tasting rooms and numerous wine production facilities, the Ghetto is a hotbed for up-and-coming winemakers and has served as a springboard/incubator for some of the most elegant wines produced in Santa Barbara County. How far back does it go? Esteemed winemaker, Rick Longoria, launched the first Ghetto winery back in 1998.
The city of Lompoc was founded in 1874 as a Carrie Nation-style Temperance Colony. If Ms. Nation were to stroll through Lompoc nowadays, I wonder what she’d think of the bustling wine scene and thriving dispensaries in this once dry town.
A stunning drive up from Orange County or Los Angeles, or down from Paso and SLO, you’ll find wines that are vibrant and bursting with personality, shining a light on the cool climate varietals that thrive in the extraordinary soils of the Santa Rita Hills AVA. I recently had the pleasure of tasting at Temperance Cellars with winemaker Justin Charbonneau.
I swear, I could taste the fog in his Pinot Noir. He shared: “The east-west transverse mountains create a funnel that opens up to the Pacific Ocean at the western end of the Lompoc Valley where the Santa Ynez River meets the sea. When it gets hot inland (SY Valley) in the afternoon, the heat rising creates a vacuum effect that pulls the marine layer in from the Pacific Ocean. Lompoc just happens to be right in the middle of that wind funnel. ”
Mr. Charbonneau also produces Albariño, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Viognier alongside his neighbors in the Ghetto. It’s worth noting that several of his wines have nabbed scores in the 90s with Wine Enthusiast.
Be sure to plan ahead and book your Ghetto tastings in advance with the individual rooms you’d like to visit, as hours vary. Make a day of it and poke around Lompoc—enjoy the cool ocean breezes (bring a sweater), numerous murals by local artists, diverse dining options, pine tree-lined streets, and charming shops. Happy exploring!