Monday, September 6, 2010

It's Pronounced "Lom-Poke"

When someone asks you "hey, let's head north to Santa Barbara for wine tasting," what destinations come to mind?  Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, Sta. Rita Hills, Los Olivos, Solvang, or the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail?  Perhaps, you have heard of a quaint coastal town known for its infamous prison and coastal valleys - Lompoc (pronounced "Lom-Poke").

You've probably driven west on Highway 246 through the Sta. Rita Hills. Did you ever think of continuing further west into town?  Well, plan your next wine tasting trip to Lompoc and be prepared to enjoy the finest wines Santa Barbara County has to offer.  If you are under the impression that every winery produces their wines at a magnificent estate overlooking some dramatic vineyard landscape between oak studded hillsides, then the location of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and Pinot Prison (or as some affectionately call it, Prison Row) could disappoint you.  Look at it this way: you're here to experience a wine revelation, so take pictures along Highway 246 and wave at Foley, Melville and Babcock.  Besides, what's better than leaving your car in a nondescript industrial center and walking a few yards to the left or right to taste wines?

Peter Cargasacchi, Cargasacchi/Point Concepción, Open House

On this particular weekend, Cargasacchi/Point Concepción and Loring Wine Company opened their winery doors for the weekend, so it was an opportune time to visit Lompoc's "Wine Ghetto" and "Pinot Prison." First stop: Lompoc's Central Avenue for great Pinot Noir and deadpan humor c/o Peter Cargasacchi.

Cargasacchi produces two Pinot Noirs using estate fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills.  He also produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Syrah under the Point Concepción label from estate and purchased fruit. These are superb wines!  To my pleasant surprise, I ran into some fellow Central Coast wine enthusiasts at my first two stops in the afternoon. Gentlemen, how did we get through the tasting at Loring Wine Company?

Loring Wine Company was pouring the full selection of wines including multiple vintages of Pinot Noir from vineyards in Santa Barbara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Sonoma County and Mendocino County. Unfortunately, the wines were poured by vintage instead of a vertical pouring.  It was challenging enough to keep track of the nuances of each vintage from the same vineyard, but it was quite an experience to enjoy so many wines from a great Pinot Noir producer based in Santa Barbara County. Since that time, Loring Wine Company has opened a tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

Loring Wine Company Open House
Loring Wine Company Open House

By late afternoon, we trekked from the Pinot Prison to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Located behind the Home Depot at the intersection of Highway 246/Ocean Avenue and Highway 1, the "Ghetto" includes a collection of the best wineries in Santa Barbara County.  These aren't just tasting rooms, but wine production facilities too.  While I did not have enough time to sample all the wineries, I did get around to tasting wines from three great producers: Flying Goat Cellars, Samsara and New Vineland/Piedrasassi.

Under the tutelage of Winemaker and Chief Goatherder, Norm Yost, Flying Goat Cellars produces mostly Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, as well as Pinot Gris and a wonderful sparkling, bubbly Rosé de Noir ("Goat Bubbles").  Tasting Fee: $10

Flying Goat Cellars (Lompoc Wine Ghetto), Pinot Noir
Flying Goat Cellars, Lompoc Wine Ghetto
Samsara Wines (Lompoc Wine Ghetto), Pinot Noir and Syrah

Next stop: Samsara.  Winemaker Chad Melville produces Pinot Noir and Syrah from vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County (Verna's) and Mendocino County (Alder Springs).  In my opinion, these wines are intended for wine drinkers looking for ripeness, density and texture (tannins), most of which is up my alley.  Tasting Fee: $10

When Sashi Moorman is not tending to his day job as winemaker for Stolpman Vineyards, he's working on a number of other wine related projects, including New Vineland/Piedrasassi.  At 5 minutes to 5:00 p.m., I ran across the driveway from Samsara to his tasting room before the doors closed.  Fortunately for me, he was still open entertaining some friends and allowed me to hang out for the better part of two hours after closing.  The New Vineland label includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Rosé and Syrah.  The Piedrasassi label includes three award winning Syrah wines from renowned vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles.  There was no better way to end an afternoon of wine tasting in Lompoc than with Sashi Moorman.  Tasting Fee: $7 (New Vineland, 4 wines), $7 (Piedrasassi, 3 wines) or $12 (Winery Flight, all 7 wines)

New Vineland '09 Sauvignon Blanc paired with charcuterie, organic egg and cheese
New Vineland/Piedrasassi, Lompoc Wine Ghetto
New Vineland/Piedrasassi Tasting List
Pinot Prison

Lompoc Wine Ghetto


Phil Carpenter said...

Dude, we had so much fun hanging out with you. Thanks for the shout out!

That Loring tasting was God. Pictures to prove it!

We gotta do it again! Next time, we start at Jaffurs!

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