Wine in the Ghetto

If you are near the Central Coast of California and looking for a great place to go wine tasting that is off the beaten path, we have a great recommendation – Lompoc! From the 101 head North on Hwy 1 for about 18 miles. The twisty road is a scenic mix of fields, vineyards, and farmland and at the end, the town of Lompoc. An industrial park at the first intersection is a where you’ll find the Lompoc Wine Trail aka Wine Ghetto. This collection of approximately 20 tasting rooms house some wineries making exceptional wines. This region in Santa Barbara County specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir due to the combination of east-west coastal valleys, cool weather, fog, wind, and soil.

Our first stop in the Ghetto was Taste of Sta. Rita Hills and Moretti Wines. The store provides wine from local producers that don’t have a winery or tasting room of their own, along with the European style wines produced by Moretti Wines. The menu was 6 wines and included samples of bread, cheese, amazing salami and some of the best Tuscan Olive Oil we have ever had (yes, a bottle came home with us!). We started with a beautiful Prosecco from Moretti before moving on to their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. From there we tasted 3 Pinot Noirs, a 2014 Weatherborne, a 2013 Westerly (one of our favorites) and a 2012 Bonaccorsi. The last wine was a 2015 Moretti Merlot. We enjoyed all of the wines that were poured and found the 3 Pinots to each be very distinct even though they all came from one general area of the Sta. Rita Hills.

Next on the list and a walk next door was Fiddlehead Cellars. Winemaker and founder Kathy Joseph focuses on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and offers a great selection of wines from the local Sta. Rita Hills and Happy Canyon regions as well as a couple of offerings from Chehalem Mountains in Oregon. The tasting room associate, Sadie, was fantastic. She provided great, personalized service even though she was pouring alone in the packed tasting room. Since it was #nationalroséday we started with a nice crisp Pinot Rosé “Pink Fiddle”, from there it was their Happy Canyon Sauv Blanc, and back-to-back Pinots, the 728 and Lollapalooza. The 728 is their signature Pinot named for the mile marker where their Fiddlestix vineyard is located. Our last wine there was Burtie Baby, a special wine in which they produced just 7 barrels. The label artwork was painted by the winemakers’ sister and the name came from a nickname her mom fondly called her dad. The passion for the name, label, and meaning behind it came through in this wine.

Last stop in the Ghetto for the day was Artisan Uprising. Artisan had a cool vibe that included a turntable and vinyl records to play while you taste. Billy, one of the two winemaking brothers, took great care of us. Their wines were a refreshing change since they were a departure from all of the Pinot’s we had sampled. We tasted our way through a Rosé of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Tempranillo and each wine was better than the last. Artisan’s wines are all handcrafted, high-quality wines from the Paso Robles region. The brothers learned to make wine from their grandfather and over the years they have grown their production from sharing with just family to producing enough to sell. Their desire to pay homage to their grandfather’s way of winemaking is evident as well as their commitment to producing wines that exceed expectation but hold true to their own style. 

“To us, this is a form of art. Another canvas to paint on. A mechanism of color to enhance the lives of those who appreciate it. A rebellion against the normative standard of rules and mass production. That which is made in small amounts. Displaying the highest quality in craftmanship and ingredients.” ~ the Brothers/Winemaker Artisan Uprising

To end a great day of tasting we had a fantastic dinner at Scratch Kitchen. Ask anyone familiar with Lompoc and they will tell you SK is a must stop for lunch or dinner while you are there. The service and food were fantastic. We enjoyed two beautiful NY strip steaks, roast veggies, and twice baked potatoes. The meal paired perfectly with a bottle of  2015 Tempranillo courtesy of Artisan Uprising. The generous $5 corkage fee was a great surprise to end the meal.

Next time you are in the Santa Barbara region we recommend turning off the main highway and venturing toward the coast to check out the Lompoc Wine Ghetto!

Rich’s Picks:

  • Moretti ~ Westerly Pinot Noir 2013
  • Fiddlehead Cellars ~ Burtie Baby 2012
  • Artisan Uprising ~ 2014 Malbec