Santa Rita Hills

Admittedly, it doesn’t sound appealing.

And little changes as you drive closer, circling around the back of a Home Depot and entering an industrial park that has all the character of an army barracks. But Lompoc’s “Wine Ghetto” is actually a unique and fun way to taste premium vino from Santa Barbara County.

Located in the heart of Central California’s wine country, Lompoc isn’t playing second fiddle to more famous viticulture experiences readily found in places like nearby Solvang, Buellton and Santa Maria. The town of Lompoc may be small, but they’re efficient. Hence, the “Wine Ghetto” (or, if you’d like the less-colloquial name, "The Lompoc Wine Trail") was formed — a collection of 19-plus tasting rooms, plus several more production facilities, bunched together in an easily walkable package.

Sure, it’s in an industrial park, but you’ll only notice that on the short walk between tastes. Within each room, décor changes from funky to classy; traditional to modern; but what doesn’t change is the quality of the wine. Santa Barbara County has a long history of winemaking, and the climate is particularly conducive to growing premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, among others. It hasn’t quite received the notoriety of Napa, but the secret is part of its charm. And if you want to taste a lot of wine in a little time, there are few better places to do it. Industrial park or not.

And just what can you expect at this unique wine destination? Here are 10 highlights:

General Info

Most wineries are open Friday to Sunday, or Thursday to Sunday, 11:00 to 4:00 p.m. Located in Lompoc, California, off North 7th Street and Chestnut Court. Download the PDF Wine Trail Map HERE.

Palmina: Chrystal and Steve Clifton celebrate the Italiano traditions of food, wine and family while producing small-batch Italian varietals like Barbera, Pinot Grigio and Dolcetto.

Flying Goat Cellars: Flying Goat was named after winemaker Norman Yost’s pet pygmy goats — but enough about the “kids” — visitors come to Flying Goat to taste the handcrafted Central Coast Pinot Noirs Yost is famous for. 

Samsara: Chad Melville only produces Pinot Noir and Syrah, sourced from small vineyards in the temperate Santa Rita Hills. Staying true to a “hands off” philosophy of winemaking, Samsara handcrafts just 800 cases annually.

Fiddlehead: Fiddlehead winery is the tasting room for Fiddlestix Vineyards. Got that? OK — you’re getting a sense of the fun in which Kathy Joseph (“Head Fiddle”) shows off her locally produced Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

La Vie Vineyards: La Vie is for lovers. Owned by college sweethearts, Ariel and Angele Lavie, this winery invokes passion for life, and for wine, with Rieslings, Chardonnays and, of course, Pinot Noir.

Pali Wine Company: Primarily focused on Pinot Noir, Pali Wine Company sources grapes from quality vineyards all over the California Coast (and even into Oregon) to produce their premium wines.

Ampelos: This is the first vineyard in the US to be fully certified organic, biodynamic and Sustainability in Practice. Needless to say, this boutique winery focuses on being green — along with producing great Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals. 

Dragonette Cellars: A pair of brothers (John and Steve Dragonette) and a buddy (Brandon Sparks-Gillis) joined forces to fulfill their long-held dreams to produce amazing wine in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Lucky for us, they succeeded. Stop by for a Syrah, Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc.

Zotovich Cellars: Family owned-and-operated, Zotovich meticulously produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnnay, Syrah and Rose. And if you join their wine club, you can even try their limited Viognier.

Taste of Santa Rita Hills: Not a specific winery, but a Wine Ghetto tasting room offering vino from 20 different local wineries, Taste of Santa Rita Hills is the best place to sample wine you simply won’t find elsewhere.

Credit: Lompoc Wine Trail