A Tale of Two Wine Cities

No, I don’t mean Paris and Bordeaux. I’m talking about two alternative wine destinations I visited recently on California’s Central Coast…Tin City in Paso Robles and The Lompoc Ghetto in Lompoc, Santa Barbara Country. Inhabitants of both “cities” are passionate boutique winemakers, some of whom don’t have tasting rooms at their wineries or choose to have an alternative site for wine tasting. Each is in an industrial park.

The Lompoc site is older and has a spontaneous feel, as the tasting rooms opened in various buildings over a few blocks, within existing warehouses. But that is now changing as the Ghetto is coming into its own, thanks to marketing and promotion by the Lompoc Wine Trail and the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association. Some have now relocated to larger spaces and the Lompoc Ghetto has grown to 28 inhabitants.


The highlight of my most recent visit to the Ghetto was Arcadian Winery, whose owner and winegrower is Joseph Davis, who produces old world style wines that reflect his Burgundian training. He doesn’t release his wines until he feels they are ready. I was in luck as he had just released his beautifully crafted 2009 Sierra Madre Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley.  I liked all of his wines that I tasted, including his 2007 Sleepy Hollow Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands, a nice value for $30 and ready to drink now.


I also enjoyed the wines at Ampelos Cellars, which has the distinction of being the first US winery that is certified Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic. Ampelos also produces their wines as close to natural as possible, with minimal intervention to express the terroir where the grapes were grown. They produce a few Pinot Noir, a Grenache, a Syrah and an interesting “Syrache”, a blend of Santa Barbara County Syrah and Grenache.


While a few of the tasting rooms at the Ghetto require an appointment, most are open Friday-Sunday, with several also open on Thursday. Check their website for more information.  Unfortunately there are no restaurants within the Ghetto, as the City of Lompoc has not granted them zoning for restaurants. However, just a few miles away near Buellton is Industrial Eats where you can grab a sandwich or salad during your day in the area.  The Lompoc Ghetto can be accessed either from Highway 1 or from the 101 and Rte 246.

Tin City in Paso Robles has appeared gradually in the last few years, starting with Barrelhouse Brewing Company in 2013, and wineries starting to appear a few years later.  This “City” has a more planned and cohesive look and ambience, with green tin buildings. Tin City is zoned for restaurants, which should be appearing soon. It’s clear that the developers and businesses within Tin City have the vision to make it a complete destination for wine and beer tasting and dining in the near future.


Among the wineries that are open are Giornata, Field Recordings, ONX, Caliza Winery, Desperada, Powell Mountain Cellars, Clos Selène, Aaron Wines, Nicora, Torrin, MCV and First Crush.


Within Tin City I visited ONX,  who has a beautiful tasting room and facility that produces outstanding Spanish, Italian, Bordeaux and Rhône varietal wines from their nearby Templeton Gap vineyards. Another interesting find was Field Recordings, who has the distinction of producing some of their multi vineyard ‘field blended” wines in 500 ml cans.

But my favorite wines during my visit to Tin City were at Giornata, a small producer of Italian varietals whose style reflects the old world with the right mix of acidity and tannins that work beautifully with food. While I enjoyed all of their wines, I brought home their Nebbiolo, Aglianico and their unusual amphora aged rosé Pinot Grigio, Ramato, which is reminiscent of the wine of the same name in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. Giornata’s Ramato looked more orange than rosé to me. Wines of this nature are gaining in popularity in the natural wine world, particularly in Europe.


For an interesting respite from visiting wineries and vineyards throughout the Paso Robles Wine Region, spend a day at Tin City, located off the 101 at exit 226 and Marquita Avenue. Some appointments may be necessary.

Until next time…à votre santé!    IMG_0162

©2016 Christine Humphrey

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