I planned my first visit to Lompoc, California, and its Ghetto: The Wine Ghetto. I had heard of this industrial park housing 15-20 wineries but couldn’t imagine how or why such a place would be possible. And when my son-in-law moved to Santa Ynez, CA, I had to go see for myself.
Sure enough, no amazing gardens, trees or fountains. No fantastic stone buildings or quaint villages to meander through. At first glance, The Wine Ghettos’ door fronts looked business park-esk without a bunch of semi-trucks parked in front of the bays. How could this be legit?
The trip from Santa Ynez to Lompoc was only 26 miles. The bonus: A couple of winery visits on the way over. My most notable stop was the Babcock Winery on Highway 246, but that visit will have to be in another post.
So I sighed and parked on the street just down from Palmina Winery. I knew of its owner, Steve Clifton, from his other winery projects, including Brewer-Clifton. In fact, I have six of those pinot bottles in my wine cooler right now. But I was still skeptical… until I walked through the door.
While Palmina’s wine tasting room was small, the familiar sights settled my fears immediately. His staff smiled and seemed genuinely glad I arrived; the smells of fine woods, wine and the familiarity of snacks, (including salami and bread sticks) soon gave way to the excitement of tasting Palmina’s Italian list of reds. I have to admit, I am a red fan.
I researched and became web familiar with Clifton’s Nebbiolo line. My wife is Italian and I spent many evenings at her Grandma Bruno’s house early in our marriage, enjoying the essence of Italia. She proudly plated rich, meaty and savory courses with fresh pasta dishes, including her favorite: gnocchi. Chianti often was served in a carafe. Today, now a young 50-something, I wanted a more substantial wine to take home for special home cooked dinners. The tasting included a lists of 2006 bottles: Nebbiolo Stolpman Vineyard, Sisquoc Vineyard, and Honea Vineyard. I couldn’t resist and bought a Stolpman and Sisquoc. While the tasting showed wonderful aromas of orange peel and cinnamon in the Sisquoc, the rosemary, lavender and pomegranate teased me in the Stolpman-pour. I plan on laying these down for a couple more years…maybe.
I enjoyed my visit at Palmina Winery, plus the many other wineries and Faces at The Wine Ghetto. While I could not visit all 16 wineries, stops at Stolpman Vineyards, Fiddlehead Cellars, Evening Land Vineyards, and the Piedrasassi New Vineland Winery gave me reason to believe the building had little to do with the quality inside. While none of the other winemakers were available, the staff at each winery made sure my visit was an important event.
Steve Clifton was kind enough to hang out with me after he wandered through the tasting room to say hi to some of the other visitors. If his smile and warm personality and enthusiasm to greet strangers is any indication of his love for his family and winery, I am sold on his product. The whole social time was about 30 minutes. He spoke about his passion for creating wine, his kids and why he loves setting up shop at The Wine Ghetto. In fact, he cited fellow winemakers within The Ghetto as worthy competitors for my business.
This short blog post is to encourage a closer web look at wineries and vignerons who create masterpieces we can enjoy today but will even be better tomorrow. Maybe you will risk a drive out to Lompoc. Find out for yourself that excellent wine is being crafted in a business park.
While the goal of TasteoftheCork.com and myself is to broaden wine awareness, my desire is to go beyond that and tell winemakers’ tales not yet told. I plan to return and revisit The Wine Ghetto and the winemakers. This time I will document our discussion and shape a story of passion, struggle, and encouragement to those who find them.
P.S. If you get to The Wine Ghetto before I do, tell Steve Clifton that Greg Stobbe at TalesoftheCork will visit soon.
The Palmina Winery is located at 1520 E. Chestnut Ct. Lompoc, Ca 93436. The tasting room can be reached at 1-805-735-2030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.