Each year when we travel out west, we try to strike a balance between visiting our favorite regular spots, mixed with a bunch of new experiences. Before heading out west, we decided that one of these new experiences would be to finally visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. We’d been hearing good things about it for several years, but with most of the locations within only being open on weekends, we’d never been able to make the timing work out.
A note — the “Wine Ghetto” isn’t meant to be a term of disparagement; that’s literally what it’s called. Essentially, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is a small industrial park that’s packed to the gills with tasting rooms and boutique wine operations. You can cover the entire place on foot — which is good, because that also allows for a little breather between tastings!
Our first stop was at a place called Montemar Winery. After consulting a little with their hipster mannequin, we decided to go in and check out the wines.
Inside, we enjoyed a little rosé and a couple tasty pinots, all while taking in this cool map of the region. We ended up purchasing a bottle of Montemar’s 2011 Syrah, which had a hint of menthol on the nose, and was big, spicy, and meaty. It’s going to be a great food wine once we crack it.
On the recommendation of the fellow in Montemar’s tasting room, we next walked over to Palmina Wines, which focuses on Italian varietals.
We opted to share Palmina’s artisanal tasting, all of which was well-balanced and interesting. After tasting the menu, we were given the chance to also try out their 2012 Alisos — which is what we took home. A blend of merlot and Sangiovese, it had a pleasant plumminess and an aroma that reminded us of that comforting scent you get when you open an old book. Additionally, it was developed using a method we’d never heard of — appassimento, in which 3% of the grapes are dried to raisins, then rehydrated in the wine, and finally given a second pressing.
Continuing to operate off tasting room recommendations, our next stop was Holus Bolus. (Truth be told, though, even if no one had mentioned it to us, Fox would have dragged me in. Look at the octopus on the sign; this would have sealed the deal immediately.) Holus Bolus is the tasting room for Black Sheep Finds, and the space also is where they make the wine. The wine we enjoyed the most — and opted to purchase — was the 2008 White Hawk Vineyard Syrah, which was big, with hints of leather and dark berry flavors. It’s going to be killer with a strip steak.
The good fellow at Holus Bolus recommended that we make our way over to LaMontagne — and we are extremely glad that he did. The owner/winemaker, Kimberly, is incredible — passionate about her wines, particular in palate, and flat-out hilarious as she pours.
LaMontagne has a lovely little space, and even lovelier wines — all 100% single varietal. Every wine we had was top-notch and could have been the star of the day — but since anything we bought had to go home on a plane, we opted to get the 2013 Mourvedre, a wine that’s most often blended that rarely (in our opinion) gets its due. This wine had hints of dust and butterscotch, and we were in love with it.
At LaMontagne, we became fast friends with a pair of locals who were regulars of Kimberly’s. They recommended that we walk with them over to Ampelos Cellars. This was another great call; the hardest part about the visit was picking only one wine to take. We opted to bring home their 2012 Delta Grenache — an earthy wine with light berries.
After taking some time to get a picture with our new pals, we decided it was time to wrap things up. That’s the one thing about the Wine Ghetto — the wines are excellent, but it is easy to taste a lot in a short time. But as long as you pace yourself and take time to snack when you can, it can be a fun and extremely educational experience. And who knows? You just might form some new bonds!