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SEPTEMBER 2006 – Lompoc, CA
The Wine Ghetto

TastingRoom.jpgI love a good road trip and if it includes a little diversionary stop to wine taste, that's even better. Though I've been traveling to the Santa Barbara wine country for many, many years, I had never heard of the "wine ghetto." If you've ever been to Lompoc, California, despite it's location in the Santa Ynez Valley, you know it's not the mecca of wine or anything cool for that matter. Most people turn right onto Hwy. 246 and find themselves in the quaint Danish town of Solvang with it's shops and tasting rooms and windmills. If you're brave enough to turn left and explore the warehouse district of Lompoc, you'll find a small group of tasting rooms worth your attention. The wines are really good, so people come. They don't need to waste all their money on a fancy showroom. In the ghetto the money clearly goes into the bottle.

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PALMINA: Tasting Fee: $10 (Includes all wines and Italian snacks)
It's rare to find Italian wines being made in California and even rarer for them to be any good. Steve Clifton's passion for these varietals shows through in every bottle. If you've ever had one of his Brewer-Clifton Pinots (made with Greg Brewer who's also the winemaker at Melville), you know you're in for a treat. The tasting room is nicer and larger than it looks from the outside and the help is friendly and knowlegdable. The wines show true varietal character with a twist of California flair. Loved the Dolcetto and the Alisos blend (Sangiovese & Merlot). If you like Italian wines, this is a must stop.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


FIDDLEHEAD CELLARS
I'm now embarrassed to say that before this trip to their tasting room, I had never heard of Fiddlehead. After being there, I'm a huge fan of Kathy Joseph's wines and their vineyard. It's remarkable how good wines can be with a little focus. All she makes is Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and they are worth every penny. If you ever encounter a Pinot from another winery from their Fiddlestix vineyard, buy it. They have found a wonderful place to grow Pinot and the lovely terroir shows through in every bottle. The tasting room is very small, but they know what they're talking about and are happy to share.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


Needing a place to rejuvenate, we stopped at the El Rancho Market on the eastern outskirts of Solvang. It was sort of on the way back home and had just what we needed. It has an amazing coffee bar, bakery and deli, as well as everything else you expect from a grocery store. Their wine section was tiny, but well stocked with the best and even some unique wines from the SB area. Plus, the prices were generally cheaper than those found at the wineries. It's better equipped then the Los Olivos Grocery up the road, but both are great places to stock up for a winery picnic. The sandwiches and cheeses at the Los Olivos store are slightly more fancy and interesting, but they're also a bit more pricey. The Los Olivos store also has a small cafe if you want to sit down and eat instead of taking your food on the road.
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