Tin City

In 1998, the first winery opened in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. And now, 20-plus wineries later, it has proven that you don’t need a fancy tasting room or rows of bucolic vineyards to attract people to good wine. You just need good wine.

We tasted through their wines, enjoying the unusual nuances given to the wines by the atypical vessels of amphorae, concrete, and acacia, and of course, stainless and French oak.

Lompoc Wine Ghetto has been very successful although people are still sometimes taken aback by its very industrial feel. In my opinion, people shouldn’t get their undies in a knot; just go ahead and drink the wine. Because the wine is so very fine!

And then there’s Tin City, which I view as Paso’s answer to the Ghetto, only cuter. Tin City began with one winery in 2013 and has blossomed ever since. It also houses some 20-plus wineries, at least one brewhouse, a distillery, and other assorted businesses. Like the Ghetto, it was a semi-deserted industrial park that was waiting for someone to give it some love and bring it back to life.

Brian Benson
Brian Benson

Unfortunately, we were nearing the end of our trip and everything had to be speeded up. We visited Brian Benson (who apparently started making wine at the age of ten or so) and ONX (stellar reds!) first and then made our way to the BarrelHouse Brewing Co. for a cold one and a quick snack.  Well, despite the fact that we were in what was ostensibly a wine area, the beer joint was packed, not only inside the restaurant but in the various outdoor seating areas as well.

Tin City Desparada Entrance
Tin City Desparada Entrance

Ultimately, I headed over to Desparada with Jamie in tow.  Finding the entrance was a bit challenging, but we finally made our way into the cavernous tasting room/winery. Because my interest is in natural vessels used to ferment and age wines, arriving at Desparada was a treat (Thanks Jordan!) We tasted through their wines, enjoying the unusual nuances given to the wines by the atypical vessels of amphorae, concrete, and acacia, and of course, stainless and French oak. But I have to admit that although they were all delicious, the Fragment Sauvignon Blanc really rocked me back. It smelled like Sauvignon Blanc – grassy, citrusy, with herbaceous notes – only with flowers, and no cat pee.

BarrelHouse Brewing Co. Truck
BarrelHouse Brewing Co. Truck

It was later in the day by this time and the weather had gotten quite hot. We were pretty much tired and done, so we headed out, determined to come back to Tin City first chance we get. My planned writing sabbatical to Paso Robles will give me the opportunity to spend significant time at Tin City because there are several places that I want to visit. Some of them include Lefondusac, which sells wine on tap by the glass or the bottle; Kaleidos, owned by Steve Martell whom I met years ago at a special wine event in San Francisco, and whose wines are largely Rhône varietals; Negranti Creamery, who makes sheep’s milk ice cream; and Wine Shine, another distillery that specializes in brandies made from juice.  There are others, of course, (like in ALL of them!), but I will take the time needed to make sure that I get to everyone.

Yes, I know it’s self-serving! I’m good with that.

The next two posts will see me wrapping up our Spring visit to Paso Robles, where I will talk about our new friends, a couple of the more scenic wineries, and why I can’t wait to go back!

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