Lompoc’s pioneering vintner, Richard Longoria, will soon break ground on his dream of owning and building his own wine processing facility, bringing the art of grape crushing to Lompoc’s inner city.
Longoria, who established the first winery in Lompoc 14 years ago, purchased the Celite property in the 400 block of East Chestnut Avenue, including a single-family home now used as a clubhouse, to fulfill his dream and love of wine-making.
“We’ve always kind of hoped that we would be able to someday own a piece of property that would be suitable for wine tasting and production,” Longoria said. “We will be making the wine there, and we will store it, age it and sell it from one site.”
In November, the city’s five-member Planning Commission granted a Conditional Use Permit for the project, planned to be constructed in two phases. The first phase will include a 4,500-square-foot building for wine production, including a covered crush pad. The second phase will include a second 4,500-square-foot building for wine storage.
“First of all, I’d like to thank you for cleaning up one of the eyesores in Lompoc,” said Planning Commission Chairman Ron Fink at the November meeting. “I think your project is going to spruce up that neighborhood a little bit.”
The existing home on the property will be transformed into a wine-tasting room, reception area and office space.
“It look a lot of imagination to envision how (the Celite property) could be used as such. We definitely want to make it an attractive property,” Longoria said.
Plans for the property include new landscaping, wrought-iron fencing, new and repaved parking, and a barn-red, burgundy color scheme with white trim and green accents.
“It’s definitely going to look different than it looks now,” Longoria said. “I view it as a solid improvement for that area.”
Longoria said construction should begin early next year and he hopes to have the wine production and storage facility completed in time for the annual grape-crushing season in September.
In 1998, Longoria was the first vintner to make wine in the industrial area known as the Wine Ghetto in the Sobhani Industrial Park in the northeast part of the city, later adding a small tasting room on site.
When his new processing facility is completed, Longoria plans to vacate the space he currently rents in the Wine Ghetto, making the Chestnut Avenue location his only tasting room in Lompoc. He also has a tasting room in downtown Los Olivos.
Longoria will continue his practice of scheduling only small groups for his tasting room and has no plans for large tour buses to visit the new wine production facility when built. He’s not sure how many visitors the new facility will attract, but said that being only nine blocks away from the city’s Wine Ghetto won’t be too much be a deterrent for wine connoisseurs seeking to sample Santa Barbara County’s growing reputation for world-class wines.
He plans to rent his new facility to nonprofits for fundraisers when completed.
“We hope to be able to give back to the community by providing a place for community groups to hold meetings and fundraisers,” he said. “We want to continue that tradition.”
Longoria’s wines are made from grapes planted in the Fe Ciega Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills and his Vintage Pinot Noir 2009 was named one of the top 100 wines in the world for the year 2012 by Wine Enthusiast magazine.