Monday, December 11, 2006

Up and Coming

California's up-and-coming wine area has some big plans on the drawing board:

Plans are fermenting for a new 30,000-square-foot winery in the northeast part of town.

The Loring and Pali wine labels plan to build a winemaking facility in an industrial zone north of the intersection of Barton and West Central avenues. The wine producers, who submitted their application to the city in July, hope to have the new building running by late next year, if grading permits are approved by the city soon.

Perr said Lompoc is a good place for winemakers because it’s less expensive to operate here.

“Lompoc is an up-and-coming wine-making area and it is generally favorable to the development of wineries,” Perr said. “(City leaders) want the wineries in the area and that makes it more easier for us to get licenses and permits than other areas.”

Perr said one key reason for making wine in Lompoc is wastewater infrastructure.

“The infrastructure required to build a winery in Buellton, for example, is much more costly,” Perr said. “They require wineries to put in expensive waste treatment equipment before putting waste into the city sewer system. Lompoc’s waste treatment is more advanced.”

Other winemakers in town have said Lompoc’s cool temperatures have saved them money because air conditioning units, used elsewhere to keep wine temperate, are unnecessary.With Lompoc becoming a wine center, Lompoc Councilman DeWayne Holmdahl, who also hosts a radio wine show on, says the increase in Lompoc wineries with tasting rooms translates to economic benefit and good word-of-mouth publicity for the city.

People come from as far away as Italy to taste wine made in Lompoc, he said.“The biggest thing is retail dollars,” he said. “People come to town, spend money, more restaurants will open, hotels will be fuller. It generates itself.”

The pedestrian descriptions aside, Lompoc is actively searching out certain industries and types of business in an effort to revitalize it's image. The wine ghetto near the junction of Hwy's 1 & 246 is an example of the inroads that winemakers are making into the community, and this project on the other side of H street and east of residential neighborhoods in the north-central part of town would be but another.

Near simultaneously, you've got Los Angeles attorney Rosario Perry looking to build a wine center adjacent to and behind the existing Wal-Mart and FoodsCo center along Central Avenue:

A 12-acre parcel behind the Wal-Mart and FoodsCo complex on West Central Avenue appears headed for development as a state-of-the-art wine center — contributing to the city’s burgeoning potential as a destination for the production and libation of vino.

A large sign on the lot facing North L Street indicates preliminary plans for a project called the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center. A line on the sign above the project name reads “Coming in 2007.”

Escrow on the land closes next month, said Los Angeles attorney Rosario Perry, who owns a home east of Lompoc.

Perry, who hopes to apply for building permits with the city later this month, envisions bringing in 10 to 15 wineries with each housing production facilities. Each freestanding building would range from 2,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet and be scaled to the needs of tenants, he said. The buildings would also be as tall as 35 feet and may accommodate more than one tenant per building.

He said he hopes to the production part of the facility running for the 2007 grape crush next October, with completion of the project in about three to four years.

Perry has the vision. Perry's center, assuming it were built, would be yet another anchor in the major retail area off Central Avenue between H and O streets--one that might also see a Wal-Mart Supercenter in coming years, something that would make it even more of a destination.

Perry's project would also sit but a few minutes from the airport just to the north between the Wye and Central Avenue, a key to marketing the project: The location of the wine center is also key, Perry said. Being next to the Lompoc Airport would be good for business, he said.

“We believe being near the airport is very advantageous because it will allow easy access to the facilities and provide resources to those people using our facilities,” said Perry, who may build a hangar from his facility connecting to the airport. “People who want to come to the valley for wine tasting and touring, may want to use their airplane to get here.”

He and the city--at first glance anyway--seem to see eye to eye on the matter. The city would be wise to make such a development deal.

Thirty years ago Lompoc was known as the Flower seed capitol of the world, home then to 3 of the top 6 Flower-seed companies. That business has changed greatly in the years since and Lompoc's importance in the scheme of that industry is not what it was though remaining considerable.

The city is wisely open to fostering it's new reputation as an "up and coming wine production center,” and such projects are at the heart of building that new industry base and reputation. To my mind, there is no such thing as too much encouragement to be offered here.

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