With all the buzz surrounding the Wine Ghetto, it may be hard to believe that the warehouse-turned-winery district isn’t the only place where great wine’s getting made in Lompoc. Head a few more blocks toward the ocean, and, inside fairly drab buildings that are easy to drive right past, you hit another hot spot for the processing of mostly Sta. Rita Hills fruit. It’s the corner of North F and East Chestnut streets, which has long been home to the renowned pinot noir producers Brewer-Clifton but is now headquarters for Transcendence Wines, where Sara and Kenneth “Joey” Gummere craft high-quality chardonnay, pinot, syrah, and Rhône blends while steadily raising money for charities of their choice.
“It’s my drive to make great wine,” said Joey, and, finishing his sentence, Sara jumped in, “I thought I was gonna change the world.” They first experimented with fundraising by wine under their last label, Kenneth-Crawford, which produced special bottles first to benefit a sick friend and then for nonprofit organizations, eventually generating enough money to build a school in Tanzania that provides job training to about 30 women every six months. “When you’re a winery, you get hit up for donations all year long,” said Sara, who works on IT in the health-care industry as her day job. “But if you’re able to focus on one, you can make a big difference.” Through Transcendence, the Gummeres have done that by donating 10 percent of sales and 10 percent of wine production to support tsunami relief efforts in Japan and establish a lasting presence in Tanzania, among other directives.
The wines are equally well considered. In the business since working a Sunstone Winery harvest in 1997 — when he was bit by the bug on day one, literally getting stung by bees seven times — Joey has list of mentors comprising a who’s who of Santa Barbara winemaking: Bryan Babcock of Babcock Vineyards, Brett Escalera of Consilience, Eli Parker of Fess Parker Winery, and, perhaps most importantly, Bruce McGuire of Santa Barbara Winery, where Joey became assistant winemaker and ran the newly built Lafond Winery. “At that point, I thought that I knew everything about winemaking — and I knew nothing,” he said, of learning from McGuire. “I wouldn’t be in the business if it wasn’t for his support.”
Like with Kenneth-Crawford, which he cofounded in 2000 with Mark Horvath but officially closed last year, Joey is focused on making wines that are high in acid, perfect for food, and ready to age, explaining, “Mine are not by-the-glass wines. They will definitely reward your patience.” And he’s not afraid to show you. “If someone calls and makes an appointment, I’ll give them the private tour,” said Joey. “I will absolutely buff them out. That’s what it’s all about.”
Here’s a little of what you can expect with a visit to the tasting room.
2011 Zotovich Vineyard Chardonnay: “I love pure, clean, razor-focused chardonnays,” said Gummere of this wine, which had perfect statistics at harvest, used a champagne yeast, and was aged in all stainless steel. “It keeps your mouth salivating.” $34.
2009 Babcock Vineyard Pinot Noir: Compared to the bright strawberry and hay tones of a previous vintage’s Zotovich pinot noir, Gummere enjoys the “soft, wet” expression here, full of “earthy and mushroom” flavors. $45.
2009 Syrah Santa Ynez Valley: With 60 percent of the fruit coming from Larner Vineyard in Ballard canyon and 40 percent coming from the much cooler Lafond Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, Gummere explained, “It’s a really interesting blend of the two regions.” $28.
2009 Parea: This Rhône blend of 54-percent grenache and 46-percent syrah all comes from Larner Vineyard. “Parea is a Greek word that means gatherings,” said Gummere. “This is our gathering.” $38.
Visit Transcendence Wines Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at 313 North F Street in Lompoc. Call (805) 689-5258 or see transcendwines.com.