History is trading hands in Lompoc, as pioneering vintners Rick and Diana Longoria are selling their eponymous brand — complete with winemaking facilities, tasting room, equipment, offices, and inventory — to Brooke and Lindsey Christian, who are moving from Washington, D.C., to Santa Barbara this week. By maintaining the Longoria Wines name, keeping Rick on staff for the next 18 months, and hiring a full-time winemaker that he endorses, the Christians intend to build awareness around the brand and expand into other locations while further elevating attention for all Santa Barbara County wineries.
“I respect what he’s done over the years, and it seems like that respect carries over for lots of people who are making wine in the region — I really like that,” said Brooke Christian, who worked for the translation company TransPerfect for more than 20 years and is founder and chair of the decade-old Key West Film Festival. “My intention is not to fix what isn’t broken, but to do the things that I’ve been successful at in my career — just helping to develop the brand and the awareness of the brand.”
The sale is a relief for the Longorias, who put their winery on the market in 2020 only to then endure years of the COVID pandemic. Neither of their children — daughter married to a respected brewer in Salt Lake City; son a well-drilling specialist in Santa Barbara County — were interested in keeping the winery, and now the Longorias can focus on being grandparents to their three grandchildren.
“We’re quite happy about it,” said Rick, who turns 71 next month. “This is our 40th anniversary of having a brand, and it seemed appropriate that we find some new buyers to carry on the legacy and reputation that we’ve established for the next generation.”
Plus, they’re just ready for a break. “All of our friends have retired, and we’re seeing how much they’re enjoying themselves, but we’re still working,” said Longoria, who earlier sold his interest in Fe Ciega Vineyard to his friend, Adam Tolmach, of The Ojai Vineyard. “More trips to Salt Lake are in the future.”
An East Coast native and University of Florida graduate, Christian — who married Lindsey in Santa Barbara about nine years ago — came to love wine during his two decades in the corporate world. He had been talking with a friend who owns Napa brands about partnering on a winery up there, but progress was too slow. That wasn’t the only issue.
“My favorite wines are pinots and not cabs,” said Christian. “It made a lot of sense to start searching around Santa Barbara.”
After passing on one winery, he learned about Longoria being on the market and was quickly drawn to the deal “because of Rick himself and the reputation he has.” They were soon in escrow, which lasted more than four months.
Scheduled to land in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, February 15, Christian was planning to start looking at homes for his wife and 7-year-old daughter, Cali, on Thursday. “It’s all very real,” said Christian, whose three older daughters have already left home. “The only thing more challenging than buying a winery in Santa Barbara is buying a house.”
He’s also close to hiring a winemaker. “We are in the process right now of looking at some winemakers who Rick respects to help carry on his legacy,” said Christian. “That’s an ongoing process, but one that will be decided quite soon.”
Christian plans to diversify beyond Lompoc within a couple of years, ultimately with a Funk Zone tasting room “to get more exposure.” And he’s adamant on using his skills to get Santa Barbara County more respect. “I want to bring the notoriety to the region that I feel like it deserves for winemaking,” said Christian, much like he’s witnessed Oregon’s Willamette Valley do in recent years. “Santa Barbara is every bit as good if not considerably better.”
Longoria believes the Christians are the right buyers for his brand. “They are new to the wine business, but we’re excited for them,” he said. “It’s a new chapter for their family, and we feel good to have our winery be part of that.”
How would he like to be remembered in Santa Barbara County winemaking history? “For one thing, just having survived,” laughed Longoria, before growing more pensive. “Hopefully, I made some wines throughout the years that have helped to establish a reputation for high-quality wines in our area, and wines that have helped establish Santa Barbara as a region that can grow a variety of different wines.” He’s also proud of being the first winery to operate in the City of Lompoc and for playing a role in the creation of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation.
Longoria gives a lot of credit to his wife, Diana, for their success as a mom-and-pop winery. “A lot of people look to her as an example of how to run a winery and run it well,” he said. Christian said that Lindsey is going to take on some of those roles as well, particularly front-of-house operations. “She’s going to be full-on like Diana was with Rick,” he said.
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As Longoria spoke over the phone on Monday afternoon, his wife, Diana, saw the money from the sale finally land in their bank account. “We got the money,” she could be heard saying in the background. “I’m gonna get the bubbly right now!”
While terms of the sale were not disclosed, Longoria was pleased with the price. “So many people have gotten out of the wine business with little to nothing or owing money,” he said. “We feel fortunate to have a little bit of money in the bank account after the sale and not be in debt.”
And the sale is really just the cherry on top. “For 40 years, it afforded us a comfortable living,” said Longoria. “We never sought out to be rich, and we never got rich, but we loved what we were doing. In the end, that’s the best reward.”