Clos Pepe: For me, this is the yardstick for other wineries in the Santa Rita Hills. If there is better fruit, please let me know. Wes Hagen is a hoot (despite being a big Laker fan) and the smartest guy you will meet. Call well ahead for a visit and be prepared to spend some time there, but you will not regret it.
Rusack: Geoff Rusack and I went to the same college (albeit a few years apart) and he introduced me to the region when he made a presentation at our alma mater. Shortly afterward, I visited the winery and was impressed–a beautiful spot and very good wine.
Melville: We were introduced to Melville by a group of people that we met at another winery. Melville is just up the road from Clos Pepe, makes great juice, and charges reasonable prices. A must visit, in my opinion.
Loring: Brian Loring makes wine in a more opulent style, which some criticize while others love it. I think there is room for both styles and never understood all the hullabaloo. The winery is located in the Lompoc ‘Wine Ghetto’ which is a great place to go since there are a ton of wineries in a concentrated area.