Lucas & Lewellen's Quality Control
Quality Grapes Yield Quality Wines
Louis Lucas is one of the folks who pioneered grape growing in Santa Barbara County, beginning with his partnership in the historic Tepusquet Vineyard. Back in those early days, planting a vineyard was seen as a risky business. There weren't very many wineries in the county and it wasn't yet clear if the bigger North Coast wineries would be willing to purchase grapes from such a supposedly warm area in Southern California.
But history has shown Mr. Lucas' instincts to be correct. He went on to plant many other vineyards and helped Santa Barbara County gain a reputation for high-quality grapes. With so much vineyard experience, he partnered with retired Superior Court Judge Royce Lewellen in 1996 to make wines under their own label. Recently, on Megan McGrath Gates' watch (winemaker since 2007), the wines have shown increasing consistency as well as an emphasis on quality.
Lucas & Lewellen Sauvignon Blanc Estate, Santa Barbara County 2017 ($18): Guava, kiwi, and pineapple with a sense of minerality on the nose. Lemony citrus and ripe peach on the palate with a bit of prickly pear. Ten percent viognier is blended in to give some extra lift on the midpalate and length on the upbeat finish.
Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley, Cote del Sol 2013 ($70): Blackberry, cassis, and black cherry on the nose. At first sip, it's open-knit and accessible - easy to drink - with dark fruit like blackberry, boysenberry, cherry, and plum. It's plump and relatively supple for a warmer-climate cabernet in Santa Barbara County. With a splash of syrahin the mix to spice things up a little, it's drinking very well right now.
Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley, Clone 6 2013 ($88): Pleasant aromatics of cassis, olallieberry, and boysenberry with a hint of bright cranberry. More hardcore and intense than the Cote del Sol above, due to smaller berries of specific clone from a specific part of a single vineyard. Boysenberry and mulberry on the palate along with dark plum and a modicum of wood spice that wraps around the fruit along with pepper and cedar. It needs to be properly decanted or cellared for another five to eight years.
Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Estate, Santa Barbara County 2014 ($24): Cherry, strawberry, and rose petal on a very pretty nose. Chewy raspberry, red cherry, cranberry, and cola with some lingering barrel spice on the palate. It's very clean and distinct with just a hint of forest floor in the mix. A great value for those who value succulent fruit-forward flavors in their pinot. That's not to say it's a simple wine; the fruit flavors are intense with good texture across midpalate. And the finish invites another sip. Wine expert Dennis Schaefer's column appears every other week inthe Food section. Email him at foodnewspress.com