Deep copper color; lemon, raspberry, cranberry on the nose; cranberry, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, mandarin orange on the palate.
Dry; assertive, vivid fruit flavors. Medium body, surprisingly grippy tannin for a pinot noir and rosé plus tart acidity adds to the seriousness of this effort—not your grandmother’s demure rosé by any stretch of imagination. The density on the mid-palate is surprising. This is more a serious pinot noir than a rosé of pinot noir, but—by golly—it is a rosé of pinot noir, flagrantly reminding you that rosé is a type of wine rather than a pink-haired stepchild of red and white wine. Superb exemplar of what rosé can be.
The genesis of Lucas & Lewellen began in 1975 when Louis Lucas, a third-generation grape grower (and passionate Notre Dame alumni), and Judge Royce Lewellen, a superior court judge, met through the Santa Maria Wine & Food Society and the Rotary Club of Santa Maria. Lucas was a respected provider of grapes for fine wine makers in Napa and Sonoma, while Lewellen was both a passionate wine enthusiast and a man with a vision for the future of the Santa Barbara County wine industry.
Their friendship grew over the next quarter century, and in 1996 resulted in the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, a Solvang, California-based winery with 400 estate acres situated among three of Santa Barbara County’s separate and distinct climate zones. Today L&L has three major wine labels, two tasting rooms in downtown Solvang, and a state-of-the-art winery.
Megan McGrath Gates has been the winemaker for Lucas & Lewellen since 2007. She earned her undergraduate degree in soil sciences from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and her Certificate in Winemaking at UC-Davis. She shares her mission on the company’s website: “We make many decisions during the growing, fermenting and aging stages, but ultimately the grape really expresses itself,” insists McGrath Gates, who is humble about the winemaker’s role in the process. She adds, “My job is to allow the grapes to showcase their natural characteristics.” The young winemaker prefers not to classify her philosophy as either Old World or New World, explaining, “I believe in balanced wines with all components married together so that layers of complexity are allowed to unfold.”
Michael Lewellen, Royce’s son, became a minority owner of the company in 1999 and joined the company full-time in 2009. Today as managing partner, he works with all departments—marketing and sales, finance, tasting rooms, and the winery.
Lucas & Lewellen Rosé of Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyards Santa Barbara 2017 is admirably complex and brings depth and surprise to a rosé—superb exemplar of what rosé can be. Pair with Asian stir-fry, garden salads, wide range of foods where the acidity and heft in the mouth will work nicely. Admirable price point: $16-18.