Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Hidden Asset Red Wine, Santa Barbara County 2016

Deep ruby color; raspberry, pomegranate, spice, whiff of violets on the nose; cherry, raspberry, spice, pepper, red fruits and black fruits, even some blueberry, on the palate.

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Hidden Asset Red Wine, Santa Barbara County 2016

Dry; medium body; lush, rich, complex, elegant. Drying tannins with chocolate hints. Medium acidity (3.6 pH). Sixteen months in French oak, 21% new, give this right amount of oak nuances. While good on the pop-and-pour, decanting made the wine smoother and intensified the rich fruitiness and complexity.

This is a kitchen sink blend of 32.5% malbec, 30% merlot, 26% syrah, 9% petite sirah, 2.5% cabernet franc—all from L&L’s Los Alamos Vineyard in Santa Barbara County AVA (95% of the grapes) and Valley View Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Both AVAs are in Santa Barbara County. Thus the delicious cavalcade of jammy (in the good sense of that term) fruit flavors. This is not a commodity over-sugared, Smuckers Jelly wine. Medium-long finish, which improved to a long finish after decanting.

Royce Lewellen, Louis Lucas

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-Lucas & Lewellen winemaker

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 Estate Vineyards Hidden Asset Red Wine, Santa Barbara County 2016 is a lush, delicious, mélange of superb Santa Barbara fruit adroitly assembled by a skilled winemaker. Richness intensifies with air exposure and the wine reveals additional levels and layers of lip-smacking pleasures. Pair with red meats from barbecues to fine dining, rich cheeses, certainly pizza and burgers (but with this quality you may want punch higher); this certainly works as a solo sipper with neutral wine crackers. $29

Lucas & Lewellen website

Luis Lucas, Royce Lewellan, Michael Lewellen
Lucas & Lewellen tasting room
Harvest at Lucas & Lewellen Los Alamos vineyard