Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara 2015

Pale-medium ruby color; raspberry, strawberry cherry, minerals on the nose; strawberry, raspberry, dried cherry, pinch of plum, dash of vanilla on the palate.

Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara 2015

Dry; medium body; surprise tannic element on pop-and-pour—decanting brought things into balance and is strongly advised. Adequate-plus acidity; 14.1% ABV. The cherry elements move to the front after the decanting and swirling time in glass, especially on the mid-palate and finish. Grapes from the Goodchild and Los Alamos estate vineyards in Santa Barbara where east-west mountains funnel crisp, brisk Pacific Ocean breezes through the vineyards, always a good thing for pinot noir and almost all other vines. Spent 10 months sur lie in oak barrels, 31% new.

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.

Royce Lewellen, Louis Lucas

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.”

Megan McGrath Gates-Lucas & Lewellen winemaker

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 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara 2015 becomes smooth, easy drinker after decanting. Good, if not flamboyant, fruits with constrained oak. Nicely balanced, all-round pleasant. This is well-done Santa Barbara pinot for the price. Easily scores as an everyday wine, even a second bottle when the opening round is much pricier pinot pour. Pair with the usual pinot suspects without fear, this can complement them easily: salmon; turkey; roast chicken; Peking duck; beef tenderloin; roast pork loin; stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts; bacon-stuffed mushrooms; vegan enchiladas; whole wheat rigatoni with roasted vegetables. $19-20

Lucas & Lewellen website

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