Today, I have the pleasure of exploring one of their wineries, which also has vineyards: Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards. I received a great sampling of their wines; and, through these flavors, I can now begin to understand Santa Barbara’s American Viticultural Area (AVA) a bit more. Remember Sideways?
Quoting wine writer Allison Levine of Please the Palate:
“Santa Barbara wine country is diverse and amazing wines are produced here. The only transverse mountain range in north America, the cool air and fog roll in off the coast thru the valley. Santa Maria and Sta Rita Hills AVAs are cool climates for Burgundian varieties. Each mile you move east, it gets a degree warmer. As you move eastward, Ballard Canyon is for Rhône varieties, and Los Olivos and Happy Canyon AVAs are for Bordeaux varieties. Enjoy exploring the region!”
Could the use of “sideways” give us a clue to its actual naming,
or is it just a coincidence?
Her reference to “The only transverse mountain range in north America” is very important in defining this region, because this isn’t usual… it’s sideways: “The cool air and fog roll in off the coast (west) thru the valley (eastward).” In all other instances, mountain ranges in California have a north to south alignment, not west to east.
This west to east distinctions clearly help to define Santa Barbara’s air flow terroir, as defined by the mountains’ structure. Most cool air moves itself around corners and bends. This is a direct influence and helps me to understand that – even though Santa Barbara is much more south that Napa and Sonoma – it’s still cooler there (close to warmer Los Angeles), due to the direct coastal flow. While the Petaluma AVA also gets a direct flow from the Pacific, the mountain ranges in Petaluma are still north to south. You can see the east to west in this purchased image, by David Methven Schrader.
Lucas & Lewellen
The company has three estate vineyards. From their Website:
These valley vineyards benefit from a rare transverse mountain range topography, an east-west orientation which channels the cool ocean air of the Pacific into the coastal valleys, allowing warm days and cool nights, to produce a long, gentle growing season.
A family owned and operated winery, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards practices old world and sustainable farming methods, our responsibility as stewards of the land for future generations.
I’m so pleased that vineyards around the globe are thinking in terms of sustainable practices. I’m very aware when everything possible was sprayed with hazardous, and I worried. Finally, it’s clicked with other: Put poison into the vineyards and you’re also poisoning your wine. We not only are what we eat, we’re also what we drink, n’est ce pas? And, Lucas & Lewellen have got that understanding. (Check!)
I have another quote, from wine educator Brianne Pergola Cohen. She just published a story about Santa Barbara on her blog: BrianneCohen.com. I really enjoy her back story about Louis Lucas’ grape growing passion and diversity of grape varieties.
Toccata: A World Apart
In the 70s, Louis studied the world of wine and identified what he believed were the 27 best vineyards. There was no rhyme or reason to the number 27…that’s just how many he identified. He then spent five weeks in Europe two summers in a row to visit and learn from all 27 of these vineyards. This process gave him a love of the classics, and Italian wines are now some of his favorite. Toccata celebrates Italian varietals. In fact, they have a Nebbiolo rosé that has shocked everyone with how good it is!
Never having been to Santa Barbara, I’ve had to rely on other info offered to me, by my wine pro friends, and by purchasing the above quality vineyard image, to enhance our reading experience. Very tricky, indeed, since there are very few images for purchase, I learned, at a reasonable rate. (I need to get down there with my camera, and take some great landscape pictures of my own.)
Of the three regions where Lucas and Lewellen have vineyard locations, the tasting room is located in Santa Ynez Valley.
Two admirable founder biographies, from their Website:
Louis Lucas: Originally from the Central Valley of California, Louis Lucas is one of California’s premier grape growers. A proud graduate of Notre Dame, his partnership in the 1970’s in Tepusquet Vineyards marked his name in the history books as one of the first commercial grape growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. His vast knowledge and viticultural expertise span over four decades making him a sought after speaker, consultant, and advisor.
Royce Lewellen: Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Royce Lewellen graduated from the University of Missouri and U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law. A retired Superior Court Judge, businessman and community leader in Santa Barbara County, the courthouse complex in Santa Maria, CA was officially named the The Lewellen Justice Center in his honor. “The Judge” embarked on his latest venture in 1996 with renowned wine grape grower Louis Lucas. With their long time love of wine, Royce and Louis have set out to produce the finest wines in Santa Barbara County.
Lucas & Lewellen 2018 Sauvignon Blanc
I’m going to start with just one wine for now… the one I’ve sipped through this story, Lucas and Lewellen’s Sauvignon Blanc.
How I evaluate Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas, by bringing in the 4MMP factor (4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one). In kitty aromas and in Sauvignon Blanc, 4MMP is the same chemical aroma, since it’s the same chemical compound… True story… In this wine, on my scale of 1 to 5, is actually a two. This is a blessing for those who only want a hint of their favorite kitty:
- One Claw = Commodity SB
- “Did I order water, Ms. Sommelier?”
- Two Claws = This one is headed toward a middle ground, but it’s not quite there.
- “This has hints of being a Sauvignon Blanc. I can live with it, because I don’t need another cat in my house.”
- Three Claws = The scale is now enough of the 4MMP factor, but please do go any further.
- “Ah, I’m back working at Robert Mondavi Winery, and having a SB from the Tokalon ‘old vines’ block. Yes!” (It’s a really clear memory.)
- Four Claws = Just a bit off, and headed toward the litter box.
- “I can take it, but I wish I didn’t have to. Make a note to self, empty that box as soon as possible.”
- Five Claws = It’s over the top with capsicum like 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine, or 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one.
- “Call in the paramedics, I can’t breathe.”
TWO CLAWS: This Lucas & Lewellen 2018 Sauvignon Blanc was as smooth as any solid Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever enjoyed. Perfectly balanced for my palate’s pleasure, I had the entire bottle over a few day period. It held up the entire time. With my husband away on the East Coast, he didn’t get to enjoy it, but I certainly did.
Wines that are poorly made do affect me. Jose calls me the canary in the coal mine. In many ways I am. So, having a wine that’s this pleasurable makes me want to get myself down to Santa Barbara County. Like Miles in Sideways, I’ve found a new passion. Unlike Miles, it’s not Pinot. I got that long before Miles. Lucas & Lewellen have turned me onto their Santa Barbara’s Sauvignon Blanc.
I’ll be tasting the rest of the bottles; my partner returns today. I’m looking forward to opening the rest of their samples and tasting together this time.
One more thing I’ve learned… Affordability is really happening Santa Barbara. It’s a hidden California gem, but not for long, I’m thinking.
Sample from Quintessential Wines.