It takes a balancing act to oversee the 50 different wines that compose the portfolio of Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards, a Solvang winery, but winemaker Megan McGrath Gates does it with panache.
It began as a friendship in 1975 between Louis Lucas, a viticulturist, and Royce Lewellen, a Superior Court Judge, and moved on to become a partnership over the decades. In 1996 they joined forces to create Lucas & Lewellen. The Solvang winery ultimately opened in 1999. Today they own three vineyards located in three separate AVA in Santa Barbara County, create wine under three labels, and own two tasting rooms in Solvang.
The vineyards grow 24 varieties, span across 380 acres, and located in Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and the Santa Ynez Valley. The vineyards are Goodchild & Old Adobe Vineyard that consists of 67 acres on Foxen Canyon Road in Santa Maria, the Los Alamos Valley Vineyard with 278 acres, and the 35-acre Valley View Vineyard in Solvang. The varieties grown include Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Carménère, Dolcetto, Gewurztraminer, Freisa, Malbec, Malvasia Bianca, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Nebbiolo, Orange Muscat, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Viognier and White Riesling.
The labels are Lucas & Lewellen, Toccata, and Queen of Hearts. The Lucas & Lewellen label features Pinot Noir, their flagship wine, Chardonnay, and the Bordeaux blends that this Solvang winery creates, while Toccata represents the winery’s Italian varietals and Queen of Hearts their classical varieties.
Winemaker Megan McGrath Gates
Joining the team in 2007, Megan has been given creative license to create the wine. Megan’s thing is soil. Her drive comes down from her family heritage. She is a ninth-generation Californian with family ties to the Olivas family in Ventura. The unique qualities of the land and the soil that makes up the earth has always fascinated Megan. She graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in soil science and a concentration in vineyard soils. She also graduated from the California Agricultural Leadership Foundations fellowship program. Her career took her to Flowers Vineyard & Winery in Sonoma as an enologist, and she also made wine in Sebastopol’s Green Valley before joining Lucas & Lewellen.
Megan’s philosophy is a balanced wine unites all components in such a way that layers of complexity unfold. This process starts with the soil, which in turn allows the grape to express itself. Megan is the adjunct that assists the grape in revealing itself and unfolding the complexity that we find in the wine.
Combining Megan’s infatuation with soil and Louis’ mastery of vine management and growing grapes, you have a match that is essential to the winemaking process and making superb wines.
Most impressive is the quality of the wine to the price point. I found the wines reasonably priced.
I visited to each Solvang winery tasting room and also sampled several of the wines at a dinner in Los Angeles with Megan. The following wines stood out as my favorites.
Sparkling, Whites and Rosé from Lucas & Lewellyn
2012 Extra Brut Extended Tirage Sparkling Wine: The blending of the Dosage occurs in an antique cognac still thus creating an old-world style sparkler. The extended aging creates wonderful subtleties and nuances. The cognac Dosage consists of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and French Colombard. It is an artisan wine.
2017 Roussanne: The Roussane is one of the few wines produced where the grapes are not grown in one the Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards. The wine is barrel fermented, which is atypical for the variety. I loved the baking spices on the finish. Unfortunately, this wine may not be available at this time.
2017 Viognier: Find a bright, fresh, and fruity wine with ripe fruity aromas mixed with white flower.
2016 Chenin Blanc: I found flavors of lemon mixed with tropical fruit.
2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir: The grapes are grown explicitly for Rosé and exhibits bright, fruity flavors of strawberry and stone fruit. The Pinot Noir co-ferments with Viognier.
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Valley View: This Cabernet blend Cabernet Sauvignon with a small portion of Petit Verdot and Malbec that ages 21 months in French oak, of which 40% is new oak. Find a very drinkable stand-alone wine with a silky and velvety texture and nicely integrated balance. The wine is fruit-forward, featuring dark fruits.
2015 Malbec: I love the bright subtleties displayed in this wine. Flavors of blackberry dominate the wine.
2016 Cote del sol Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine represents Lucas and Lewellyn’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet co-ferments with Syrah, adding a little spice and jammy qualities to the wine. Flavors of plum are highlighted with baking spices.
Sole Bianco: This wine blends Gewurztraminer with Muscat and Viognier. It is a pretty blend that delivers crisp and refreshing flavors of lemon flavors.
2015 Toccata Classico: Bringing a little bit of Tuscany to Solvang, this wine ingratiates you with a super Tuscan style. This seamless wine combines Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Freisa, and Petit Verdot. Discover the soft yet smoothly balanced wine that exhibits dried herbs, perhaps sage on the nose. Leather, tobacco, and cherry also accent the aromas. This earthy medium-bodied wine exhibits flavors of cherry and some spice on the finish.
Megan’s impact on the Lucas & Lewellen wines expresses her feminine touch and at the same time, unifies the qualities and balance she expects to empower her wines.
To discover and visit each Solvang winery:
Lucas & Lewellen
1645 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA 93463
1665 Copenhagen Drive
Solvang, CA 93463
Tasting Room Hours:
Sunday through Thursday from 10 AM to 5:30 PM, and later on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wine sampled. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.