So here I am speaking with Michael Lewellen in his fun, quirky tasting room in Solvang near San Ynez. Mike is a cool guy who spent years in marketing in another field before coming to run the tasting room which was created in 1996, a project initiated by his father and Louis Lucas, a third generation grape grower from the Central Valley.
The town, Mike says, has changed since 1996 – it has more “European Elegance” to what was once a Danish tourist town. I remember visiting a long time ago, and the town indeed is quite cool with fab restaurants and shops.
Lucas & Lewellen owns three vineyards with cool microclimates. This includes the Goodchild vineyard, which is the coolest with moderating influences from the Pacific ocean which is about 15 miles away. In summer the heat can reach the 80’s. To counteract this heat the team have developed different trellis systems depending on the variety (PN or Chardonnay). For Chardonnay he uses a Geneva Double Curtain so it grows a larger canopy. Soils (sandy loam) are low in acid so Louis will add gypsum. In most of the average the team has their own wells though they also have drip irrigation as it saves water. Sometimes they like to have the surrounding soils get moisture.
I am tasting the 2012 Pinot Noir right now and it is fab and very Burgundian except for the 14.5 alcohol … it comes from the 9 acres of vines on the top of the hill in the Goodchild vineyard. It is barrel aged for 20 months in 20 percent of New French oak. The usual five day maceration and twice a day punchdowns during fermentation which lasts a few weeks. Despite the weather they have never had to acidity this vineyard.
The 2012 Chardonnay from Goodchild is unoaked, 100% Malo, and bottled after 9 months. Rather interesting texture and curiously some vanilla bean infused fruit. Very difficult to describe the flavors other than terroir “speaks” here. The oaked Goodchild 2010 Chardonnay is fab, made from slow ripening old vines. It is fermented in oak (2/3 new).
The rose wine is made from PN from the Los Alamos vineyard, which is warmer than Goodchild. Residual sugar is 8 grams per liter. The Viognier 2013 is INCREDIBLE, fragrant nose of delicious sweet white flowers and balanced fruit (grapefruit, tangerine, exotic tropical fruit such as passion fruit). I taste the late harvest Viognier. Only 12.2 Residual Sugar. Nice for Scallops.
So the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Cote del Sol is very interesting — only 8% Syrah yet it seems dominated by the Syrah which is deep, dark, and delicious. A burst of dark pungent berry fruit on the nose and a dense texture of dark berry fruit on the palate. The cabernet sauvignon and syrah are co-fermented, a tricky endeavor as both must be ripe. To make them ripen at the same time, Louis might give them extra water.
The tasting continues with Riesling (surprisingly good, very tropical fruit oriented) and Bordeaux varietals. The tasting room is fab yet there is also a club and online sales. You can go to LLWine.com for more info.
Louis believes the secret to the quality of the wine is a healthy root system, which does not necessarily include water stress.