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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some Lucas & Lewellen Wines - October 16, 2013

We tried last night (10/16/13) Some Lucas&Lewellen Wines:

  1. Lucas&Lewellen Riesling LosAlamosVllyVnyd/SBC (14.0%; www.LLWine.com) Buelton 2011: Light yellow color;attractive fragrant R/pineapply bit piney/mineral/valve oil/floral quite attractive nose; soft fairly
    lush/R/floral/pineapply slight earthy/mineral bit perfumed talc/cotton candy near-dry flavor; med.soft/lush floral/piney/pineapple/R finish; would like a bit more zip & acidity but quite a pretty R, particularly in the nose. $16.00
  2. Lucas&Lewellen GWT LosAlamosVllyVnyd/SBC (13.0%) 2011: Light yellow color; attractive floral/GWT/spicy/cinammon rather low-key/quiet nose; soft light GWT/spicy/cinammon rather lush near-dry bit tangy flavor;med.long soft floral/GWT/spicy finish; would like a bit more acidity; a pleasant GWT in an understated/quiet way at a good price. $18.00
  3. Lucas&Lewellen CheninBlanc LosAlamosVllyVnyd/SBC (13.5%) 2009: Pale yellow/near colorless color; pleasant melony/floral/CB slight earthy/mineral rather pretty/fragrant nose; soft pretty floral/pear/melony/perfumedtalc/cotton candy fresh/clean flavor; med. rather melony/floral/CB/perfumed talc finish; a light-weight pretty kind of CB. $20.00
  4. Lucas&Lewellen Viognier SBC (13.5%) 2012: Light yellow color; rather low-key/subdued pear/Viog/floral fresh/clean varietally-correct nose; bit tarter very attractive floral/pear/fresh peach/Viog rather low-key/ understated flavor; bit tart/tangy lush/ripe attractive floral/pear/Viog/peach understated balanced flavor; certainly not a DollyParton Viog but quite pretty and low-key/understated quiet kind of Viog at a good price. $19.00
  5. Lucas&Lewellen Chard GoodchildVnyd/SBC (13.5%) 2010: Light yellow/gold color; light buttery/ oak/butterscotchy bright/ripe/melony/Chard/lemony elegant/understated attractive nose; bit soft ripe/melony/lemony/Chard/floral bit perfumed talc/mineral light buttery/butterscotchy/toasty/oak rather smooth/balanced quiet/pretty flavor; long bright/lemony/melony/Chard/perfumed talc light butterscotchy /oak slight earthy/mineral attractive finish; my favorite and the most distinctive of the L&L whites; quite fairly priced at $24.00
  6. Ch.de Fieuzal AC: Pessac-Leognan (13%; SauvBlanc/Semillon) 2001: Med.gold color; very intense pungent/resiny some smokey/toasty/oak rather nutty/aged bit olive/herbal/rosemary/piney slight oxidized complex nose; fairly tart rich/lush resiny/pungent/smokey some toasty/oak bit herbal/rosemary/resiny slight oxidized/nutty flavor; very long resiny/piney/pungent some smokey/toasty/oak bit oxidized/nutty slight herbal/olive complex finish; doesn't have the austere/stony/mineral I'd expect from a Graves but has developed into a really interesting wine; a bit like old HunterVlly Semillon or old WashState Semillon w/o the strong oak signature. $30.00
  7. Lucas&Lewellen PinotNoir SBC (14%) 2009: Med.light color; strong bright PN/cherry some pencilly/toasty/oak slight earthy quite fragrant/pretty nose; bit tart some buttery/oak/pencilly strong bright/cherry/ruhbarb/PN rather smooth/balanced flavor w/ light/integrated tannins; med.long buttery/pencilly/oak bright/cherry/PN finish w/ light/smooth tannins; a pretty/balanced PN that's ready to drink at a good price. $20.00
  8. Lucas&Lewellen PinotNoir Goodchild&High9 Vnyds/SBC (13.5%) 2011: Med.light color; rather deeper/more intense plummy/black cherry/PN slight earthy/dusty slight toasty/oak nose; bit tart fairly strong black cherry/PN/ plummy slight earthy more intense flavor w/ modest/smooth tannins; long strong black cherry/PN/plummy slight RCCola bit earthy finish w/ smooth/well-integrated tannins; drinkable now and can go another 2-4 yrs. $30.00
  9. Lucas&Lewellen Syrah LosAlamosVnyd/SBC (14.5%) 2010: Med.dark color; very attractive strong floral/blackberry/Syrah/spicy/boysenberry light toasty/oak nose; bit tart strong Syrah/blackberry/spicy/ boysenberry light toasty/ oak flavor w/ smooth/graceful tannins; med.long bit tart spicy/blackberry/ Syrah/boysenberry light toasty/oakflavor w/ smooth/polished tannins; an attractive balanced/drinkable Syrah at a good price. $26.00
  10. Lucas&Lewellen PetiteSirah LosAlamosVnyd/SBC (13.0%) 2010: Very dark/black color; very strong peppery/licorice/ black pepper/PS bit smokey/toasty/oak slight earthy/dusty very attractive nose; soft rather tannic/structured strong peppery/licorice/black pepper/smokey/pungent light charred/toasty/oak slight earthy flavor; very long licorice/black pepper/blackberry/plummy rather mouthfilling/deep textured finish w/ fairly hefty tannins; needs 2-6 yrs of age; easily my favorite of the first four reds. $36.00
  11. Lucas&Lewellen CabSauv VallyViewVnyd/SBC (14.0%) 2009: Med.color; slight herbal strong blackcurranty/cassis/Cab/black cherry bit earthy/loamy/Bdx-like rather toasty/charred/oak fairly complex lovely nose; somewhat soft rather blackcurranty/cassis/Cab bit earthy/loamy/Bdx-like some toasty/charred/oak complex flavor w/ modest/ smooth tannins; very long strong blackcurranty/Cab/cassis some herbal/loamy/earthy/Bdx-like some charred/oak finish w/ smooth/well-integrated tannins; plenty of blackcurranty Cab fruit and a slight Bdx-like loamy character; the balance should carry this wine out another 10 yrs; very reasonably priced at $27.00
  12. Lucas&Lewellen CabSauv Cote del Sol VallyViewVnyd/SBC (13.5%) 2010: Dark color; much stronger herbal/rather Bdx-like/earthy/loamy strong plummy/blackcurranty/cassis/Cab slight licorice strong toasty/charred/oak rather complex nose; bit tart rather tannic/hard/structured very strong blackcurranty/cassis/Cab/plummy flavor w/ample tannins; very long/lingering herbal/earthy/loamy/Bdx-like strong cassis/blackcurranty/Cab strong toasty/charred/oak finish; a big/structured/complex/quite Bdx-like Cab that needs 4-10 yrs; one of the best SBCnty Cabs I can recall. $36.00
  13. Lucas&Lewellen Malbec VallyViewVnyd/SBC (14.5%) 2010: Very dark color; rather earthy/loamy some licorice/blackcurranty/boysenberry/ripe/Cab smokey/pungent/peppery bit herbal some complex nose; soft/lush strong blackcurranty/black cherry/licorice/ripe very light toasty/oak bit herbal/loamy/earthy flavor w/ soft/light tannins; very long slight herbal rather ripe/blackcurranty/boysenberry/pungent/peppery soft/ripe/lush some earthy/loamy finish w/ soft tannins; lots of very ripe fruit and a bit lacking in structure but way better than most of the SouthAmerica versions. $35.00
  14. Lucas&Lewellen SauvBlanc LateHrvst SBC (Sommeil en Barrique; Aged in new oak barrels for 12 months; 12.9%; SaH: 35 Brix; RS: 14%) 2005: Med.gold color; quite strong herbal/pickle juice/volatile some smokey/used fireworks slight herbal/SB some botrytis/peach syrup very strange nose; tart slight herbal/SB somehot/fumey rather volatile/pickle juice some toasty/oak bit peachy/botrytis flavor; long strong pickle juice/volatile/hot/fumey slight herbal/SB light peachy/botrytis/apricotty finish; quite a volatile dessert wine and nothing at all like Sauternes. $22.00/hlf

And the usual BloodyPulpit:

1. L&L: I had tried the L&L wines at a SantaBarbaraVintners tasting in the early '90's and was unimpressed by the wines and had pretty much blown them off. I've tried a couple of them when the appeared here in NM over the last yr and found them far better than my recollect. In Aug, LouisLucas came up to Paso for NEB4 and I tried his Italian varietals (the Toccata label) and was fairly impressed w/ his Ramato (PinotGris w/ skin contat and two Nebbs). So I thought I should go back and revisit the L&L line and see what's up. We will taste the Toccata line in the future.

L&L is the wnry of LouisLucas and RoyceLewellen. Lewellen was (afore retirement) a SBCnty district judge. The courthouse in SantaMaria (scene of the MichaelJackson trial) is named for him. During SFW&CF, I got together w/ Louis at TerraCotta Wine Bistro over iced tea (CelestialSeasons EternalBliss...94 from Parker) for nearly a 2-hr chat. Until then, I had not realized what a pioneer he was in SBCnty grape-growing. Louis' background come from his family's vnyd over in the SanJoaquinVlly growing table grapes. Presumably they made out like gangbusters during Prohibition when lots of grapes were shipped back East to homewinemakers. I queried Louis about the relevancy of growing table grapes to growing wine grapes. "Isn't the entire focus on
high yields and production levels...quality be damned??" He assured me that, au contraire, in the table grape business the emphasis has to be on the farming and the quality of the grapes. If the quality isn't there, you don't make any money. And not just cosmetic quality...they gotta taste good as well. Louis segued into the wine grape business when he planted the TepesquetVnyd in 1970 in the SantaMariaVlly, just South of what was to become the most famous SMV vnyd of all time..BienNacido of the Miller's. Back in the middle-'70's, I used to buy the Tepesquet wines here in NM, dozens of cases at a time, at stupid/silly prices. Don't know who or where the wine was made, though. The labels were plug-ugly/garish..but the wines were pretty decent and good values...exceptin' for the Cabernet.

The Tepesquet vnyd was eventually split up and sold to JessJackson (Cambria) and RobertMondavi (for the ByronVnyd operation, afore Mondavi went under). After buying his LosAlamos vnyds, Louis returned to the SMV to plant the Goodchild, the High 9, and OldAdobe vnyds for his cold-climate varieties (no Cabernet this time around!!). Also, back in the '70's, Louis planted a vnyd up in the Shandon area of PasoRobles and partnered w/ JackNiven to form EdnaVllyVnyds, one of the very first vnyds in the EdnaVlly.

Down in LosAlamos, he planted a vnyd adjacent to JoeCarrari, and eventually bought Joe's vnyd. Joe was a long-time grower at his RanchoAlamo vnyd. He's (not so-) famous for his DagoRed that he sold for a few yrs in the late-'70's for $1.99/btl....the Two$Chuck precursor by many yrs. Louis relates that Joe is still alive & kickin' and as ornery as ever.

One of the legacies from JoeCarrari's vnyd is that Louis now has a bunch of Italian varieties to work
with....Nebbiolo/Sangiovese/Dolcetto/Malvasia/PinotGrigio/ PinotNero/Freisa. He makes/bottles these under the Toccata label. Louis shouldered full blame for the abominable image the SantaBarbara Cabernets developed from that era for being green/herbal/thin/weedy. And this was before any of the Cabs from BrooksFirestone had appeared. It was just too cold in the SMV for Cabernet and he hadn't learned to farm the grapes yet. Louis also has a vnyd down near the town of SantaYnez, that slopes down on the benchland towards the SantaYnez river. He grows his warmer-climate grapes down there, including Cabernet varieties. He seems quite proud of his various Cabs and blends he makes. Probably to salvage the tarring & feathering he inflicted on SBC Cabernet during his Tepesquet days!!
The L&L winemaker is Megan McGrath. After stints at Flowers and Cahill up North, she joined L&L as asst winemaker under DanGehrs, and became head winemaker in 2007. Methinks L&L wines are in good hands these days. L&L has two tasting roomes in Solvang, one for the L&L wines, one for the Toccata wines. Their WebSite is: www.LLWine.com

So....what was my take on the L&L wines now? They are far better than I recall them when I tasted them some yrs ago. They seem solid/well-made/drinkable/varietally-correct wines at a very fair price. I would have liked a bit more acidity in the whites. The reds were attractive/pleasant-enough, maybe a bit on the commercial side; what I'd call well-priced wines for the restaurant market. However, it was the Cabs that really grabbed my attention. They were as good as any of the best I've had from SantaBarbaraCnty. I think Louis as redeemed himself for those weedy/herbaceous days of Tepesquet Cabs long ago. SantaBarbara can make Cabs every bit as good as any in all Calif, IMHO.
So...it was good to revisit the L&L wines. I'll be paying them more attention in the future. We'll try
Toccata wines in the near future & report back on them.
2. Botrytis SauvBlanc: I was expecting quite a bit more of this wine in that I've had some botrytis SauvBlancs from Calif that had a pretty good resemblence to Sauternes. I've followed botrytis wines in Calif from the very start, back in the late '60's w/ MyronNightengale's induced botrytis Semillon and the many Rieslings from the early '70's. When DickPeterson came along in the mid-'70's and made the first (natural) botrytis SauvBlanc at TheMontereyVnyd, I was excited that now we could have real Sauternes in Calif. Alas, it was highly volatile and had this very same pickle juice character. It seems that I find the pickle juice character more in botrytis SauvBlancs than any other variety. Tony Austin made some botrytis SauvBlanc under his AustinCllrs label back in the '80's as well that had a strong pickle juice character.

Actually, this L&L was not a bad wine and there was some pretty interesting things therein. But I found the pickle juice character rather distracting. Maybe w/ chocolate-covered dill pickles it would be quite good?
3. L&L makes a value-label called Queen of Hearts. A Chard and a PinotNoir. Priced in the $12-$14 price range (retail), they are a great wine-by-the-pour for restaurants. They do them at TerraCotta Wine Bistro and one of my go-to glasses.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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