Interview with Michael Lewellen of Lucas & Lewellyn Winery

Up on the 71st floor of the US Bank in Los Angeles, I enjoyed an informative luncheon paired with Santa Barbara County wines. At my table sat Michael Lewellen, the son of  Royce Lewellen from Lucas & Lewellen Winery.FullSizeRender-195Michael shared with me a little bit of the history of his father’s winery. His dad partnered with Louie Lucas 21 years ago. Even though you can see the vines along the 101 freeway, the tasting room offering a variety of their wines is in Solvang.

In 1997 they bought Valley View Vineyard and the Lucas family moved into the home overlooking the vineyard, while Louis, known as “The Dirtman!” enhanced the grapes by pruning, trellising and planting more vines to increase the vine density. Then in 1998, they bought a neighboring vineyard in Los Alamos with 19 different varieties of grapes, and started making wine at other wineries, before building their own facility in Buellton. Next they built a tasting room and hired winemaker Megan McGrath to make their wine. “McGrath has a soil science degree from Cal Poly SLO and UC Davis,” said Michael. IMG_3674As we sipped the 2106 Rose’ of Pinot Noir I learned the winery sells 60% of their grapes to other wineries, including one of my favorites Pali Wine Co. They use only 1/4 of the grapes they grow to make their own label.  The rose’ went really well with Chef Vartan Abgaryan’s octopus salad, offering layers of berries and peach with floral notes of white blossoms. Michael told me, “100% Pinot Noir grapes that ferment in stainless steel tanks.” I thought the price point is an excellent value at $20 a bottle. Others at our table enjoyed this wine with Abgaryan’s steak tartare with shallots, mustard, olive oil, and a colorful tapenade. FullSizeRender-193The second glass was a 2012 Cote de Sol Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s one of the best tasting Cabs I’ve ever tasted in the $35 range. The name of the wine – “Cote de Sol is a fun play of French and Spanish with the grapes coming from the South side of the region offering full sun,” Michael said. “The grapes get their intensity from the energy of this full sun.” This wine went well with the grilled flat iron steak served with a potato puree, soft cippolini onions and a shishito chimichurri. It offered a big, dark, beautiful flavor profile offering brown spice, black cherry, lavender, dried sage, and anise. At the end a lingering layer with toasty vanilla.  Michael shared with me that this Cabernet was just picked up at Wine Warehouse.FullSizeRender-198The last glass was a Lucas 7 Lewellen NV Vertical Syrah Blend. “We had a lot of fun making this multi-faceted wine,” said Michael. It’s made from four different vintages of Syrah Noir clones – 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and 10 different Syrah and Pinot Noir barrels to make a blend. “The Syrah grapes were hand-picked from our Los Alamos Vineyard,” Michael said. “It’s aged for 24 months in French oak barrels.” We took sips to enjoy the blending of rich and lingering flavors of smoky mesquite and bacon with hints of mulberry and blackberry fruit. Another winning wine with the steak entree.

Michael told me how he grew up in Santa Barbara County and went to the University of Colorado, Boulder graduating with a business degree. Instead of coming back to the winery, he worked in Santa Barbara for the retailer The Territory Ahead for many years, before coming back to the winery as the Managing Partner, leading the Marketing & Sales, Finance, and Tasting Room room. IMG_3651To taste these wines take a drive up to Solvang. You might even see my new friend Michael or his dad, Royce or even Louis Lucas pouring wine and educating visitors about their grapes.  There are over twenty world class wines to taste, plus a variety of gourmet foods, gifts and unique wine related items for a picnic or to take home to enjoy.

The tasting room is located at 1645 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, CA 93463
Phone: 805-686-9336. To learn more, go to


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