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.