Napa Valley AVA
From a NASCAR to the vineyards of Napa Valley, passion has always been the driving force
At one point, Randy Lewis studied to become a doctor. Before he completed his studies, the wanderlust of the professional racecar circuit beckoned to the Atlanta native, and Randy jumped into the world of racecars on a full-time basis.
Randy Lewis spent more than twenty-three years racing a varied number of cars on both international and national circuits that included Formula 3, Can Am and Indy Car racing, where he qualified for the Indy 500 on four occasions with a best finish of 13th on his record. He also got in on the emerging NASCAR scene before finally retiring in the early 1990’s. “I took a long look at my surroundings,” Lewis recently recalled, “and I knew I wasn’t getting the best equipment with which to compete. That fact also affected the sponsors who put up the money for the racing teams. I finally decided it was time to do something else I truly loved.”
The ‘something else’ was the winery business that Lewis and his late wife Debbie had fallen for in a major way (sadly, Debbie passed in early 2017). Debbie had deep roots in the wine industry starting with a long-term family-owned ranch in the Sacramento River Delta area to actual working relationships with the wine wholesale and retail businesses.
Randy Lewis had delved into the European wine regions while racing in Europe and always considered the wine industry as a really uplifting business that featured high caliber people and beautiful surroundings. He and Debbie had also become involved in a wine group that took wine and wineries most seriously. In 1989, the Lewis’ began helping a close friend who had recently acquired an existing winery property in Napa Valley’s Oakville District. This eventually became their entry into the wine business. “At one point, we started buying fruit with the intention of making wines,” Lewis related. “It took a few years and finally the first Lewis Cellars wines were ready for release.”
The actual release date of the first 2,000 cases of wines was in 1992, and Randy Lewis began the job of securing more grapes for the future. He added additional long-term contracts and ordered some new vineyards planted that would increase his production.
In 1996, Lewis hired noted winemaker Helen Turley as a consultant, a move that was to prove extremely beneficial. The following year, Lewis Cellars produced its signature Cuvée L, the wine that Randy Lewis feels put his winery into the major leagues of the wine industry. “We only make Cuvée L in years we feel our product is truly superior. With the marvelous fruit of the ‘97 vintage, we decided to give it a try. The resulting wine was incredibly well received and represented a major breakthrough for our operation. Once it was finished, most of the people involved felt we could then compete with anybody in the valley with respect to quality.”
In 1999, Debbie’s son Dennis Bell joined Lewis Cellars to make the company a real family affair. Dennis’ main responsibility rests with sales and marketing for the operation. Present day production is around 9,000 cases, a level that has remained constant over the past few years.
“Each winery has its own level of comfort,” Lewis explained. “It’s really the point where you can totally control your product with what you have on hand. At Lewis Cellars, we do everything ourselves in a manner we have found to work best for our wines.”
In 2003, Lewis Cellars moved into a new winery location on Big Ranch Road, just outside the City of Napa’s northern boundary. The move was another masterpiece for the small entity that is now spoken of in the rarefied air of Napa Valley’s celebrated wineries.
In 2013, winemaker Josh Widaman (formerly of Pahlmeyer) was put in control of the winery’s production, a move that Randy Lewis feels has cemented the quality aspects of his family-owned winery. Widaman brings over twenty years of winemaking experience and had previous stints at Stags’ Leap Winery, Gloria Ferrer, and Vina Tarapaca in Chile.
Not that all of this success has affected Randy Lewis, even a little. “We still walk the vineyards each day making sure everything is done according to our instructions,” he added. “Besides, at the end of the day, there’s nothing like the feeling one gets from driving a dirty jeep.”
We hope our Diamond Wine Club members savor this incredible bottle of Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon! It's truly a special wine. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
The harvest of 2017 was memorable for us because it marked our 25th year of creating Lewis Cellars wines.
The grapes for our 2017 Sonoma Russian River Chardonnay were sourced from a pair of unique Dutton Ranch Vineyards that we have worked with for two decades. Our long history with these sites enables us to select the best grapes at the optimal moment year after year. This particular bottling is crafted from four different clones: 15, Wente, Dijon 95, and Dijon 96.
The growing season of 2017 started somewhat later and was generally cooler with lower cluster counts than previous years, but our patience was rewarded with fruit that reached full maturity and ripeness with minimal vine stress.
Consequently, the wine is showy yet terrifically balanced with layers of tropical fruits, citrus and toasty spice and a lively character that carries well into the finish.
Yields in 2017 were below average, so production at 1,200 cases was small verses previous vintages, but I’m confident you will agree that the quality is outstanding. We’re glad that a little has found its way to you and hope that you will enjoy the wine.
All of us at Lewis Cellars would like to thank you for your support and we send our best wishes!
President, Lewis Cellars
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
2017 is a special year for us because it marks our 25th anniversary; and Chardonnay has been a key part of our production and success since day one.
Our winery is located in the Oak Knoll District towards the southern end of Napa Valley. The grapes for our 2015 Napa Valley Chardonnay were sourced from 7 unique vineyard blocks all within a few miles, giving us the opportunity to closely monitor and fine-tune each one for optimal results.
The growing season started early in 2015, with near-perfect conditions all the way to harvest which began in August, our earliest year ever. Though yields were down, fruit quality was outstanding and the resulting wine is highly aromatic, concentrated, and complex.
Centered around ripe Bosc pear and Fuji apple this wine exudes delicious caramel custard, pie crust and hazelnut aromas. thickly textured and satiny smooth there is plenty of native acidity and subtly minerality too.
Production at 1,800 cases was low compared to recent vintages, yet quality was outstanding. We're glad that a little has found its way to you and hope that you enjoy the wine.
All of us at Lewis Cellars would like to thank you for your support and we sent our best wishes!
Josh Widman - Winemaker
With a B.S. in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis, Josh brings 15 years of winemaking experience to Lewis, where he is a large and ever-smiling presence.
Josh came to us from Pahlmeyer where he had been winemaker. His previous experience includes 4 years as assistant winemaker at Chimney Rock Winery and multiple roles at Stags’ Leap Winery, Gloria Ferrer, and Viña Tarapaca in Chile. When he's not in vineyards or at the winery Josh enjoys cycling, cooking and drinking wine with family and friends.
Dear Gold Medal Wine Club Members,
Alec’s Blend was first created from the 1997 vintage to celebrate the birth of my son, Alec, who is also Debbie and Randy’s first grandson. The wine generated a great response and has become an integral part of our production. This was a special year marking Alec’s 16th birthday. Turn’s out he’s a pretty good driver!
When he’s not driving, Super D downhill trail racing is Alec’s favorite sport and this year’s blend of 61% Syrah, 33% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon will get your wheels spinning. Kirsch-like boysenberry and ripe cherry fruits are studded like knobs on a 2.4” mud tire with sweet vanilla, cinnamon clove and oak spice, graphite and bramble. The palate is plush as a coil-over shock but supple tannin and native acidity provides lock-out power for that final push to the finish.
Only 900 cases were produced and we’re glad that a little has found its way to you.
Thanks so much for your support and best wishes from all of us at Lewis Cellars!
Randy and Debbie Lewis