Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards - Toccata Wines
Santa Barbara County region
Produced under the successful Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards umbrella, Toccata Wines focuses on small-batch, estate-grown Italian varietals from Santa Barbara County’s Los Alamos Valley.
Nestled within the Los Alamos Valley, just north of the Santa Ynez Valley on California’s Central Coast, Toccata Wines is part of the larger and better-known Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards entity that began in the 1990s. Toccata’s niche of featuring estate-grown Italian varietals however, has made the sister brand a popular and successful project all on its own.
Lucas and Lewellen, Toccata, and Queen of Hearts (the company’s third winery label) came into existence when two old friends decided they wanted to get into the winery business in the right way. Long-time Central Coast grower Louis Lucas and retired Judge Royce Lewellen were both members of the Santa Maria Wine and Food Society as well as the local Rotary Club and had known each other for more than 20 years when they decided to make the move in 1996. Over lunch, Louis Lucas approached Judge Lewellen about selling one of his proven vineyards, but a deal was struck where Lewellen bought a 50 percent interest in both Lucas Brothers Vineyards - if Lucas would continue to farm them. Two years later, the partners bought another top area vineyard and became a major supplier to numerous wineries throughout the State of California.
Louis Lucas had prior experience with the winery side of the business as well, when he was involved with Tepusquet Vineyards during the 1970s, and a decision was ultimately made to enter the vintner side of the wine industry as well.
The state-of-the-art winery, built in nearby Buelton, was completed in 2002 and encompasses more than 20,000 square feet - allowing for Lucas and Lewellen’s penchant for producing a wide range of varietals under their three winery labels.
The grapes for Toccata Wines come from the Los Alamos Valley where warm summer days and cool, coastal nights provide the perfect growing environment for Italian varietals. Originally planted from cuttings brought over from Italy’s legendary vineyards, Toccata’s grapes and wines stay true to their Mediterranean heritage. Winemaker Megan McGrath masterfully blends the ripe fruit into aromatic, full-flavored wines while maintaining the varietal character that has made these Italian wines popular for generations.
Toccata’s wines can be tasted in the Danish-inspired tourist village of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. The space offers a fun and relaxed wine tasting experience where visitors can enjoy the boutique collection of Italian wines the brand has to offer. We hope our Gold Wine Club members enjoy these selections. Cheers!
Map of the area
The Art of Fine Wine
This oil painting was done by Karen Winters and depicts the Lucas & Lewellen estate vineyards in Los Alamos.
Painted by Jennifer Vranes, who enjoys working with extreme textures and vibrant colors, capturing an intense energy that is both positive and uplifting. She gains inspiration for her pieces from her extensive travels and strives to bring joy to the homes and lives of collectors all over the world.
Santa Barbara County
The vineyards of the Santa Barbara County growing region have become incredibly popular during the past three decades and include a number of differing climatic conditions that allow for a wide range of varietal productivity. Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards has wisely managed to position themselves in three distinct growing areas that run the virtual gauntlet regarding temperature, one of the most important growing factors that influence grapes. The coolest growing area is the Santa Maria Valley, home to one of Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards’ two initial tracts. More moderate temperatures can be found at the Los Alamos Vineyard, while the latest acquisition (1998) of Valley View Vineyard near Solvang (Santa Ynez Valley) is most certainly the warmest growing area under Lucas and Lewellen plantings.
With nearly 400 total acres under vine, a wide variety of fruit is available for the wines of Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards. The Santa Maria Valley vineyard produces prize winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while the Los Alamos Vineyard is home to over twenty different varieties of grapes (representing the principal varieties of the Rhône, Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France), and the Valley View Vineyard within the Santa Ynez Valley grows a range of Rhône and Bordeaux varietals. These vineyards provide a wide swath of possible varietal alignments and allow for an unusual number of fruit and acid mixes.
These valley vineyards benefit from a rare transverse mountain range topography, an east-west orientation which channels the cool ocean air of the Pacific into the coastal valleys, allowing warm days and cool nights to produce a long, gentle growing season.
Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards practices Old World and sustainable farming methods, which they believe is their responsibility as stewards of the land for future generations.
Megan McGrath Gates - Winemaker
Eighth generation Californian Megan McGrath Gates is winemaker for Toccata Wines, as well as the Lucas and Lewellen and Queen of Hearts brands. She possesses a number of outstanding credentials for her all-important job at the winery. A graduate of nearby Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, McGrath also holds a winemaking certificate from prestigious UC Davis.
She gained valuable experience in Sonoma Valley with Cahill Winery in Sebastopol and also Flowers Vineyard and Winery on the Sonoma Coast. Gates has worked with almost all varietals in her present role and was promoted from within in 2006 after former winemaker Daniel Gehrs left to found his own winery. Although a classical winemaker, she utilizes several state-of-the-art techniques in formulating the wines for Lucas and Lewellen. She prefers not to classify her philosophy as either Old World or New World, explaining, “I believe in balanced wines with all components married together so that layers of complexity are allowed to unfold."
Louis Lucas - The Dirt Man
Louis Lucas has a great nickname, the dirt man. “I guess you could say I earned it,” the personable grower-turned-winery owner recently explained. “My family has been in the growing business my whole life. My grandfather, my father, all my uncles, in fact, everyone in our family grew something. Some grew vegetables, but mostly it was grapes. I come from a small Croatian community around Delano (CA) and I was exposed to growing grapes since day one.”
Louis Lucas chose to attend Notre Dame where he was a letterman in track and a walk on for the famous Notre Dame Fighting Irish. When he finished school, he returned to California and the business his family knew so well.
In the late 1960’s, Lucas felt the need to explore new growing sites, where cooler temperatures and conditions would allow his grapes to achieve new levels that were unpractical in the extremely hot Central Valley. He traveled to the nearby Santa Maria Valley on the Pacific Coast and found what he was looking for.
“To say the area was virgin grape country would be an understatement,” he recalled. “We (his brother) only found one small vineyard planted, but the soils and conditions looked perfectly good to us and we decided to see what we could do. We met Brother Timothy of Christian Brothers and he thought the area was sound for producing high quality grapes, so we decided to go ahead and develop some acreage."
The first Lucas Brothers Vineyards were planted in 1970, and from there on, the rest, as they say, is history. Santa Maria Valley proved to be a great home for many different varietals and soon the Lucas Brothers were sending their incredible grapes northward to the stellar wineries of Napa Valley and Sonoma County.
“We got an early contract with Beringer Brothers Winery (now Beringer Vineyards) and soon a number of other top wineries began purchasing Lucas Brother’s premium grapes. Since they were the first commercial growers in that part of Santa Barbara County, the Brothers became something of a legend in local growing circles.
“Beringer helped us decide what kinds of varietals to produce,” admitted Lucas. “And we made our share of mistakes in the beginning. But we learned a lot and hoped we wouldn’t make the same mistakes twice. The big northern wineries began winning a number of really top medals with our grapes along with top scores for their wines. We knew there was a lot to do with the winemaking process, but we also felt that much of their success started with our grapes.”
Louis Lucas also became the principal supplier of Chardonnay for Kendall-Jackson Vineyards and winery and watched as the upstart winery increased its size dramatically and became a real force in the California wine industry. Since Kendall-Jackson’s best-known wine was its Chardonnay, the Lucas Brothers and their reputation as growers continued to also rise.
When Jess Jackson and Robert Mondavi joined forces to buy vineyards in Monterey County, Louis Lucas’ role as supplier to Kendall-Jackson was significantly reduced, so when he teamed up with retired Judge Royce Lewellen in 1996 to form Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards, it was necessity that drove the partnership to fruition.
“It isn’t always all that easy to sell your grapes,” Lucas pointed out. “Even with all our great history, there were many others in our area growing excellent grapes. I felt it was economically smart to have a vehicle that could utilize our grapes and provide us with an outlet for our wines. We had always made a few wines for our own use and they were said to be very good by the ones who tasted them. I became friendly with Jed Steele from Mendocino, and he really helped us out with the finer points of winemaking and in some cases, wine selling, in the beginning. I found out quickly that it was also a great deal of work to sell what you made as a winery, and we had very little track record as a winery. I can say that I learned a great deal about the wine industry during that period, and a good deal of it was what not to do in order to be successful.”
With his iconic growing career supporting him, Louis Lucas has now developed Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards into an icon on the Central Coast that is poised for even more greatness in the future.