Despite what a great story it would make, Lumen Wines did not come about when Will Henry flashed his surfer's six-pack abs at Lane Tanner. "Quite honestly, he wasn't a shirt-taker-offer until later in the relationship," Tanner admits. But then she jokes, "But one day I said to him, 'That work you're doing with the barrels looks like it's really hot, maybe you should take your shirt off.' Once he did, you couldn't get him to keep it on."
Of course, Lumen doesn't need a great origin story given it's founded by two very talented people who make fine pinot noir, chardonnay, Grenache, and Grenache blanc, the latter two in a style that's more pinot-like. Lane Tanner is a Santa Barbara County legend. She's one of the region's first female winemakers, starting in 1981 with Firestone and then Zaca Mesa, Hitching Post, and finally creating her own label until 2009. It would be hard to imagine Santa Barbara County pinot noir without her. Will Henry, a widely-published journalist and photographer, worked for years with his family's wine distribution company The Henry Wine Group, who happened to represent Lane Tanner Wines.
Tanner had retired, more or less, when a project she was working on with the Sierra Madre Vineyard fell through. But Henry tasted some of that wine in barrel and says, "I felt like I had stumbled upon a gold mine. I asked Lane if she would help me finish the vintage and get it into bottle, and she agreed to help me out over the next few months 'with her babies,' as she put it." The experience made Henry want to work more with Tanner, but she says, "I blew him off until he made the offer too attractive. I get to make wine and he just takes care of the rest. I don't think of him as my partner as much as my benefactor. It's a winemaker's dream job."
It's not that Henry feels like he's got the short end of the business stick. "Lane's style of winemaking was exactly what I wanted, and furthermore, I wanted to learn the craft from her," he says. They work together from the vineyards through crush until the wines go into barrel. Then Tanner hits the road, doing the marketing push. He adds, "I love making wine, as well as hitting the streets to sell a product that I have made with my own hands, and that I truly believe in."
Henry provides important context to explain the Lumen project. "If you walk down the aisles in your local supermarket, many of the brands that you see (and probably recognize) are touted as being small, family-owned projects when in fact they are nothing but. So much of the wine consumed today is made by mega-wineries that produce vast quantities of wine on an industrial scale. They employ winemaking 'tricks,' using additives in their wines, and produce so much quantity that quality is sacrificed. Wines like these lack character. What I love about working with Lane is that she refuses to make wine in any other way than the way she has always made it. She picks early, ensuring vibrant and lively fruit character, as well as lower alcohol. She is totally hands-on through every step of the process. Her wines have always had amazing balance, acidity, and the ability to pair with food and age gracefully."