Some Luck, Mostly Knack: Melville Sibling Brings Lucky Dogg to Solvang

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 3/12/15

Brent Melville is well aware that his name brings a fair share of pedigree to his winemaking.  His father, Ron, established Melville Vineyards in 1996, one of the most celebrated properties in the Sta. Rita Hills.  And his brother Chad’s own label, Samsara, generates big industry buzz.

In fact, “everything I learned about growing grapes and making and selling wine, I learned at Melville,” Brent says, referring to the two decades he, himself, spent managing his family’s namesake vineyard.

But Brent Melville is on his own now.  He’s emerging, actually, from a defining year – 2013 – which saw big changes to his life, personally and professionally.  And his new wine label, Lucky Dogg, helps mark what is, in many ways, a fresh start.

The Lucky Dogg tasting room
The name was inspired by one fortuitous day on the golf course.  After a series of great shots, “My buddy turned to me and said, ‘Boy, you’re a lucky dog,” Melville recalls.  Lucky is also the name of his vineyard dog, a three-month Siberian Husky-pit bull mix.

The Lucky Dogg tasting room opened its doors on July 4th of last year.  It enjoys a prominent spot in the heart of tourist-friendly Solvang -- right on the corner of Mission and Atterdag -- so foot traffic has been critical to its growth.  And the vibe is decidedly laid back and hip.  Tasters can bring their dogs, in fact.  It’s also kid-friendly.  And some of Brent’s favorite music, from classic rock to reggae, plays throughout the day.

“I love talking and teaching ‘Wine 101,” Brent tells me as I step up to the bar to taste, pointing to a marketing approach that’s hands-on and user-friendly.

Lucky Dogg’s inaugural release includes five wines, all sourced from Verna’s Vineyard, a 100-acre plot in Los Alamos’ Cat Canyon.  Interestingly, the property, half of which is planted to wine grapes, was actually owned by the Melville family for many years.  An L.A-based investor bought it in 2013 for just under $3 million and brought Brent Melville on board to run it.

The 2013 Viognier ($25) is named for Brent’s 13-year-old daughter, Ryann, and has a tropical slant, with apricot flavors and a clean finish.  The 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir ($22) pays homage to Brent’s 11-year-old daughter, Pressley, and is a refreshing mix of citrus and watermelon flavors, and a top tasting room seller.  Brady, Brent’s 8-year-old son, gets label recognition on the 2013 Syrah ($35), with a layered, almost meaty mouth feel, a dash of white pepper and an acid-driven finish.

The 2013 Pinot Noir ($38), aged in neutral oak, is soft in the mouth with cranberry and pomegranate notes, while the 2013 Reserve Syrah ($42) is textured and lush, with a spice-touched finish.

Production for all wines is right around 100 cases a year.  “I want to keep this small enough so I can control everything,” says this grower-winemaker-business owner.  The portfolio, though, will increase this year, and two brand new wines have already hit the tasting room, including the lip-smacking Honey Badger late harvest viognier.  The Risqué is a lovely, clean stainless steel chardonnay that even comes with tongue-and-cheek opening instructions on the back label; the fifth step reads, “Rinse and repeat.”

A new richer, buttery chardonnay is in the works for later this year, too, and there’s a social media contest afoot to name it.  A tried and true marketing method, actually: Lucky Dogg adopted its horseshoe-inspired logo after an online contest.  The label has a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Brent Melville makes his wines at his own custom crush facility, a growing co-op space in Buellton called Le Crush; he makes house wines for a handful of Southern California restaurants there, as well, and labels like Artiste and Barbieri are produced here, too.

Lucky Dogg tasting room, 1607 Mission Drive, Suite 102, Solvang.  805-331-3698.



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