Central California’s First Woman of Wine: Lane Tanner

Today, we highlight another founding woman in wine (read about Italy last week: here).

Once upon a time, California was fun.  Before Napa got too glitzy, land got outrageously expenses, and celebrities and investors bought wineries, there was the Central Coast: an experimental backroad full of talent looking to untapped grape varieties like Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Noir.

In 1981 (a year of many great starts), Lane Tanner became the first female winemaker in Central California.  Mythic Andre Tchelistcheff recommended she make wine for Firestone and 1981 was her first vintage.  Zaca Mesa and the Hitching Post followed. By 1989, she started her synonymous Lane Tanner winery.  Her website’s homepage speaks volumes of a forgotten time:


Yes! “Fulfill Your Fantasies”, indeed! There lounges Lane in a grape bin, likely freezing in that dry ice blanket, armed with an open bottle.  This was a time when wine and sexual innuendo walked hand in hand. When five fonts, flashing gif colors, and one photo, made a website looked enticing.

Dig deeper to find a pinky, purple website (because wine is purple, right?), replete with a naked lady Bacchus statue (that looks eerily like Lane herself):


Lane left her winery around 2012 for “Lumen“. As the pompous Latin origin of the name insinuates, times have changed. Just look:


Gone is the irreverence. In its place a Galileo quote, a stoic vineyard shot, and cold, IKEA-like minimalism. This is our stainless kitchen. This is our Toyato Prius. This keeps suited investors and new money, aspirational tech heads happy.

Silly, aphrodisiac-obsessed wineries still survive on the fringes: in the Finger Lakes, Southern Oregon, Idaho, Texas, et cetera… where people drink wine to get drunk and repeal their sexual inhibitions with coy labels.

Well, an account “gifted” me one of Lane’s old wines: Lane Tanner’s 2002 Lano Rouge red blend, San Luis Obispo County, CA:


Lane blended some Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara’s Bien Nacido Vineyards with Syrah and Valdiguié (aka Gros Auxerrois, aka “Napa Gamay”) from French Camp Vineyards in San Luis Obispo. Yes, Pinot, Syrah, and Valdiguié: grapes.  No one with marketing sense or wine-snob seriousness would blend these today. In fact, her Lumen winery only sells single grape variety wines.

But today, I have the last vintage of her Lano Rouge.  She states, “as with all of my wines, you can drink this one easily with or without food.” My hopes are low. Fourteen years can be hard on easy-drinking reds.

Let us time-travel anyways.

The core’s APPEARANCE looks a medium intense ruby with a large, clear, brick-tinged meniscus. AROMAS smell medium intense of, well, prune, leather, stale black pepper, and dried orange peel. The PALATE feels dry, medium acidity verging on volatile acidity, medium sandy but soft tannins, and a medium body. FLAVORS taste leathery, earthy, stale, but some pruned plum and raisin persists.  Acceptable (2 of 5).

The thing is falling apart. Maybe we should have followed Lane’s advice, “serve it chilled, it’s wonderful right from the cooler”.  Yet, that soft, easy, deceptively alcoholic red is still there.

One could claim today’s mono-variety, dry, structured, more costly, serious reds represent progress.  Then again, the French still adore silly, fruity wines, blended from who knows what, that you chill.  Wine is a tool kit.  Sometimes a brush works better than a hammer.

We hope to try Lane Tanner’s fresher Lumen venture some day.  For now, the only thing her 2002 back label says is, “take time for your fantasies”. Sadly, time and wine have moved on.



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1 Response to Central California’s First Woman of Wine: Lane Tanner

  1. sand110 says:

    “sometimes a brush works better than a hammer.” Nice!

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