At the start of the drive through California, Katherine and I were lucky enough to share an evening with Angela and Jason Osborne, and enjoy with them the first full vertical tasting of their wine, A Tribute to Grace, that they’ve ever hosted.
Our meeting Angela and Jason arose from a lucky suggestion made by Steve Morgan of Tribeca Grill. He’d been kind enough to host me at Tribeca Grill for several hours. We toured the wine cellars, and then talked through his work with the restaurant, ultimately getting around to our mutual love for comics, and his history in wine (write up to follow). At the end of the afternoon he pointed to a bottle in the upstairs wine cabinet and said, remember this one–I think you’d like her, and her wine. It turned out Angela had visited Tribeca Grill a few months before, and they carry her 2009 Santa Barbara Highlands vintage. That evening I set out to find contact info for Angela, and we were able to arrange a meeting on Katherine’s and my first evening in the larger Santa Barbara area.
A Tribute to Grace Grenache: Santa Barbara Highlands 2007-2010; Vogelzang 2009
click on comic to enlarge
I count myself blessed to have tasted through each of the current incarnations of A Tribute to Grace. Together they present a beautiful familial resemblance sharing delicate balance and body, plus a fascinating combination of fruits with spice, floral and earth elements. These are wines that embody their attribute of Grace.
The complete tasting consisted of four vintages from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, along with one Grenache made from the Vogelzang Vineyard.
2007 Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grace Grenache
The 2007 vintage began with a 4-day fermentation, made from 50% whole cluster and 50% de-stemmed grapes. The two were fermented separately but then blended completely in the end.
The use of sulfur was very low, as is consistent across each bottling of Grace Grenache. In the 2007 vintage 5 barrels were used, 2 of which were new. The vintages are each generally larger than the previous, with an average of two new barrels integrated to each. All of the vintages were bottled at 17 months on the 3rd day of the 3rd month (also Angela’s birthday), except for 2010, which was bottled on the 4th day of the 4th month.
The 2007 Grace offers a beautiful nose that shows as fresh and also spicy, with red fruit and berry and a fascinating dance of ripe apricot. Mixed pepper touches the wine without too much heat. The palate follows. This is a nicely balanced structure, that wants to present as well integrated alongside the flavor profile. The wine’s character is compelling, giving a tart and juicy, lively sensation in the mouth, all with a softened yet vibrant presentation of surprising fruits. This is a wine that is excited about itself, without being pushy in its desire to share what it has to offer.
2008 Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grace Grenache
Picked on Halloween and a full moon, the 2008 vintage was foot tred in costumes, complete with Marie Antoinette helping by lifting up her skirts in the bins. The grapes were 50% whole cluster, 50% de-stemmed and foot pressed after being rained on by a surprise seasonal storm. The rain water was pressed into the juice.
2008 opens as a dainty vintage with a lighter and higher note profile than the previous year. Still, even with the delicate presentation there is a core of strength in the structure of this wine. It drinks as a wine that is clear, centered, and certain of itself without the need to try for more or other than it is.
Again, the unique fruit profile shows here offered through red fruit and berry, ripe apricot, and notes of cooked down rhubarb. The fruit here is more cooked than fruit, without sliding into jam. But along with the concentrated fruit elements there is a freshness and delicacy of rain water that really does dance in this glass. Of the vintages the 2008 most readily celebrates its name.
(If any of you doubt me on the rain water suggestion–my great grandparents used only rain water for drinking and cooking when I was growing up so I was raised familiar with the rounder mouth feel and fresher flavor profile of rain water, versus the steely, dirt qualities of tap water.)
2009 Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grace Grenache
Earthiest of the collection, the 2009 vintage immediately offers cooked caramel and light leather notes on the nose, and opens to show more smoke. The red fruit and berry carries forward here and offer too perfumed aspects as well as it opens.
This vintage is the most brooding of the group, drinking with a greater richness and also a bit of a frustrated note, the tannins show here as both stronger, but also tighter in the mouth. The 2009 vintage stands between the delicate earlier vintages and the dirtier style of a Chateauneuf du Pape.
It was made with a 4 day cold soak, then moved outside to soak in the sun.
2010 Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Grace Grenache
First of the vintages to be co-fermented, the 2010 Grace Grenache was made by alternating whole clusters with de-stemmed grapes in the bins then foot stomping them together. The bottling seems to have gone through some carbonic in bottle as it gives a light fizz in the mouth after opening.
2010 presents as more concentrated than would be expected with its age. There is a rich, sassy presentation with distinctly perfumed notes alongside spice, ticked red fruit and berry, red fruit leather, and light caramel.
2009 Vogelzang Vineyard Grace Grenache
In the Happy Canyon area of Santa Barbara county is the Vogelzang Vineyard. The lowland area is vastly different from the rugged, moonscape of the Santa Barbara Highlands vineyard. In 2009 Angela Osborne was offered a small Grenache contract with Vogelzang, and chose to do a site specific bottling from there. Ultimately, Angela felt she had to choose to continue with only one vineyard for time management reasons and selected to stick with the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard she’d developed such a strong relationship with.
Osborne’s view of the Vogelzang varietal is that it offers a prettier, lighter version of the Grenache than the Santa Barbara Highlands bottling. As she describes it, Vogelzang is more of a girl next door, sweet girl sort of vintage compared to the greater range that shows in her sister bottles from the other vineyard. After spending the evening tasting through the vintages, and living with my nose in each glass for an extended time, I told Osborne that I could see how she came to that conclusion but I disagreed.
Years ago I had a friend that was quite frustrated in love. He wanted to get married but kept finding women that were a little too wild, without a consistent enough temperament. Often they’d seem nice up front, so he’d get more involved with them, but in the long run major issues would start to unfold unexpectedly. There had been several women that would have happily married him but in each case he’d ended up feeling he couldn’t trust the woman in the way he would need to love them long term. I told him it was clear what he needed to find a lifetime of love. There was only one sort of woman that would hold his fancy long term. She had to be dirty in bed, and sweet every where else.
The best version of a woman to take home to your mother is the one that gets along well with her potential in-laws, sets you at ease in shared company, but holds your attention just for her all night long. I described this to Angela and said that’s what she’s got in the Vogelzang–a pretty, graceful Grenache that shows first as sweet but pours you a glass full of phermones. This is a delicate and also sexy wine.
The 2009 Vogelzang offers red fruit and berry, with delicate rhubarb, spice, very light leather, and a feral earth muskiness. This wine comes to the dance in the prettiest dress, and bells on one ankle. The structure here is well-balanced, and pleasing with just enough tannin and grip to the mouth.
Thank you so much to Angela and Jason Osborne for hosting us, and sharing your story, and your beautiful wines. They’re honestly some of the favorite wines of any I’ve tasted. Sweet pets to Archer dog.
Thank you to Steve Morgan for pointing me in Angela’s direction.
To read Angela and Jason’s Life in Wine story click here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/07/03/a-life-in-wine-angela-and-jason-osborne-and-a-tribute-to-grace-and-faith/
To read more of Angela as a Wine Maker Superhero click here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/06/30/wine-maker-superhero-angela-osborne-as-viii-strength-tarots-major-arcana-woman-in-tune/
To see pictures of our visit with Angela and Jason click here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/06/21/driving-california-wine-pictures-day-1-visit-with-angela-and-jason-osborne-a-tribute-to-grace/
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