On a weekend in Charlottesville, VA with scores of domestic and international wine pouring sponsors, ballroom wine fests, fleets of buses covering area wineries, half a dozen restaurant wine lists, and countless treasured bottles transported by wine bloggers from their personal cellars, I had the prettiest and most compelling wine poured for me by Hardy Wallace on a cheap countertop of a 4’X4′ kitchenette in a modest Omni Hotel guest room. It was great to meet Hardy after years of following his creative blogging genius and subsequent entrance into winemaking culture. Sharing a glass of (***** $49) 2008 A Tribute To Grace Grenache added to this very righteous moment.
I thought Hardy was pouring me his first Dirty and Rowdy Wine but it turned out to be the work of a New Zealand winemaker, Angela Osborne, who apparently found more hospitable Grenache terroir in California’s Sierra Madre mountains than her cooler homeland vineyards could offer. She leases and works three rows at Laetitia Vineyards to produce the most stunning and beautiful Grenache I have ever experienced from California.
The color of this Santa Barbara Highlands 2008 A Tribute To Grace immediately hints at …well…grace as soon as it hits the glass. I have never really seen a California Grenache so light and delicate in color. No sexism implied, but the wine is stylistically feminine and sensual, smacking of Pinot Noir texture, color, and brightness. But it’s Grenache. The nose is captivating and exotic with fresh berry sweetness filling out its aromatic brightness. The wine lands on the palate in silky fashion. It is a captivating and sexy wine, totally serious despite its tendency towards thinness, and totally mind blowing for its individuality amongst a sea of bolder and more extracted heavy and tannic California Grenache.
The wine is made with half whole cluster fermentation and the other half pressed by foot. I don’t know Angela but can speculate that a combination her very personal vision and careful nurturing is mostly responsible for this magically individual result with California Grenache. Regrettably, the production is tiny at under 200 cases so it will be a serious search and destroy mission if you want some. It’s certainly worth it and is a very, very special wine that is unlike any other in its class.