I have to say that my meeting with Angela Osborne was one of the more unusual interactions I've had. One day during lunch service at Lucques, this young woman approached me and asked me if she could shake my hand. Hmmm. I don't know if I've ever been asked that particular question before. Can I shake your hand....of course. Most people don't actually ask, so please go ahead.
After getting through that odd moment, Angela got to the gist of her visit. She is a winemaker, originally from New Zealand who came out to California to work with her favorite grape variety, Grenache. Angela said that she had considered the major Grenache producing regions of the world, Spain, Southern France, Australia and California and eventually settled on the latter. She was hired on as assistant winemaker at Lioco under Kevin Kelly and thus began her California career. She wanted me to taste her new release, A Tribute to Grace, from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard of Santa Barbara County.
I was honestly a bit worried about tasting her Grenache, particularly right in front of her because I'm not normally a big fan of the variety, especially from California. I find most Grenache made here to be too concentrated, juicy and rich for my palate. I was also dreading tasting the wine with a winemaker that I didn't really know for fear of not liking the wine. It makes me feel terrible when I'm in that position because I don't like disappointing people and I usually end up doing the polite/impolite thing of lying about my love of the wine then never ordering it.
The moment I saw the wine in the glass though, my interest was piqued. Rather than being a deep dark purple, the wine is the color of translucent ruby red, so faint in fact that it could be mistaken for a light Pinot or dark rosé. On the nose, high-toned cherry notes mix with elements of cinnamon and un-blossomed roses, resulting in an exotic, spice market aroma. On the palate, Grace is bright and fleshy in an elegant, feminine way, blending fresh and cooked red fruit notes, with cinnamon and clove spices and vivid acidity. It has hints of floral perfume and touches of savory herbs with a medium body, velvet-like texture and long finish. Even before I put the glass to my lips, I was reminded of Chateau Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe, another Grenache that goes against type, and that like this wine, drinks more like Pinot Noir than anything else. For me, this is a good thing.
Angela makes a tiny amount of this, less than 200 cases, and numbers each bottle individually. She named it after her grandmother who has been a source of inspiration and strength to her. To say that this wine embodies the idea of grace with its elegance, balance and finesse is an understatement. Angela herself seems to follow in the same mold with her delicate personality, wispy long hair and soft demeanor. I immediately bought a case for myself as well as one for the restaurant, both of which seem to be disappearing quicker than I expected. Everyone who I've introduced the wine to has fallen in love with it and come back for more. This is a wine that I will keep on my list at Lucques for as long as it is available, because I wholeheartedly believe that we all could us a little more grace in our lives.