Updated: Feb 25
When we think of California wine, our minds might first go to full-bodied reds. With Provence wine, we probably think of pale rosé. Today we'll reverse those roles with a pair that may bend some preconceived notions.
Angela Osbourne is a California winemaker on a mission. She makes wine from many different grapes under her Land of Saints label, but Grenache is her singular focus when it comes to her most important project, A Tribute to Grace. A grape that should probably be much more widely planted in California, Grenache in Angela's hands makes clear the variety's diverse strengths, placing her among the elite producers of Grenache, not just in California, but in the world. Her red Grenache wines are incredibly elegant and complex (watch out Pinot!), but she also makes a varietal rosé of Grenache that will compete with the most serious pink wines of Provence. She always gets her grapes for rosé from the same block in the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, and has lately been using two distinct clones of Grenache. In 2019 she processed the two clones separately: direct press on harvest day (September 19) for clone '2', and foot treading with 24 hours of maceration for the 'Noir' clone. She combined the juices in a temperature controlled tank to ferment for 39 days, and thereafter rest on the gross lees until bottling (March 9). The result is one of the most serious pink wines we have ever tasted. We said the same thing about the 2018 last year, but the 2019, a little more structured and dense, is perhaps even better. We could go on about the many fruity, floral and herbal nuances we get from this wine, but we love the poetry and precision of Angela's tasting note: "nectarine stone, sweet peas, and linen-on-the-line". It is absolutely superb today, but this pink wine will surely be more complex and complete next summer, and we would not be surprised to find it in fine form two or three (four, five) summers forward.
2019 A Tribute to Grace Rosé of Grenache - $27
There's no good reason why the finest reds of Provence should not be counted among the best in all of France, and no Provencal wine is finer than the red of Trevallon. Founded in the 1970s, dedicated to making pure and natural products of their land, the Durrbach family has slowly built a tremendous reputation for Trevallon, such that today allocations are strict and old vintages legendary. Unusual for Provence, Trevallon does not make a pink wine, the focus is on red, and a tiny amount of white is made. Agriculture has always been organic, and intervention in the winery has always been minimal. Mirroring the vineyard, the red wine is almost always composed of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Two very characterful grapes, Cab and Syrah tend to cancel each other out in a finished wine, and the blend amounts to a recipe for tedium in so many places, but at Trevallon they are pure magic together. The 2017 vintage was small and the harvest took place quickly at the beginning of September. The blend is 50/50, Cab/Syrah, the grapes were not destemmed, and ambient yeasts fermented the whole bunches. No small barrels were used, and the wine was raised in large casks on the lees, with minimal racking, for 2 years before bottling. The wine, tasted on July 14, is fabulous, and it will be a classic long-lived Trevallon rouge. Typical of Trevallon, complex herbal and earthy notes abound (juniper, olives, thyme, rosemary, tobacco and bright cacao) next to diverse and beautiful ripe fruit. It comes across like a fine Cabernet Sauvignon, with firm acids and tannins, and a gorgeous green streak, but the spicy and meaty aspects of Syrah will emerge with time. It's a blast to drink young, but the 2017 Trevallon will no doubt be fabulous in 20 years. While we love the winery's suggestion to serve it alongside duck with cranberries, it will also go well with a wide variety of red meats, and one might find the perfect vegetarian option in a liberally herbed white bean casserole.
2017 Domaine de Trevallon IGP Alpilles Rouge - $70