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Thursday, 30 December 2021 15:30

Postcard: Calling Home - Angela Osborne from California

Written by  Angela Osborne
Angela Osborne and A Tribute to Grace Angela Osborne and A Tribute to Grace

Kia ora, beautiful homeland.

I am writing from the very tail end of vintage here in California, where I arrived following a Grenache dream 15 years ago. In a normal year we would be flying home soon, and dreams of a Kiwi summer would boost our harvest-ending-fatigue. But instead, we are stockpiling firewood for the winter, and jandals seem a far-off reality.

I'm sure that for most wine lovers in the homeland, wine offers one of the only ways to travel in this new world we find ourselves in. For us homesick Kiwis living abroad, we are reaching for a taste of home like never before. My favourite perfume-maker calls his alchemy "armchair travel", and I dare say winemaking is much the same. Now more than ever before.

For me, I fell in love with Grenache many moons ago, on what was meant to be a single harvest gig in the United States before coming home to make documentaries. That was vintage 2002, and thanks to my harvest boss (and fellow Kiwi) Nick Goldschmidt taking me to see "how the other 1 percent make wine" at his friend Mick Unti's winery, I tried my first ever single-varietal Grenache. I was smitten with a variety I knew little about.

As luck would have it, the Kiwi spirit works well in this land. Before I knew it, fate aligned some chance meetings and the writing of 'grace' on an Encinitas beach, a wine-bar gig that manifested enough tips to purchase two tons of Grenache, and a harvest job on the Central Coast (where by night I could make Grace in the corner of a friend's winery), and so A Tribute to Grace was born.

Grace Brookes was my nana, and an incredibly dear part of my life, and she taught me the meaning of her name. To me, Grenache offers this incredible expression of yin and yang, though erring ever so slightly on the feminine - which was much like my nana and my mum too. That is how I define grace.

Our labels are designed by one of my besties, the gorgeously talented Nicole Sykes. We grew up together on Auckland's North Shore, and her labels have been my touchstone since day one. Her grace is echoed throughout our aesthetic, and she's also managed to hone in on the chakra-balancing colour palette more than anyone I know. Forever grateful am I.

We'll make just over 3,500 cases this year, from Grenache plantings all over the state. Our current span is a little over 900 miles (the road trips are epic) - from eastern Los Angeles up to the Sierra Foothills just south of Lake Tahoe, including some really old fruit (planted 1910), and really elevated - at 1,000 metres - with nine vineyards in total.

Our business is a family one - my husband Jason and me, and out three wee Kiwi-born, Los Alamos-raised sons. All the vineyards are leased, or tonnage contracted, and each single vineyard expression bears the intention behind the name. There are 13 Graces at present: a Rosé, a Grenache Blanc, a sparkling Grenache (for my mum, called Gracias Madre) and 10 reds. This keeps the study as dynamic as it is inspiring, whilst covering the entire chakra-balancing colour spectrum.

And it also supports our family. That said, I always thought we would have New Zealand roots put down by now - sharing the winemaking dreams with some Hawke's Bay Chenin, maybe some Gamay, our boys learning surf lifesaving at Waimarama - but the global pandemic has shelved lots of dreams. Instead, we have a Kombivan-shaped tent, and our three-year-old often "drives to New Zealand". We look at tui out the window, head for hot chips at Bethells, and the homesickness takes just a wee break from the constant yearn.

We read the news of New Zealand from afar, I speak to my mum as often as I can, and to friends as often as they can. Our lockdown last year was just shy of six months in total, and the difficulties were many, as were the lessons in humanity.

We lost 90 percent of our business overnight (we were 90 percent wholesale): our tasting room was closed for nearly seven months, and we somehow home-schooled a two, four and six-year-old on a dusty cattle ranch, with only bobcats and red-tailed hawks for classmates. That said, it was our best year as a family: we learned flexibility, we played cards again, Jason taught the boys woodworking, we surfed all summer, and with so much taken away, we somehow grew.

So - to our beautiful homeland - please hold in there. You are the golden child on the global stage, and as frustrating as the unknowing is, from our perspective, you are still the luckiest. And until the wings return, I suggest wine. Much aroha from across the Pacific.

Angela, Jason, Bodhi, Marlin and Otis Osborne xoxo

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