In Paso Robles west of Coastal Route 101, Oso Libre Winery raises cattle alongside their Rhone and Bordeaux varietals. “Free Bear” in Spanish, Oso Libre grows Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel on its Adelaida region vineyards. They source a small amount of fruit from vineyard neighbors for their GSM blends. But grapes are not the only crop raised on the massive ranch only a few miles from the Pacific.
Family-run Oso Libre calls itself a winery and traditional San Luis Obispo cattle ranch, pasture-raising estate beef for a ‘whole farm’, sustainable family business. Family for Oso Libre is founding vintner/ranchers Chris and Linda Behr, who bought the initial 90 acres in 1996. Son Jeff Freeland and his family joined them in 2006 and the family released their initial vintage in 2009 after years of planting, study and winemaking experience.
Now expanded to over 350 acres, Oso Libre has plenty of available pasture allowing the ranch to harvest between 8 and 12 steers per year and offer an Angus beef club in addition to their popular wine clubs which are presently waiting list only.
Oso Libre beef is raised with exacting standards: no Hormones, no Feedlot, no Corn and no Stress. Their steers are grass fed in open pastures and vineyards enjoying free-range grasses, legumes and water from flowing creeks. Beef from the ranch exceeds USDA standards and can be purchased in the tasting room as well as ordered in a variety of packs for home delivery.
Many weekends, Oso Libre also grills up Angus burgers from their own steers for visiting wine tasters. The burgers are perfectly paired with Oso Libre’s variety of wines. With close proximity to the sea, fog keeps this cool and grapes have time to hang and ripen for maximum fruit concentration.
Oso Libre’s exceptionally fruit-forward Vino d’Oro Chardonnay benefits from this cool climate Adelaida region for a Burgundian style balance between stone fruit, vanilla and oak. Perfect food wine for California seafood. The winery’s powerful and aptly named “Carnal” is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah, each year a bit different, and essentially non-vintage is the wine I would grab to go with a juice Angus burger on the terrace overlooking the Oso Libre vineyards.
The winery also makes a Mourvedre, several Cabernet Sauvignons and a Bordeaux blend called Reserva. The Cabernet I like for its balance, elegance and name is the Quixotic Cab, named after Don Quixote and his quest for perfection. A wine embodying cherry, plum and vanilla with a complex finish of licorice and chocolate.
Plan to visit Oso Libre on a burger day and explore their “whole” approach to farming, maybe taking home both their award-winning wines and outstanding Angus beef. Not many wineries can offer that.