Before grape growing developed or became popular in Paso Robles, cattle ranching was one of the big draws in the area. The budding wine industry did not emerge in Paso till the 1960s and 70s. Today Oso Libre winery has merged these two agribusinesses. Through their Vines, Wine and Angus program they grow grapes, make wine and raise Black Angus.
Oso Libre began when Linda and Chris Behr purchased 90 acres of land in what is now the Adelaida AVA. They named the Ranch Oso Libre, which is Spanish for free bear and represents both Linda’s maiden name of Freeland and Chris’ surname. It also represents the spirit of the ranch, as it is sustainable and free of hormones in the case of their beef and pesticides in the vineyards. Oso Libre is SIP Certified.
The 20-acre vineyard is located on sloping hills of calcareous limestone soils and was planted in 2000 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Primitivo, Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. The location allows for sunshine most of the day and ocean breezes due to its proximity within 10 miles of the ocean. In addition, the terroir and climate provides for development of thick-skinned grapes with small berries.
Sustainable practices include sheep, the Black Angus and free-range chickens, who are all working together to graze the land and vineyards. As a result of the utilization of wind turbines and solar panels the winery has a zero carbon footprint. The vineyards are dry farmed.
The winery opened in 2009. Today it produces 4500 cases of wine a year of which 90% is sold to the wine club.
Jeff Freeland presented the Oso Libre wines at an LA Wine Writers luncheon at Café Del Rey prepared by Chef David Vilchez.
We started our tasting with the 2012 Vino d’Oro Chardonnay. This Chardonnay gets its name Vino d’Oro from its golden color. The grapes come from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida region. The wine is aged for 8 months in 50% stainless steel and 50% French oak split 50/50 between new and neutral oak. One finds buttery characteristics that emphasize the apple and pear flavors.
The red wines are aged 2-3 years. In the case of Cabernet Sauvignon the wine is aged 28 -36 months while the Zinfandel is aged 28 months.
We started are venture into the reds with the 2012 Nativo, Primitivo with aromas of pine, cedar and strawberry. The flavors are predominately cherry and a light texture. Nativo is aged in Hungarian oak with 20% being neutral and 80% neutral. Nativo means native in Spanish and it signifies Oso Libre’s heritage and estate wine.
Next came the 2012 Carnal, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah. For Oso Libre Carnal means blood brother and represents the unity between the three varietals. The wine is spicy with floral aromas especially violets. This bright wine has flavors of cherry accented by cinnamon and nutmeg.
Finally we finished our luncheon with the 2011 Querida. Querida means darling in Portuguese and sweetheart or lover in Spanish, therefore naming the most popular varietal Querida is ideal since it will definitely is a wine that everyone will love. This is a lighter Bordeaux style wine combining Cabernet Sauvignon with a small percentage of Merlot. With its soft tannins one finds flavors of cranberry, currant, Leather, licorice and vanilla.
On a separate occasion I sampled the 2012 Osezno Zinfandel. Osezno means bear cub. A cub is young and lively, which sets the stage for this wine as it is spirited and lively. This wine is medium bodied, smooth with flavors of bramble, dark cherry and black berry. There were hints of black pepper and allspice finish. As the wine sits aromas of violets and licorice became very apparent. The wine is aged 20 months in Hungarian Oak.
As mentioned earlier Oso Libre raises Black Angus. Consequently, one must visit the winery for a tasting event to enjoy a meal of the Black Angus beef.
Accordingly Oso Libre is primarily known for their red wines yet what is reflected in all their wines is the spirit of the Oso Libre Ranch and the Paso Robles region. Oso Libre definitely represents the spirited free bear, which is apparent in the Osezno, bear cub. Furthermore one will also discover all Oso Libre wines are Querida, because wine enthusiasts can be assured they will love the quality found in each bottle.