Oso Libre: Finding The Spirit Of Wine In Paso Robles

Oso LIbre Wines

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. The name also signifies the ranch’s spirit as sustainable and free of hormones in the case of their beef and pesticides in the vineyards. Oso Libre is SIP Certified.

Oso LIbre GM Jeff Freeland
Oso Libre GM Jeff Freeland. Photo Courtesy of SoCal Restaurant Show.

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 because of its proximity, 10 miles of the ocean. In addition, the terroir and climate provide for the 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 directly at the winery 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.

Oso Libre Wine

We started our tasting with the 2012 Vino d’Oro Chardonnay. This Chardonnay gets its name from its golden color. The grapes come from the Abernathy Vineyard in the Adelaida region. The wine ages for eight 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.

Typically, the red wines age for 2-3 years. In the case of Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine ages 28 -36 months, while the Zinfandel ages 28 months.

Oso Libre Querida and Carnal
Oso Libre Querida and Carnal

We started our venture into the reds with the 2012 Nativo Primitivo with aromas of pine, cedar, and strawberry. The flavors are predominately cherry, offering a light texture. Nativo ages in Hungarian oak, with 20% being neutral and 80% neutral. Nativo means native in Spanish, which 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 exhibits 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 is a wine that everyone will love. I found 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.

Oso Libre Osezno, a Zinfandel Wine
Oso Libre Osezno, a Zinfandel Wine

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. I found a medium-bodied, smooth wine with flavors of bramble, dark cherry, and blackberry. There were hints of black pepper and allspice on the finish. As the wine sits, aromas of violets and licorice become very apparent—the wine ages 20 months in Hungarian Oak.

Oso Libre Black Angus

As mentioned earlier, Oso Libre raises Black Angus. Consequently, one must visit the winery for a tasting event to enjoy a meal of Black Angus beef.

Accordingly, Oso Libre is primarily known for its red wines, yet what is reflected in all the wines is the spirit of the Oso Libre Ranch and the Paso Robles region. Oso Libre 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.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine from Oso Libre Winery. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.