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Paso Wine’s Cattlemen

July 26, 2017

There wouldn’t be a better time than during the California Mid State Fair to honor the winemakers and growers that not only raise grapes, but also livestock. From cattle to sheep to pigs, our cattlemen keep themselves busy between wine and ranch life.

Laird Foshay, Rangeland Wines, Jim Saunders, Hearst Ranch Wine, and Chris Behr, Oso Libre Winery share what it’s like to throw their (cowboy) hats in both the wine and cattle arenas.

Laird Foshay, Rangeland Wines

owner

What livestock do you have on the ranch? Grass-fed beef and lamb

Do you offer any ranch-raised protein for sale? Where? We sell direct to club members (beef in 25 lb. boxes and lamb in 20 lb. boxes )

How do the livestock and wine grapes coexist? Is there any mutual benefit or are they completely separate? We use sheep to control winter vegetation in the dormant vineyard. Less herbicide, more poo! Good for soil

What wine pairs best with your ranch-raised protein (list several if numerous animals)? We like our Watershed (Bordeaux blend) with grass-fed lamb, the herbal hints of Cab Franc and seem to harmonize nicely with our mild lamb. But have you ever had a nice Cabernet (like ours) with grass-fed hamburger (like ours)? A down to earth “estate” meal to be remembered.

Does the livestock like wine grapes as much as we like finished wine? Do they ever get a taste of grapes or a biproduct of grapes? If so, does it affect the flavor of the protein? We feed some grape stems and pomace (pressed out grape skins) to sheep and cattle. They like it but you have to watch that you don’t overfeed, so you don’t get any drunken livestock.

What’s your secret ingredient or trick when grilling your selected protein? Don’t overcook our grass-fed meat. Off the grill at 130 degrees!

Jim Saunders, Hearst Ranch Wine

OWNER

What livestock do you have on the ranch? Angus cattle and Quarter horses.

Do you offer any ranch-raised protein for sale? Where? Yes, a variety of cuts of grass fed beef in both of our tasting room locations.

What is more challenging: growing wine grapes or raising livestock? Why? Both are challenging in their own ways. Both are somewhat dependent on weather and require a certain amount of luck, science and good farming practices. With cattle you are forced to predict grass for grazing and number of head so lands aren’t over grazed. Grapes are challenging for reasons such as predicting crop yields and quality which relate to anticipated sales projections.

 Does the livestock like wine grapes as much as we like finished wine? Do they ever get a taste of grapes or a biproduct of grapes? If so, does it affect the flavor of the protein? When we process our grape must it usually goes to use in compost. However, we have found that the cows find it a great treat to eat in conjunction with the grazing grasses. It does not affect the finished protein.

What’s your secret ingredient or trick when grilling your selected protein? Heat, timing and temperature. You need a very hot fire and hot grill. Sear each side for 2-3 minutes, remove from grill at 120 degrees and let rest for five minutes while steaks continue to cook from the residual heat. This will result in a beautiful medium-rare steak

For visitors to Paso Robles, where are your favorite places to get a true taste of Paso Robles? McPhee’s does an incredible job with oak grilled steaks, the Range in Santa Margarita is always fantastic with great variety and the Loading Chute in Creston.

Chris Behr, Oso Libre Winery

OWNER

What livestock do you have on the ranch? We have 45 head of Black Angus, 2 Texas Long Horns, 70 Sheep, 8 Alpacas and a few dozen chickens (for the eggs).  We don’t slaughter the sheep or the alpacas.  They are shorn each spring, and we donate the wool to various charities.  They all graze our vineyards as part of our SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification.

Do you offer any ranch-raised protein for sale? Where? Yes, we have an Estate Angus Beef Club that is a part of our Wine Club.  There is a fairly long waiting list, but about 100 of our club members will receive a 16-pound pack of various cuts including premium steaks, roasts, ground, and sausage.  We have a freezer in the tasting room where club members can buy single cuts and we also have about 12 BBQ Burger Days here at the tasting room each year.  Chef Jeff Scott prepares fantastic burgers on our oak pit BBQ and serves them on our patio.

How do the livestock and wine grapes coexist? Is there any mutual benefit or are they completely separate? After harvest every year, the sheep, alpacas, and angus are all let into the vineyard to graze through the rainy season and just until bud-break.  Angus are a slightly smaller breed, so they can negotiate the vine rows in much of the vineyard. Again, as part of our sustainability model, they help us reduce the use of herbicides and mowing (fuel, emissions).  Along with the cattle, the sheep and alpacas help to condition our soils by adding fertilizer and reducing erosion.  We are able to buy less and grow less feed in return.  It’s an Old World symbiotic practice that works well for smaller vineyards.

What wine pairs best with your ranch-raised protein (list several if numerous animals)? Our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon pairs especially well with our Angus.  Given that the steer actually graze in the vineyard, there is a special connection and terroir. It is a very unique experience to enjoy a steak and a glass of wine that were both grown on the same small ranch in Paso Robles.  Our Estate Mourvédre is also quite remarkable with the beef.  Different cuts, allow for different pairings, so the fattier ones go well with Cab and the leaner seem to pair better with the Mourvédre.

Does the livestock like wine grapes as much as we like finished wine? Do they ever get a taste of grapes or a biproduct of grapes? If so, does it affect the flavor of the protein? The livestock go crazy for the leaves and whatever fruit is left on the vine after harvest.  The leaves are turning for the fall once they are in, but they literally run to the vines and begin stripping them.  We can only imagine that the grape leaves impart a certain quality to the beef.  These are totally free range, grass fed animals that never eat corn.  So, the meat is very distinctive since the animals are eating everything that grows on the hills here in the Adelaida area.  It’s not just grass that they eat, but all sorts of native plants and legumes. Their diet is also fortified with the spent beer mash from local breweries.  They get downright aggressive when we feed that to them.  It’s barley and hops that are still very sweet and concentrated with a little alcohol!  Like Kobe, it makes for a fatty more tender steak.

What’s your secret ingredient or trick when grilling your selected proteinWell, first of all, don’t BBQ everything. There is a best cooking method for each cut as they are all unique.  Some are best suited to cast iron skillets (new york, filet mignon), some should be slow cooked in a Dutch Oven (roasts), while others should be smoked (brisket, tri-tip).  Really, only the fattier cuts (rib-eye, ground) should be grilled as others can become dried out and overcooked.  Our beef is prepared by J&R Meats in Paso.  Jim Saunders and his team are expert butchers who prepare the beef to our detailed specifications.  It’s dry aged for 4 weeks and sausage is made from the bits that don’t “make the cut”.  The resulting beef is beyond USDA Prime in quality and so it should be prepared in much the same way that we make wine.  Let the fruit, or the meat, in this case, be the primary star.  Less is more.