PASO ROBLES, Calif. - Wine tasting is a thriving California past time, and each of the state's wineries try to offer their own special varieties.
Jeff Freeland, manager of Oso Libre winery, said, "We grow here on the estate, Cabernet, Primitivo, which is type of Zinfandel and Mourvdre."
Of the 300 or so wineries in the Paso Robles area, Oso Libre is unique, it's also a family farm, ranch, wildlife habitat, fully sustainable-- and with solar and wind power-- off the grid.
Chris Behr is the founder and owner of Oso Libre, which translates into Free Bear-- a play on his last name. His original desire was to settle here on open land, far from the hustle of LA.
"After getting here and seeing the wine business was starting to take off we planted our fruit first, and sold it to various, good, good, wineries in town. After finding out that farming was really hard we decided if we skipped the middleman and made the wine ourselves and learned how to do it we'd be better off."
And Oso Libre offers more than wine.
"We ventured into the wine business and the cattle business at the same time so our tag line is vines, wines, and Angus," said Behr.
The beef cattle raised on the winery are antibiotic and hormone free and protected by two Texas Longhorns.
There's also a herd of sheep which tend the vineyards after harvest.
"We grow sheep to mow and fertilize our vineyard. The mowing prevents me from getting on a tractor six or seven times a year," said Behr.
When the sheep are sheared their wool is given to local weavers. It's all part of what sets this winery apart. It's a certified SIP, or Sustainability In Practice, operation. The animals control weeds, reducing the need for herbicides. To control rodents, instead of using poison, barn owls are brought in and given homes.
Much of the property remains in a natural state, wildlife is common.
"We have 77 solar panels on the roof along with our wind machine, and as a result, we are grid free on our winery so we don't have any carbon footprint. The extra electricity we generate is for our home."
But, what brings people here is the wine-- it's the only place you can get it.
"We are very small, we only produce 4,000 to 5,000 cases and we don't distribute our wine-- so if you want Oso Libre you come here, or join the wine club, which is really our primary form," said Freeland.
Behr believes Oso Libre has carved its own niche among the wineries in the Paso Robles region
"When you see the land it makes a difference, and hopefully when you taste the wine, it makes a difference too."
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