Have you ever daydreamed about building a castle in the sky? Or perhaps … building a winery in California?
How would you start to build your winery? This is a question that Chris Behr and his wife, Linda, asked themselves in the 1990’s.
Which wine varietals would you plant?
How would you cultivate your grapes?
Which processes would you use to craft your wine?
How would you design your label?
Would your winery be environmentally friendly?
How would you staff your winery?
These are but a few of the questions that are a part of building a winery in real life.
Chris and Linda Behr thought long and hard about building a winery and have carefully created Oso Libre in Paso Robles, CA.
A Daydream Becomes Rooted in Paso Robles
After living in the Los Angeles area and raising their family, the Behrs were ready for a change and a new challenge. Chris had been a commercial contractor that others contracted to build their homes and buildings. Now, he was ready to build something for himself and his family.
The Behrs had always enjoyed the time they spent in Paso Robles and well … they liked wine. They came across a lovely bit of land down what is now Vineyard Road. Buying 90 acres was the beginning of creating the environmentally sustainable ranch and winery they had envisioned.
The rolling hills on their new land were terrific for growing two things – Angus cows and wine grapes. So … that is what they began to do. Utilizing his knowledge of building, Chris has terraced their land and planted it.
As a builder by trade, Chris understands the importance of a good solid foundation. They wanted to build their winery and ranch with the same solid foundation. Sustainable practices and being a part of a contributing member in a community of friends matters to them. These are foundational values for all they do – including build a winery.
Being a Good Neighbor Matters = Oso Libre Por Vida
Being a good neighbor and caring about production practices is no accident. It takes planning and effort. Chris and Linda were up to this challenge. They have chosen to create a winery that crafts beautiful wine while embracing nature and pioneering ecological practices along the way.
Their winery has windmills, sheep and alpacas for grazing off the weeds, owl boxes for natural rodent control, part of their hillside grows Angus cows. Being certified “Green” is no easy accomplishment in California. Still, that was a part of how they envisioned their winery from the very beginning.
However, this giving family doesn’t stop with production practices. They have started a charitable foundation named “Oso Libre Por Vida.” The four causes they support are cancer research, the prevention of child abuse, the humane treatment of animals and supporting our military. Learn more about their Oso Libre Por Vida on their webpage outlining their support of these charitable endeavors to help others like a good neighbor does.
What’s in a Name?
Just as choosing a name for a child can be an interesting process, so can selecting a name for a winery!
Being located in Paso Robles, the influence of Spanish is everywhere. In fact, Paso Robles means Oak Pass. To capture a part of the native California culture, finding a Spanish influenced name seemed to be a good start.
Behr in German means bear. In Spanish, bear is ooo. For Chris and Linda, using a bear was a natural choice. With their son, Jeff helping to establish the winery and serving as the ranch and winery’s general manager, it seemed natural to incorporate his name into the winery. His name is Freeland. In Spanish, free is “Libre.” A combination of their name references is how their winery got it’s name – Oso Libre.
Is Learning to Craft Wine Like Building a House?
Interesting thought, right? Is learning to craft wine like building a house? Yes and no.
Creating a beautiful wine or a beautiful house require a good strong start. With a house, you create a blue print and follow your plans to accomplish your goal. Chris and his growing team started with a “blueprint” in mind for their winery and step by step have followed their plans.
The foundation of any great wine is the grapes that it is crafted from, right? Chris leaned agricultural practices by doing. Then, he learned how to improve their horticultural practices and grew lovely grapes with which to create their wines.
In 2007, Jeff Freeland and his wife Elizabeth moved to Paso Robles with their twin daughters to become an integral part of Oso Libre. The four of them have invested themselves in creating this winery dream into a noteworthy business.
In their own words from their website they say -“We opened in October 2009 after spending many years slowly learning how to grow vines and make wines. The key ingredient to our successful Vines, Wines and Angus program is that we enjoy what we do and the lifestyle that comes with it!
We produce award winning, artisanal estate wines in limited quantities. Our sustainably farmed vineyards are deeply rooted in rugged, calcareous (limestone) hills exposed to sunshine and ocean breezes consistently producing rich, complex fruit.”
Listening to Jeff describe how carefully they select the barrel makers they source their aging barrels or how carefully they blend their wines will quickly let you know how involved they all are in crafting their wines. In their tasting room, there is a a “family photo” of their extended family including folks who have worked on the winery and ranch for many years.
Each step of his winery creation process, he has learned what was needed and then diligently applying himself to learn it. From harvesting beautiful wine grapes to crafting Double Gold level wines from them, Chris has learned very well. In fact, Chris may be a better vintner student than a builder!
Nine awards were given to Oso Libre, including Gold for their 2014 Quixotic Cabernet and 2013 Querida Bordeaux Blend, in recent the San Francisco Chronicle’s International Wine Competition.
Yes, while these are a few more accolades to be added to the Oso Libre trophy case, it does make an impression and when this wine is tasted. After all, tasting their wines will create this winery team’s favorite accolade – a smile on your face.
Superlative effort does garner awards. While you will see a ribbon or two on the walls of their tasting room, the Oso Libre team doesn’t really “brag” about these accomplishments. They will speak about them when asked. In our experience, we have asked about them for them to be included as part of a conversation.
When you click on the link below “Awards & Accolades Earned by Oso Libre Since 2009,” you will see long lists of accolades this fabulous team has earned from Wine Enthusiast, the San Francisco Chronicle’s International Wine Competition, the Critic’s Challenge and more well regarded competitions. (Definitely something to take note of!)
But Wait There’s More … A Winning Wine Club, Too!
Oso Libre is known for strong well balanced red wines. Actually, wines that pair beautifully with a quality red meat … such as an Angus steak. No coincidence! Another part of Chris & Linda’s original design has been realized – raising Angus beef on site.
Regularly, the Oso Libre wine club picks up their wine as a part of fun barbecues. Deliciously pairing Oso Libre’s Angus beef with their flavorful red wines in a lovely setting is a regular treat for their wine club members.
Windmill and Wine?
Now, Oso Libre’s windmill turns over grapevines that help Chris has a great sense of humor. After having to fight to install his windmill, he named a wine Quixotic as a nod to Don Quixote. This smooth estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon ages for five years in premium Allier French Oak. One sip will delite your tongue with plum, violet and fresh blackberry notes and then finish with spiced tea and molasses. Intriguing, right?
Carnal is perhaps the most requested by folks returning to their tasting room. It is an memorable eclectic Rhone Blend. Mourvedre, Grenache and Petite Sirah comprise their 2014 vintage. Then aging for four years on French Oak prior to bottling in 2018. The aroma hints at the delite it is to sip!
To virtually taste more of their wines … click this link.
Yes, much like a bear in a bottle! Still the balance and rich tasting notes of this bold wine makes one’s tastebuds notice more flavors as their wines develop on your tongue to reveal even more flavors. Oso Libre’s wines are all in all a lovely experience whether tasted at their winery or at home in your favorite glass.
Interested in Discussing the Possibility of Importing Oso Libre Wines?
Would you like to taste wine that has been designed from inception through your first sip to your lingering smile? Contact CKJY Exports to inquire about importing Chris’s beautiful bear of a wine!
Born a Southern girl, I was transplanted a few times as a Navy wife! Now, our “retired” USN family, calls CA home. As UNC business school grad, I gained lots of useful insights by finding different opportunities and challenges along our military life’s path. Love of traveling, making friends, experiencing other cultures and sharing the best of all that with everyone are now all part of me.