After trying Oso Libre 2012 Carnal, a Rhone style red blend, I was over eager to see what Oso Libre could do with a single varietal. Lucky for me the boys over at Oso, Chris and Jeff, sent me their 2012 Zinfandel as well. And I’ll just say straight away here that this second offering from Oso Libre didn’t disappoint — not only did it further my fascination with Zinfandel, but it fueled the fire I call my Passion for Paso.

 I’ve said before that I do have a hard time with Zinfandels and I think it’s because I’m an average consumer and mainly purchase the wines available to me at local shops. And being a California girl, it seems that every big name in wine makes their version of a Zinfandel. Now, I don’t know if it’s because large producers pay less attention to their regional wines, or maybe they feel that they have to have a Zin in their library and just kind of auto-pilot the winemaking process. Whatever it is, I find that many of the Zinfandels available to me fall flat and flabby — but you can find a few of my grocery store recommended Zins here.

Now I’m only re-iterating this so you understand how picky I am about Zinfandels — so you can trust me when I say I’ve found a good one. No…not just a good one. Oso Libre Osezno is so rich, so flavorsome, so beautifully balanced, I almost wish I never had it, so I could experience it for the first time again.

About the Wine: Oso Libre is a sustainable vineyard, winemaking, and ranching facility located in the heart of Paso Robles. They are Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified*, which means they treat their produce, livestock and employees with a high standard of care.

Oso Libre Osezno Zinfandel is made from 100% Zinfandel grapes hand picked from the La Vista Vineyard in Adelaida. The grapes were destemmed, crushed, then cold soaked for two days followed by open top fermentation. The wine was barrel aged for 20 months in 30% new Hungarian oak and 70% neutral French oak.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: “If you tasted this wine blind, would you think it was a New World wine?” That was the question posed to me when tasting this wine. So I closed my eyes smelled the wine, sipped the wine, engaged with the wine. And the answer: No.

Oso Libre Osezno Zinfandel is a beautiful burgundy in the glass, emitting initial aromas that just burst of bright bush berries — strawberries, logan berries, boysenberries — along with a distinct savory herbal note of dark, leafy greens.

To taste is to be transported to that secret garden. Those bright bush berries, although they take center stage on the nose, take a step back on the palate. Yes, they are there, you will taste them, but you will taste them perfectly alongside those leafy greens, alongside a moist soil minerality, alongside a finale of toasted oak and garden-grown spices (nutmeg, a bit of clove?). This journey of the garden — from fruit, to leaf, from soil to stem — it’s unlike anything I’ve tasted in a single varietal offering.

The acidity and tannins are a perfect medium in this wine. There’s enough acidity, that you never forget that this is a fruit’s juice you’re drinking, but never so much that you question the ripeness of said fruit. There’s enough tannins to give the wine full, round body, but never so much that you feel imposed or impeded upon by that tacky texture on the tongue. Nay, the acidity and tannins are both reserved, only participating if and when needed, never more and never less. And I believe that this balance in taste and texture is what gives this wine an “old world” quality: a red wine that is earthy  and refreshing.

Food Pairing: Oh that refreshing earthiness! I want to re-live it again and again. So my answer to the perfect food pairing is two-fold.

I enjoyed this wine with a cioppino filled with fresh shellfish, cod, a tomato-based broth, and lots of herbs and veggies. Yes, this wine went well — with the broth, the herbs and the veggies. Was it the perfect pairing? I’m not so sure…

It felt weird to be celebrating the sea while the wine was so clearly celebrating the earth. The next time I enjoy this wine (and there will be a next time), I want to turn to the farm, the garden, those elements that are natural but truly take flight when man takes a hand. I’d say the perfect pairing would be seared rack of lamb (left a little on the rare side), accompanied by roasted root vegetables like beetroot and parsnip, garnished with fresh chopped herbs and even a sprinkle of goat or sheep’s milk cheese. I want to bring some of those earthy elements to the plate so I can accentuate that in the palate of the wine.

Furthermore, I think the refreshing aspect of the wine will due well to cut through the fattiness of the lamb and the heartiness of the vegetables (and the stank of the cheese if so used). Not to say the cioppino wasn’t enjoyable with this wine, but I’m always out for perfection when it comes to my wine and my food.

More Info: I am so in love with Oso Libre wines — and I’ve only tried two of their offerings. I won’t even tell you that one wine was better than the other because I just can’t. Each stand out uniquely on its own offering its own developed flavor profile, telling its own Paso story, and exemplifying the Holy Trinity of wine — the art, the science, the soul.

Unfortunately Oso Libre is not available in stores at the moment (at least not in my neighborhood), so for more information about Oso Libre and to purchase their wines directly (or join the Bear Club!) please visit the Oso Libre website. If you’re local to Paso, I encourage you to stop by — these guys have fun food and wine events all the time. And it’s not just a winery, it’s a whole ranch-life experience when you visit.

Usually at this point I like to call out what I’d like to try next, but looking at their library, the truth is, I want to try everything — and I certainly want to re-live both Carnal and Osenza because I truly believe I’ll appreciate them even more the second time around. I guess you know what that means folks? I’ve gotta hitch a ride to Paso!

Many thanks, Chris and Jeff, and Cheers!

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*To find out how to become a SIP Certified winery or to find available SIP Certified wines for purchase, please visit

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