This Just In: Spring Lamb

Our favorite sheep herder, Don Watson, stopped by yesterday with our first spring lamb. Born just after Thanksgiving, these lamb have been raised primarily on milk and more recently, have been grazing on mustard and clover. Don’s flock has a wide grazing range in and around Los Carneros overlooking San Pablo Bay, including many vineyards. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with the sheep gaining additional space to roam and forage while the vineyards are cleared of brush and fertilized.

The first time Don’s flock crossed into a vineyard it was an accident. He located the vineyard’s kitchen, and offered to bring the cooks some lamb by way of apology. On his way out he ran directly into the vineyard owner (Robert Mondavi) who asked him & his sheep to come back. That was twenty years ago and the deal was agreed on with a handshake. These days, using sheep to clear brush is the preferred, environmentally-sound method for many vineyards and provides necessary extra income for ranchers such as Don.

Chef Canales is planning to have lamb all over the menu starting tomorrow and through the weekend. The legs will be used for a navarin with spring vegetable, and the tougher bits will be cooked down in a ragù. Shoulders will go into sausage with mint, lemon zest, and chestnut honey. Chops will be deep-fried, and loins will be used for a crudo. Oh man!

510-547-5356 or reserve online

February 25th, 2010|Napa Valley Lamb, This Just In|0 Comments

Chef Canales Gives a Tour of the Meat Locker

We installed a large meat locker a few years back that finally provided the space for some more ambitious projects such as receiving whole sides of beef, as well as hanging and aging meat.

In preparation for next week’s visit from Aldo Vacca and Chef Marco Forneris, Chef Canales has been aging some young adult beef vitellone, from our Potter Valley rancher, Mac Magruder.  The special menu will feature the rib eyes and loins, and the chuck eye rolls will make a fine Brasato al Barbaresco.

From the Field – Spring Lamb

Just this morning Don Watson showed up with four first-of-season spring lamb, about 90 days old. We’re hanging them for a few days to help tenderize the meat and plan to have them on the menu starting Saturday night (remote possibility not until Sunday). They’ll be on the menu through Tuesday or Wednesday.

And good news for chanterelle fans. Last time we sent out a notice about Malcolm’s chanterelles we sold out early. Malcolm stopped by last night with 20 pounds of absolute beauties and they will be on the menu in a conserva tonight and tomorrow.

March 19th, 2009|Napa Valley Lamb, Ranchers, This Just In|0 Comments

Napa Valley Lamb – Profile

Established 1987

Owner

Don Watson

Raising lamb, although a passion was not profitable on its own. In 2003 Don was suffering financially and realized he could make a profit marketing his sheep as brursh-clearers, which ultimately saved the business.

Principles

Don feels a connection to the land. He believes he is performing a valuable service in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Practices

Don is assisted by Peruvian sheepherders. Sheep are moved from lowland pastures in the spring to mountain pastures in the summer. This allows the lambs to grow up on an open range at their mother’s side. Lambs are raised solely on the natural forage of the open range and mother’s milk.

Although there are many goat herders, Don thinks in certain environments, such as open grassland, sheep do a better job of clearing grass and brush than goats.

He also believes that sheep herds could greatly help mitigate the fire danger of the California summers.

Future plans

Continued expansion

Length of relationship with Oliveto

Early 1990s

Location

Approximately 3,000 sheep graze between 5,000 – 10,000 acres a year across Napa, Sonoma, Marin, and Solano counties.

Main products

Lambs for consumption, and clearing land for wine vineyards

Distribution

Bay Area and Los Angeles restaurants

Limited retail markets

February 8th, 2009|Napa Valley Lamb, Ranchers|0 Comments