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 rag├╣. 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!

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