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Meaty wine country cuts come from DD Cattle Co. 

In wine-centric Paso Robles, merlot sorbet is an old hat, every gas station's got at least five world class bottles of cab on offer, and you can easily find artisanal brownies made with specific bottles of locally famous zinfandel (if you're into that sort of thing).

Some two decades after the first rebellious winemakers staked their claim in that dusty, dynamic soil, Paso Robles hasn't just "arrived." It's exploded.

click to enlarge WHERE'S THE BEEF? DD Cattle Co. will bring the beef to wine country this Saturday, July 21, at Calwise Distillery in Paso Robles. From 4 to 9 p.m., sample specialty beef brats made with local wines and sip Calwise cocktails. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBY MCCLAIN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Shelby Mcclain
  • WHERE'S THE BEEF? DD Cattle Co. will bring the beef to wine country this Saturday, July 21, at Calwise Distillery in Paso Robles. From 4 to 9 p.m., sample specialty beef brats made with local wines and sip Calwise cocktails.

Kinda makes a cow poke wonder: Has the wild, wild West of wine country finally been tamed?

If you ask DD Cattle Company founder Doug Burkett, the answer is a firm but polite: "No, ma'am."

In fact, this marketing guru/wine industry-pro-turned-rancher might argue that he's only grazed (see what I did there) the surface of what's possible in Paso Robles wine country.

When he looks out over his 74-head herd of cattle, he doesn't just see premium, pasture-raised burgers, steaks, and prime rib. He sees spiced beef sausage made with a hefty glug of Paso Robles wine.

He likes to call this concept: "wine in hand, wine in beef."

Burkett's family history in cattle started with a Southern California ranch in La Crescenta. His great-grandfather purchased the 115-acre plot of land in 1934, and his grandpa continued the ranching tradition.

"Now, I'm coming back to my roots and working with cattle, too," Burkett said. This might sound like a normal progression in a long line of ranchers, but this could not be farther from the truth.

"I was in the wine industry for a long time, and my business partner and I started Rebel Coast Winery, an eclectic winery basically based on giving the middle finger to the industry," Burkett said.

Touted as "pairing well with ignoring your parents' advice," the brash San Mateo-based winery made a name for itself with bare, label-less bottles (you might recall the "Reckless Love" red, donning nothing but stenciled words and a graphic mustache).

But this wasn't a happy ending for Burkett, who—just last year—parted ways with the company and returned to his family's second, 50-acre ranch near Paso Robles.

It was one of those "assess your life" situations.

Before Burkett had the chance to run completely through the money he'd made in Bitcoin, a strange idea struck.

Why not get into the family biz like his ancestors before? Why couldn't a tech/wine guy learn the ropes?

Of course, he'd have to do it his own way.

"The idea was to create a fun brand to shake up the market in a historic, traditionally run industry," Burkett said. "I said, you know what? 'Enough twiddling my thumbs and sulking—let's do this. Hell yeah.'"

That idea—to create custom beef boxes for local wineries and beef brats made with local wine—might be a winning Paso Robles pairing.

click to enlarge THE BEEF CLUB Daniel Willem and his young son take part in ranching activities in Paso Robles, where DD Cattle Company is melding the worlds of beef and wine in new, super savory ways. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBY MCCLAIN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Shelby Mcclain
  • THE BEEF CLUB Daniel Willem and his young son take part in ranching activities in Paso Robles, where DD Cattle Company is melding the worlds of beef and wine in new, super savory ways.

It's a big risk, but Burkett is far from a shrinking violet.

"It made sense. I knew a lot of these wineries would love to have some sort of beef club to give a little bit more than just the wine. This is a new experience entirely," he said. "Being able to use their actual wine in our beef adds a sexy appeal to the wine club. Not only do you get to pair your wine with the meat, but the wine is actually in it."

This meaty wine country offering officially launches Saturday, July 21, at Calwise Distillery in Paso Robles with wine, beef, and cocktails. Burkett said he called about 35 wineries before eventually landing a partnership with iconic Paso Robles winery Rotta.

Burkett's business partner, local cattleman Daniel Willem, tends to the cows and ensures that the program is running smoothly and humanely. The blended herd includes black angus, red angus, and charolais, among a few other breeds. The animals graze grassy fields, where they can forage freely before being finished on a high protein grain.

"It gives the meat great marbling and flavor," Burkett said, adding that he's teamed up with J&R Meats in Paso Robles to bring his cuts to the people. From tri-tips to ball steaks, roasts, and ribs, no part of the cow is wasted.

"I give J&R Meats the local wine that works best with the beef, and they'll put it directly into the brats," Burkett said. "Each cow has its own spice that we come up with and its own wine that goes into that particular offering."

click to enlarge HOW THE WINE WEST WAS WON DD Cattle Co. Founder Doug Burkett is mixing the appeal of Paso Robles wine with local, pasture-raised beef. Not only is his specialty sausage made with local wine, but you'll soon be able to grab a wine-specific beef box at a wine pickup party near you. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBY MCCLAIN
  • Photo Courtesy Of Shelby Mcclain
  • HOW THE WINE WEST WAS WON DD Cattle Co. Founder Doug Burkett is mixing the appeal of Paso Robles wine with local, pasture-raised beef. Not only is his specialty sausage made with local wine, but you'll soon be able to grab a wine-specific beef box at a wine pickup party near you.

Rotta's spicy zinfandel goes well with ginger root powder, Alaskan sea salt, orange, nutmeg, and bay leaf, so that's exactly the spice used within that particular beef brat. Plan on attending the opening party coming up July 21, and you'll even be privy to a gin-beef pairing. Try the brat infused with juniper berry, sage, lavender, oregano, lemon peel, and elderberry with a sip of Calwise gin.

Years ago, no one could have predicted that this kind of thing would be quite expected in Paso Robles. Burkett himself never thought he'd be back on the ranch, staring into the long-lashed eye of his own cow—let alone a whole herd.

But, here we are, and the grill is hot and ready.

"We've had calves born on the ranch and even a mountain lion scare; we've had brandings out here, where everyone's roping and riding," Burkett said of his new life. "The stories are coming now, and it's all coming together. After this launch, we'll be going full throttle." Δ

Hayley Thomas Cain is a proud omnivore. She can be reached at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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