For Daniel Sinton, Living On The Ranch Can’t Be Beat

Posted Posted in Panorama Stories

Daniel Sinton is the fifth generation of his family to ranch on the same land near Paso Robles, California for the past 140+ years. Avenales Ranch has become one of Panorama’s valued producers, known for their excellent Hereford/Angus beef. But the ranch is also home to an award-winning vineyard and winery. In the 1970s the family added wine grapes to their land, growing petit sirah, cabernet sauvignon, chenin blanc and valdiguié for renowned wineries throughout California. In 2007, they began making their own wine, and their small lot, old vine petit sirah, chenin blanc, and rose of valdigué have been honored at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. (The interview has been edited for length.)

Please tell us how long you’ve been working with Panorama and how it works for your family.

We’ve been working with Panorama for three years now, and there’s a lot to like about it. We’d been in the conventional side of the business for 140 years. When we transitioned over to working with Panorama, a lot of things changed for us. We were already essentially running organically for those 140 years, but this just made it official. The increased pricing that we get for being organic allows us to be financially solvent. 

The people of Panorama have been really tremendous. When you work with them, you get the feeling that you’re working with people who are on your side. In the conventional market, that’s not always the case; it’s almost like you’re battling them. But with Panorama, we work together to bring you the best possible piece of beef. That means that we’re constantly trying to improve things on our ranch because we have such a good connection with the company.

Tell us about you. Other than growing up on the ranch, what’s your background?

I left the ranch to go to college. And then I worked in some software companies up in San Francisco and then for some nonprofits down in San Diego. The whole time I was just trying to make it back to the ranch to raise a family and live on the land again. We’ve been back on the ranch for seven years now. You know, there’s nothing better than living on a ranch. We have two boys and they have a giant ranch to explore for fun, but also for learning. The ranch provides such a great foundation for making grounded people who know how to fend for themselves and live off the land and take care of it. 

It’s unusual for cattle ranchers to also be in the wine business. How did that come about?

In 1972, my grandfather and the rest of the family decided that we needed to diversify to help the ranch keep up with ongoing expenses, so we entered into the grape market. And we’ve been doing that almost 50 years now. For the last 40 years, we’ve been selling the grapes to wineries all across California. More recently, in the last 10 years, we started our own brand, so we’ve been producing small lot wines for the last 10 years.

Where can people find your wine?

It’s mostly online on our website, and then there are some restaurants local to San Francisco and scattered across California, but it’s mostly direct to consumers.

Moving from vineyard to winery is a big shift. How’s it going?

Yeah, that was a big shift. We’re still trying to get our feet under ourselves on that one. As you know, the wine market was completely disrupted this year. The fires were a nasty deal. We were very lucky; we didn’t have anything close to us. We were in one of the very few spots in California where wine grapes were not affected. 

In agriculture, no matter what part of the industry, you’re going to deal with the weather. And that’s not easy. Farming is not for the faint of heart. We’re dealing with it right now because it hasn’t rained. We got a sprinkling here in November, but it’s dry as a bone. And it doesn’t look all that good for the next couple of weeks. And that’s hard. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed, and I guess enjoying the sun until then. 

What do you see going forward for the cattle side of the business?

On the cattle side, the organic market has been steadily increasing at a nice growth rate, and we’re really happy to be a part of it. It’s a huge help for us to maintain the property, and that’s really what the cattle are here for.  At  18,000 acres, we’ve got a lot to manage, and we think having cattle on the land is the best use for that land. Without being an organic program, it’s a real struggle, but the organic program allows us to maintain the property as it should be. We’re really happy to be a part of that. 

Going forward, I’m excited for lots of potential that the market contains. You know, grass-fed beef is new to a lot of people. But the pandemic has really allowed us to show people that grass -fed beef can be tender and delicious, and nutritious. I think we have a real opportunity going forward to continue that growth, and maybe even accelerate it. 

What else do you want people to know about what you’re doing?

The big part of what we’re doing is managing the land and we’re raising a great product at the same time, one that’s feeding people. What’s been passed down from generation to generation is that we’re here to take care of the land. And that’s always the forefront of our minds. That’s why we manage the land the way we do. 

I think it’s important to people that the animals are treated humanely and the land is kept as open space. That’s important for everyone. Everybody is talking about climate change right now, and to me, there’s no better way to offset climate change than by having open rangeland run with cattle. And that’s a big piece of what we’re doing here. For every acre that stays in open rangeland, we’re sequestering carbon every single day, quietly helping the world. 

On the animal welfare side, we’re GAP 4 certified, but that’s really the way we’ve been doing it forever. I’m sitting in my office right now looking out at the ranchland and I can see some steers walking up on the hillside and half of them are sleeping under the trees. They’re wandering around and eating, and really, that’s what they do their entire lives. It’s a pretty darn good life, living on a ranch.

Chile-braised Brisket

Posted Posted in Recipes

This is adapted from a long-ago Epicurious recipe for short ribs. It’s a complex flavor profile—spiciness from chiles, bitterness from coffee, slight sweetness from maple syrup, and acidity from lime juice—but it blends together in a warming and delicious symphony of taste. The slow cooking brings the brisket to the peak of tenderness. You can serve this over a bed of mashed potatoes or polenta, but it’s also good with crispy smashed potatoes on the side. If there are any leftovers, shred them for tacos or add to mac and cheese for a second tasty meal.

Serves 4-6

  • 4-6 dried red chile pods, seeds and stems removed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 6 whole cloves garlic
  • 3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3-4 pound grass-fed brisket flat
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup coffee

Cover the chile pods with boiling water and allow to sit for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain, reserving the soaking water.

Add the chile pods, onion, garlic, chipotles and adobo sauce, maple syrup, lime juice and kosher salt to the jar of a blender. Puree until smooth.

Heat the oven to 275°. 

Pat dry the brisket and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown the brisket in the oil on both sides. Remove to a plate.

Reduce heat and carefully pour the puree into the pot. It will splatter, so use caution. Stir and deglaze the pot, scraping up all the brown bits. Cook until the puree darkens a bit, about five minutes. Stir in 1 ½ cups of the soaking liquid and the coffee and bring to a boil. Return the brisket, along with any juices, to the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer. It should almost cover the brisket. If not, add a little water.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. Check in 15 minutes to make sure the liquid is at a simmer. If not, adjust the temperature up or down by 15 degrees and check again in 15 minutes. The liquid should never boil.

Leave in the oven for 3-4 hours. When the braising is finished, remove the pot from the oven. At this point you can proceed with the recipe or allow the pot to cool uncovered, and then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Remove any fat from the pot and proceed with the recipe.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board and keep warm. Return the pot to the heat. Boil the braising liquid until reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Slice the brisket and serve with the sauce on the side.

Italian-style Short Ribs

Posted Posted in Recipes

Short ribs are the ultimate comfort food. They scent the house as they’re slow cooking all afternoon, and the combination of tender meatiness and gravy over a bed of mashed potatoes or polenta is perfection, especially on a chilly night. They’re delicious on the day of cooking, but they’re also excellent the next day. The key to any braise is to cook low and slow—the braising liquid should never boil. Instead, it should simmer slowly to break down the collagen and fat in the meat and deliver a falling-apart result.

4 servings

  • 4 pounds grass-fed short ribs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2-inch piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind

Heat the oven to 275. 

Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel. Mix together the salt, black pepper, and flour, and then rub all over the ribs.

Heat the oil until shimmering in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the ribs and brown on each side. Remove to a plate and keep warm. 

Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the pot. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Pour the red wine into the pot and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. 

Add the rosemary, thyme, and sage to the pot, then stir in the broth and tomato paste. Add the salt. Return the ribs and their juices to the pot and make sure the braising liquid covers them. If necessary, add a little water. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano rind. Bring to a simmer.

Once the liquid is simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven. After about 15 minutes, check to see if the liquid is still simmering. If not, adjust the temperature by 15 degrees and check again in 15 minutes. The liquid shouldn’t be boiling. Cook for 2 ½-3 hours until the meat is falling from the bone. Remove from the oven.

NOTE: At this point, the ribs can be refrigerated overnight in the braising liquid. When ready to serve, remove any fat that has solidified on the top (with grass-fed there won’t be much) and then gently reheat.

Remove the ribs from the liquid and set aside, keeping warm. Bring the liquid to a boil for several minutes until it has thickened slightly. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Return the ribs to the pot.  

Serve over a bed of polenta or mashed potatoes. Pass grated Parmigiano Reggiano to garnish at the table according to taste.

Holiday Chateaubriand

Posted Posted in Recipes

This is a traditional French dish originally prepared by grilling the tenderloin, which is quite lean, between two fattier pieces of meat that were then discarded. Today, we’ve learned to quickly sear the roast and then finish in a hot oven to rare or medium-rare. It works best in a cast iron skillet, but any oven-proof skillet will do in a pinch. Serve it with Bernaise sauce, or keep it simple with this easy red wine and mushroom sauce. Add a side of Chateau potatoes, new potatoes cut into coins and roasted in butter. It’s a simple, yet elegant meal for any special holiday.

Serves 3-4

  • 2-pound grassfed tenderloin roast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Remove the roast from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pat dry, then sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 450°.

Heat the oil until it shimmers in a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the roast and brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. When the roast is brown, place the skillet in the oven and allow the roast to come to an internal temperature of 135° for medium rare.

Remove the roast to a plate and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Make the sauce. Add the shallot and mushroom to the hot skillet and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits. Simmer the wine until it reduces and becomes slightly syrupy. Whisk in the butter and pour into a gravy boat or serving bowl.

Carve the beef into slices about ¾-inch thick and top with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Filet Tips al Pesto

Posted Posted in Recipes

Filet tips are cut from the ends of the tenderloin, so they offer all the tenderness and flavor of filet mignon but without the hefty price tag. This is a simple and quick preparation that will please both meat lovers and pasta afficionados. If you’ve got a supply of basil in your garden, make your own pesto, but if not, prepared pesto from the grocery store is a fine alternative.

Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound grass-fed filet tips, cut into 3/4 -inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound short pasta, like rotini or farfalle
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan

Pat the filet dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oil to shimmering in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meat in batches and stir to brown on all sides. The meat should be just browned, but still rare inside. Remove each batch to a plate.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, remove any excess oil from the skillet and return the meat. Add the pesto, and over low heat, stir just until the meat is coated. Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water, and add to the skillet. Stir until everything is coated in pesto. Add a little of the pasta water, if needed, to thin the sauce slightly.

Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle the grated cheese over all. Serve immediately.