We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Visit to Pozzi Ranch and Grilled Pozzi Lamb Steaks

My Traveling Tales by Linda

"I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade."  ~ Wendell Berry

Joe Pozzi, owner of Pozzi Ranch.
    On the second day of our Team Build this past October, the day after my Team Leader group had visited Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, we took a trip into the hills of MALT protected land and visited Pozzi Ranch. In spite of a very busy schedule, Joe Pozzi graciously invited all of us to his ranch for a tour of the land, operations and a grilled lamb lunch. We were interested in learning all about how he raises his sheep and cattle, because we sell his local lamb in Whole Foods Market at our store in San Rafael. I love lamb, and Pozzi lamb is the best I have ever tasted, so I was very curious to see the reasons why Pozzi lamb is so superior in my view.

   Pozzi Ranch is located on the coastal California hills that overlook the town of Bodega in Sonoma County, California. For over 40 years, Joe Pozzi has raised natural, grass-fed lambs and cattle on the pastures of Pozzi Ranch and other grassland throughout Sonoma and Marin County. The land is protected by Joe and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. For more information on MALT (an organization that I have great respect for) click here.
   Joe is one of eight children that were raised on this land, and he has continued on with the family business of ranching. His own daughter, Alex, was born here, and grew up working along side her Dad. She plans to return after college to help run the family business.

   Soon after arriving at the house. Joe invited us to all pile into his truck, and drive to a location at the top of his ranch that provides amazing vistas out toward the coast. I rode in the cab with Joe and we talked while we drove up the hill. He expressed to me how important is was to him that we see for ourselves that the land is the foundation of his business. All of the families that we visited on our three day tour of local farms and ranches related to us their deep reverence of the land, and love of the animals that they raise. We were to discover that one really can taste the terroir in the food they make or raise. Terroir is the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place produce. This place interacts with the plant or animal's genetics and is expressed in agricultural products, such as wine, cheese and meat.

   On the top of the breezy hill, in the chill of the morning air, we could smell the salty sea air and how it mixed with the smell of the dry grass, trees, manure and animals. It took me back to my days growing up on a small farm in the Central Coast where we raised goats for milk, and both cattle and lambs for our food.

   After our trip up the hill, we drove back down to a herd of sheep, so Joe could show us how he works with his old pal Sam. Sam is an aging Border Collie who is one of the loves of Joe's life. Joe never said that to me in just those words, but it was evident in the bond between man and dog. In spite of his age, Sam spryly herded the sheep out of the holding pen that they were in, and guided them into the barn where Joe was going to demonstrate for us how to shear a sheep. The wool harvested from Joe's sheep is also an important product that is produced at Pozzi Ranch.

After Sam herds the sheep out of a holding pen, they wait for Sam to guide them into the barn.
No stragglers allowed.
Sam looks to Joe for further instructions.
A job well done.
   Then Joe, a practiced sheep-shearer, showed us how it is done. He demonstrated to us how he balances the sheep against his legs making the animal feel safe and secure while the fleece is quickly sheared off. The wool is sold and is also used to make several value-added products on the ranch including a beautiful felt and reusable dryer balls that naturally remove static from clothing. The whole process of wool shearing took less then five minutes.

Joe steadies the sheep against his legs and then quickly begins the shearing process.

Shorn and back to the rest of the herd in a flash.
Joe talks with us about the wool from his sheep.
   After the tour and the shearing we had worked up an appetite. It was time to turn the sheep back into the pasture, and help Joe get lunch ready. Grilled lamb leg steaks were the star of the menu for most of us, except for Shereen who is a vegan, but we had brought along salad and sides that she could enjoy. She did, however, really like petting the sheep and feeling the wool.
   Joe maintains a herd for breeding stock. The lambs that go to market for meat production from this herd are all less than eight months old, which is not the case for much of so called "lamb" that one finds that is raised in larger operations. Because the lamb is young and has been exclusively fed on its mother's milk and the rich grass of Pozzi Ranch, it has none of the gamey flavor that is commonly associated with meat coming from older lambs.

Shereen loves the feel of the freshly cut wool.
Maggie and Sam prepare to let the sheep back into the pasture.
Sheep and I share a moment of contemplating one another.
Our Team from the left: Bryan, Andrew, Thomas, Andrea, Meghan, Shereen, me, Clarke, Ruth, Elaine, Creg, Noe and Maggie. (Photo by Joe Pozzi)
      I spend very little time in my life envying others. I have so much to be grateful for, and I love my life in my downtown Petaluma neighborhood. However, I must admit to feeling a bit envious that day as we departed Pozzi Ranch. A simple life lived on beautiful ranch land while tending ones animals is a life that really appeals to me. Joe shared with me in our conversation in the truck ride up the hill, that ranching is a hard life, and it is not for everyone. I know this to be true from the five years that our family spent on our farm in Lompoc. But I can't help but remember wistfully, that there is something honest and true and incredibly soul-satisfying about raising your own food and living out on a piece of land. I remember well the days of fresh vegetables from our garden, fruit from our own trees, boysenberries from our bushes, eggs from our chickens, milk from our goats, and our lambs and cattle that provided us with meat.
   I think we all came away with a tremendous respect for the integrity, hard work and care with which Joe Pozzi and his family tend this ranch and treat the animals that they raise. It is of no small satisfaction to me to know that there are still sturdy souls who work in harmony with the land and who tend their animals with great care, in ways that are ancient and sacred. Moreover, it is a great comfort to know that this land and its inhabitants will continue on this way for the generations who follow, thanks to the protection provided by Joe and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

The best of friends... Sam and Joe.
Grilled Lamb Steaks from Pozzi Ranch

   I supposed that Joe would have some secret marinade for the lamb steak to help flavor and tenderize them, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Because the lamb is young from Pozzi Ranch, and the meat is flavored by the local pastures, it needs none of those preliminaries to be delicious and tender.

 Once we walked the steaks and sausage down from the house to the grill, all Joe did was rub the meat lightly with olive oil and then sprinkled the lamb liberally with a seasoning salt that had a little citrus peel, garlic and black pepper added.

   At that point, he simply put the steaks on a hot grill. When they were grilled to a nice medium rare, Joe put them on a platter. We then pulled out the salads and sides we brought with us and shared an amazing lunch together outside on some picnic tables near the barn. I have never had better lamb in my life.

The finished steaks are allowed to rest for a moment.
Chow time! I have never had better lamb in my life.


  1. Very nice article!! One correction though. I counted on my fingers, just to be sure, but Joe is one of 9 Pozzi children from Regina and Ed. Thank you for the great article!!!

    1. Thanks for setting the record straight. Upon reflection, Joe told me that he had eight brothers and sisters, and I forgot to count him in my calculations—math never being my best subject. :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...