At next Friday's After 5 wine tasting, David Hobbs of Prime Wine & Spirits offers up a tasting of current vintages from Eberle Winery of Paso Robles, California. That evening we should be tasting examples of Chardonnay along with their award-winning reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah. Eberle is a hallmark winery of Paso Robles and ranks among the top twenty wineries of California (out of 1,500!) in awards received.
Gary Eberle, the winery's namesake, hales from Pennsylvania where he excelled at both football and academics. At Penn State via an athletic scholarship, he earned an undergraduate degree in Biology before doing graduate work at LSU. There he studied Cellular Genetics and that is where one of his professors changed his career trajectory by taking him down to his wine cellar, which happened to be filled with classified growth Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon became Gary's focus from that point on. With his academic credentials in hand, Gary was accepted into the Oenology program at UC Davis and completed the doctoral program there in 1971.
Early on, Gary Eberle focused on Paso Robles as the terroir he wanted for his wine making. In 1973 he established Estrella River Winery (now Meridian) where he honed his craft while planning his own Eberle vineyards which would be a sixty-four acre tract just down the road from Estrella. In 1979 the first Eberle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon was released and the rest is history. The winery was built in 1984 and in 1994 the only wine caves in Paso Robles were added, eventually a 16,000 square foot accomplishment.
The Eberle wine label is distinguished from others by the prominent placement of a pig front and center. Actually, a boar, since Eberle is a German name meaning "small boar".
A little over a year ago in January of 2014, Gary Eberle was ousted from his leadership position at his namesake winery. Between his brother and himself, they had owned 80% of the company stock. That brother, however, now resides in an Alzheimer's facility and Gary's sister-in-law partnered with two minority investors to own 52% of the company combined. Gary was informed that his now 35% ownership meant he would be a "figurehead" going forward.
Eberle wines have been marketed by the Terlato Group, one of the world's largest wine companies, and the minority owners now in charge believed the winery as it existed was not profitable. The winery is mid-sized compared to others with a 26,000 case production annually. Gary Eberle: "They say they want it to be more profitable. The winery is profitable. The winery was never designed to be much different than it is. I don't see how you can maintain the same quality off site."
The wines we will be tasting here on Friday obviously pre-date the purge. Going forward I'm betting with Terlato know-how we'll be seeing more Eberle wines on chain store shelves and stacked in big box stores and they'll probably be as boring as all of the others.
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