A brief chat with Marcy Eberle, General Partner at Eberle Winery along with Gary Eberle, will reveal that Eberle’s history is inextricably linked to the history of Paso Robles. After moving to Paso Robles in the late 1970s and helping to start Estrella River Winery—which is now named Meridian Vineyards—Gary helped to get the Paso Robles AVA named in 1980. A few years later he founded Eberle Winery.
Gary is also known for being the first person in the US to make a 100% Syrah, says Marcy, who recalls the time The Wine Spectator called Gary “The Johnny Appleseed of Syrah.” Gary has dedicated himself to the success of the appellation that he helped found, and has seen his own winery benefit from the success of Paso Robles. Eberle Winery now produces around 27,000 cases each year, much of which comes from its own estate vineyards. Paso Robles has over 200 wineries—quite a jump from the handful that were in the area when Eberle Winery was founded.
Gary was the Winemaker at Eberle until 1997 and his winemaking philosophy has been continued by current Winemaker Ben Mayo. Says Marcy, “Our philosophy is that we try to do as little damage as possible to make the grape on the vine taste like the wine in the bottle. Most of our wines are 100% varietal (which is rare).” She continues, “Some people think that’s ‘old school’ but it’s the way Gary was taught to make wine and it has created the flavor profile that people know when it is a bottle of Eberle. She also says, “we won’t put our name on it if it’s not exceptional.”
It is fitting that all the grapes that go into Eberle wines are from the AVA that Gary helped found. Marcy says that it is important to them to be very involved in the farming aspect of winemaking. She says, “All fruit is from Paso Robles and most is either Estate grown or we are partners in the vineyard where the fruit comes from so we have an active role in achieving the quality of grapes that we are known for.” Eberle produces Chardonnay, Viognier, Sangiovese, Barbera, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat Canelli.
The Eberle Winery tasting room is known for its wine caves, which are available to visitors via complimentary tours. Another special feature at the Eberle tasting room is the VIP Tour, which Marcy says “gives you access to one of our employees for approximately 2 hours to have cheese and crackers in the caves and try our wines in a relaxed atmosphere.” She adds that the tour is “a great time to ask questions not just about Eberle wines, but about winemaking in general and the Paso Robles region as a whole.”
When asked what makes Eberle Winery unique, Marcy can easily tick off a list of special qualities, “Gary Eberle helped found the Paso Robles AVA. Gary was the first person in the US to make Syrah. We were just voted ‘Winery of the Year’ by the International Sommelier competition. Gary was just voted #65 as one of the top 100 most influential people in the wine industry in the USA.”
She also explains that visitors to Eberle will have a unique experience, and says of Eberle, “We have 17,000 square feet of underground caves and offer complimentary tours of the caves every half-hour. We are one of the few wineries still offering complimentary wine tasting in Paso. All of our grapes are hand harvested and our wines (not just the special wines) are all aged in oak barrels in the caves (except the Muscat).”
It is this dedication the principles on which it was founded—a belief in Paso Robles as a great grape-growing region and a desire to create wine which reflects its surroundings—that has kept Eberle Winery at the top of the list for many visitors and locals alike in Paso Robles.
Eberle Winery is located at 3810 Highway 46 East in Paso Robles. Tasting room hours are daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. For more information, visit eberlewinery.com or call (805) 238-9607. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
— Kate Joyce