A visit to Paso Robles is never complete without a stop at Eberle Winery. The best part of it is that there's a 99.9% chance you'll get to see Gary sitting outside the tasting room, enjoying a glass of rosé and greeting guests while petting his elegant poodles.
Meeting the Godfather of Paso Robles was a real pleasure. A walk around the gorgeous caves with Marcy and Gary Eberle reveals most of the history of Paso Robles.
Note of the Photographer: Get a bottle of Eberle's 2015 Sangiovese and take it outside. Enjoy it with Gary Eberle and his indelible wine stories surrounded by gorgeous views.
3810 California 46
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Here's Gary Eberle's profile, excerpted from "The Winemakers of Paso Robles" book, written by Paul Hodgins.
Gary Eberle was born and raised in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 12 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. It wasn’t a carefree childhood. “My mom and dad divorced when I was 18 months old. I’m sure I didn’t spend more than 48 hours with him after that, even though he lived only 3 miles away.”
Eberle vividly remembers his circumstances, and the lowered expectations that came with them.
“My house had painted plywood floors. I grew up knowing I would follow in the foot-steps of my dad and every other guy in that town – working in the steel foundry or the coking plant.”
So how did a poor kid from small-town Pennsylvania become one of the pioneers of the modern era of winemaking in Paso Robles? “Football was my way out,” Eberle said. Already burly and athletic in middle school, he had become an excellent football player by his middle teens.
Joe Paterno, the legendary coach at Penn State, saw Eberle play when he was still a junior in high school. He looked at some films and talked to young Eberle, but the coach was non-committal.
In Eberle’s senior year, his football prowess went from good to outstanding. Suddenly, colleges throughout the nation came calling. “I was being flown all over the country – Georgia, Purdue, UCLA.” He ended up turning down a pile of tempting scholarships to go to Penn State and play defensive tackle under Paterno. “It was the best four years of my life,” Eberle said. Paterno instilled a steely work ethic in Eberle, and he constantly pressured the young man to keep up his grades.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, Eberle attended Louisiana State University, where he studied cellular genet-ics. It was there that his aversion to quality alcoholic beverages finally was conquered.
“I was just married, and everybody was drinking a lot of cheap wine – Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. If we were entertaining someone special, maybe we’d have some Mateus or Lancers. In those days, 1970 or so, if you didn’t have a Mateus bottle as a candleholder, you weren’t a cultured person.”
One of Eberle’s professors introduced him to French wine. “At his house I remember drinking a 1966 Château Latour and a Margaux.”
Eberle had an epiphany. “I said, ‘I don’t want to be a geneticist. I want to be in wine.’” Forsaking his studies, he went to UC Davis to talk to Harold Berg, the head of the enology department, who admitted him to the doctoral program. Eberle graduated in 1973 with a doctorate in fermentation science and moved to Paso two years later. As a student he had made several research trips to the area with faculty, and they had convinced him the place had huge potential, especially for his favorite grape, caber-net sauvignon.
Eberle cofounded Estrella River Winery & Vineyards in 1973, and it turned into a major winery. By the late ’70s he was itching to strike out on his own, so he acquired 64 acres close by. His first wine, a 1979 cabernet sauvignon, featured the now-familiar boar logo: It’s a playful reference to the German origin of the name Eberle, which means “small boar.” A bronze boar fountain marks the entrance to Eberle’s tasting room. A popular Paso icon, it is a replica of “Porcellino,” the bronze boar found in Florence, Italy.
From the beginning, Eberle established a reputation for quality and vision, and his long career is a succession of firsts. In 1975 he planted the first substantial syrah vineyard in California. He was one of the founders of the Paso Robles AVA and was the first winemaker ever to have the appellation listed on his 1980 cabernet sauvignon label. In 1994 he expanded underground, building the first wine caves in Paso Robles.
After subsequent management struggles, Eberle is back in charge and confident about the future. Most days you’ll see him in the tasting room or close by. Usually dressed in shorts, he’s a gregarious storyteller who loves to mingle with the crowds that visit his winery on weekends. If you exchange emails with him, you might be treated to his famous sign-off: Love and Kisses. “I can’t imagine not being here,” he said. “We’re making money, but more important than that, the wine is better than ever.”
© All photos on this website are copyrighted material and all rights are reserved.