Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Eberle – Another Excellent Paso Robles Winery
Preisers’ Reserve: Granted that it is hard to find in California, but when you discover a bold, spicy Carignane, you feel as if you have a real scoop. So we share with you the 2003 Milano Carignane ($18), a wine with subtle spices and strength that can easily cause us to over indulge on pasta, pizza. burgers, and chops, just so we have the opportunity to sip more of this varietal with a difference. If you have not tried Carignane, it is time. And at this price, how can anyone pass up a taste of the Milano?
One of the initial wineries we visited in California some 13 years ago was Eberle Winery in Paso Robles. Not yet a major player in the mid 90’s, Gary Eberle, a former Penn State defensive lineman who also earned a degree in biology, a Masters in Zoology, and a Masters in Genetics, was in the process of developing his winery and winemaking techniques in the image of the best models available.
Now fast forward to 2007 and our first trip to Eberle since 1994. After about a 3 hour visit, we are happy to say “Bravo,” as this truly has emerged as a class operation.
We really weren’t surprised. Though we had not stopped at Eberle for a while, we do make it to the Paso Robles area almost every year. This prime winemaking region is now far removed from the underappreciated, average wine region that existed when we first drove through central California in 1994. In fact, at present it may be the hottest wine region (figuratively, if not quite literally) in the state. Not only are the wineries in Paso Robles garnering high accolades and medals, but producers from all parts of California, including Napa and Sonoma, search out Paso fruit for many of their wines. It wasn’t so very long ago that many of our friends in Napa would chide us for our public enjoyment of Paso wines. That doesn’t occur any longer.
At Eberle, the energy and drive emanate directly from Gary, who after obtaining all the degrees we already mentioned, found himself at UC Davis where he entered the Doctorate program in Enology. While it remains for him to complete his dissertation, the point is that this professional student (as he likes to call himself) has all the tools necessary to be a hands-on vintner.
Eberle’s property sits about 3.5 miles east of the town of Paso and the imagined and overblown-in-importance east/west dividing line that is US Rt. 101. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a complimentary wine tasting, browse the gift shop, and take a tour of the facility and the 16,000 sq. feet of caves. They may also opt for what is one of the best programs in the area – the VIP tour and tasting. By appointment only and for $20, one of the educators will first lead a fascinating two hour tour that covers the history and contributions of the Paso Robles appellation as well as the winery, and conclude with a private tasting and refreshments in the VIP tasting room in the heart of the wine caves.
Quite surprising to us was the sheer number of Eberle varietals that make up their 25,000 yearly case production. Our favorites:
-Viognier ($20): We know we have omitted a vintage, and that is because this is a limited production wine that sells out quickly. We have no idea what Gary may have on hand, but both the 2004 and 2005, which were aged sur lees, were subtly aromatic and boldly tropical.
-2004 Estate Chardonnay ($29): Aged sur lees in French and American barrels, we found a good balance of acidity and smoothness. Picture it with a roast chicken or a lobster.
-N/V Full Boar Red Blend ($14): Comprised mostly of Sangiovese and Barberra, the mini addition of Mediera and Tourega Nacionalle adds just enough backbone to make this a recommended wine. There is a lot going on here between sniff and swallow.
-2004 Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah ($20): Nicely balanced and full of fruit and spice. One wonders how they do it at $20.
-2004 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($30): This vintage showed off black and red berries wading just below a dusty mid-palate of spicy chocolate.
-2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($65): Lest you think of Paso Cabs as still the step children of some of the better recognized regions, this one should change your mind. The nose is black cherry, the structure is cream, the back palate is cherry cordial, and the finish pops you with some dust. Gary Eberle is smart enough to know this quality does not appear each year in Paso, and so his Reserve is only produced when the fruit warrants it – a little less than every other year.
While there is virtually no disagreement that Eberle is one of the pioneers of the Paso area, they are not the only winery of quality by any means. If you visit, we think two to three full days is a must, as we believe you should also pay attention to Brochelle, Hug, Justin, Norman, and Tablas Creek. There are also some other big reputations in the area that we will not refer to by “name,” but (as always – in our judgment) are not at the present producing wines that would merit a special trip.
Before you travel to Paso, give Eberle a call, or visit its Website, as there is often something special going on that might require a reservation. We won’t wait another 13 years to drop by. And enjoy a few days in the entire area for a first class wine experience.
Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.