Eberle's commitment to fine wines doesn't stop at the vineyard
Gary Eberle, the inimitable raconteur and accomplished West Coast winery owner, recently made his annual pilgrimage back East. After stopping in his hometown of Pittsburgh for an Eberle Winery dinner, he headed to other dinners in State College, where he had played football for Penn State in the late 1960s.
“Everything has been going so well that we're actually running out of some wines before the release of the new vintage,” says Eberle. This year marks 33 years since Eberle founded his winery in Paso Robles, one of California's leading Central Coast appellations.
Total production now reaches 25,000 cases, modest by California standards. Eberle favors quality over quantity. And besides, a varied lineup of pursuits on a global scale keeps him busy.
Earlier this year, Eberle met with European distributors in Switzerland, where his viognier sells well. Back in California in September, wine drinkers and bowlers convened in Paso Robles for the Eberle Winery Annual Bocce Tournament. In October in the winery's aging caves, Eberle hosted a Harvest Fest dinner featuring Playboy executive chef William Bloxsom-Carter.
“The Los Angeles Playboy Mansion features our Estate Chardonnay,” Eberle says.
This month, the winemaker and small-plane pilot journeys to New Orleans, the site of his graduate studies, for another winemaker dinner. On Dec. 1, back in the winery's aging caves, rising star chef Chris Kobayashi of Artisan Restaurant in Paso Robles joins forces with Eberle for a black-tie dinner. Then, a week later, Eberle hosts a grilled-cheese sandwich and wine pairing evening. Talk about eclectic.
After more dinners during January and February, Eberle heads back to Europe for a Danube River cruise. His wines will accompany meals aboard the 162-passenger Amabella, a custom-design luxury vessel.
Eberle thrives on the nonstop involvement with customers and partners. Meanwhile, Paso Robles' terrific grape-growing terroir serves as the polestar for Eberle's musings. His delicious wines provide ample evidence to support the enthusiasm.
With the 2010 Eberle Winery Viognier, Mill Road, Paso Robles, Calif. (Luxury 26785; $22.99), Eberle produced about 2,500 cases. Classic honeysuckle and citrus aromas offer a seductive perfume. Ripe citrus, peach and honey flavors layer around fresh acidity.
Eberle achieves the intriguing mix of round fruitiness and freshness by fermenting two-thirds of the fruit wines in neutral French oak barrels and the remainder in stainless steel. Aging the wine sur lees, that is, on the spent yeast cells, adds elegant, subtle creamy notes. Highly recommended. (Note: In Western Pennsylvania, only a handful of bottles remain at the PLCB store at the Bill Green Shopping Center at 10 Clairton Road, Pleasant Hills.)
The elegant and delicious 2010 Eberle Winery, Estate Chardonnay, Paso Robles, Calif. (Luxury 26780; $18.99) offers one of California's best buys. The wine embraces deft balance for great compatibility with food, a goal in all of Eberle's wines.
“I've never been a big fan of the buttered popcorn style of chardonnay,” Eberle says. He avoids the excesses of over-extracted fruit, too much alcohol and heavy oak character from aging the wine in heavily toasted, new American barrels. Instead only 40 percent of this wine is aged in more subtle French oak barrels.
Aromas of citrus and apples and a touch of vanilla greet the nose. Crisp, well balanced citrus and orange flavors with hints of pineapple and honey unfold in the glass. Crisp acidity carries through the refreshing, dry finish. Pair it with pan-seared jumbo sea scallops with a cream sauce. Highly recommended.
The 2010 Eberle Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, Calif. (Special Liquor Order 525672; $20.79 with six-bottle minimum order) offers a fun introduction to Eberle's approach to juicy red wines.
“We call this our Cocktail Cabernet,” says Eberle, who has yet to make a merlot. “Its the red wine that merlot wants to be.”
To create the wine, he ferments free-run juice from grapes grown on young cabernet vines. The resulting wine bursts with black-fruit and cassis aromas and juicy flavors. Fresh acidity and soft tannins carry the finish. Pair it with grilled steaks with mushrooms. Recommended.
Dave DeSimone is the wine writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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