Oenologist/general partner, Eberle Winery

Without Gary Eberle, the two generally accepted truths of modern American viticulture might never have taken root: The Paso Robles is an ideal place for growing wine, while the Syrah is an ideal place for growing wine all over the country.

Eberle, the only child of a single mother in western Pennsylvania, went to Penn State with a football scholarship. After his B.S. he moved to Louisiana to continue his studies in zoology and genetics, but the beautiful wine stole his heart. In 1971 he went west to study at the University of California in Davis, where he worked and studied with professors to see if Paso Robles could be the next Napa.

I’ve just fallen in love with Paso Robles, Eberle said. The people are good and the weather is so nice for the Bordeaux and Ron grape varieties. They’re doing very well here.

Eberle was co-founder of the Estrella River factory in 1973. He soon won prizes from Los Angeles to London for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. He also planted Sira, and his 1978 vintage was the first American bottling to contain 100% Sira.

The Estrella clone of syrah, presumably brought by Chaputhier through a vineyard on the Davis campus, has become popular throughout the United States, from Washington to Virginia.

Probably 60 percent of all Syrah grown in the United States is this damn clone, Eberle said. He is a large producer and has no problem with the production of grapes.

Because of the initial success, Eberle’s partners at Estrella River wanted to continue to grow, but he advised against it. He officially withdrew from the partnership in 1981 to found Eberle Winery and eventually planted three more vineyards and a growing production of about 30,000 crates a year, while taking care of the new generations of winemakers and steadily growing Paso’s reputation.

Eberle says he developed his Paso-Robles strategy for Napa after the example of his former mentor Robert Mondavi.

Chris Eberle and Gary Eberle at the cave tasting / Photo courtesy of Weingut Eberle Chris Eberle and Gary Eberle at the cave tasting / Photo courtesy of Weingut Eberle

I tried to advertise Paso as much as I tried to advertise my own vineyard because it was one of those chicken or egg things, he says. They both had to come up at the same time. I knew I wouldn’t be a success if Paso wasn’t a success.

It worked.

We went to the East Coast and talked to Paso Robles who asked us if we were from Texas or Baja California, he said. Today Paso is well known in the most important wine consuming countries. We are a very serious part of the wine industry.

Over half a century ago, Eberle still worked every day, but it’s more of a cruise ship lifestyle than when he started.

I never inherited a penny or anything else I made, he says. But I’ve never had any other purpose. Right now I’m sitting in front of my wine cellar. I’m here every day, seven days a week. I’ve got people in all the key positions to keep this basement running on its own. I can just sit here and talk to the consumers.

For helping Cyrus and Paso Robles become great players in the American wine world, and for advising the next generation of stewards for both Gary Eberle – Legend of American Wine. -Mother Kettmann

Discover the other winners of the Wine Star 2020 contest!

Published on the 11th. November 2020

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