The legacy of Eberle Winery stands tall among the fields of vines that extend over 40,000 nestled acres of our rolling California landscape. Eberle, facing travelers on CA 46 East is a landmark for us returning from any trip to the Central Valley that we have made it home. Behind the great gate, Gary Eberle has worked tirelessly to achieve massive goals for his namesake winery as well as the overall Paso Robles AVA. For the 6’3”, 235-pound man who played defense for Joe Paterno at Penn State, life was always about taking massive action and being a part of a great team.
Now, 40 years later which included a load of accolades and a victory over a hostile corporate takeover, Gary and his winery shall receive another award on March 2 — the esteemed Robert Mondavi Hospitality Award. Along with his high esteem for his coach at Penn State, Gary also names Mondavi as one of his coaches. With the history that Eberle Winery has written, one can say “coaches … job well done.”
Wine and vines are inseparable from the Eberle legacy, but it is Gary’s attention to a critical detail that made Eberle stand out as a brand — he learned to be in the hospitality business as much as in the wine business.
Gary will turn 75 this year, and with all the rain we have already gotten, the vines should be full for a great harvest in the fall and make this 40th-year special. But Gary didn’t start at the top, and that has given him an appreciation for hard work and the success his team enjoys.
Gary started in a steel town outside of Pittsburgh. No dad to speak of. A tough life with a tougher mom. Gary recalls washing down the walls from the soot that used to plague the Pittsburgh skies. Going outside to get the paper from the lawn and coming back with dirty feet. It’s all he knew. And all of the friends he knew were going to work in the steel mill.
In high school, a lifeline was lowered to Gary in the form of an “All American” accolade for his work as defensive tackle on the football team and he grabbed ahold of that lifeline and what now sits on top of a small hill on the north side of CA 46 East is a monument to what happens when massive opportunity is met with massive action.
Degrees at Penn State and LSU, awards as a National Science Fellow, and a Doctorship in Enology at UC Davis were collected as Gary began building one of the first wineries in 1973 post-prohibition Paso Robles. His Estrella River Winery was the first in San Luis Obispo County to distribute nationwide, and the first in Paso Robles to carry the Paso Robles AVA on the label — because he helped create the AVA, the first winemaker to produce a 100% Syrah in the United States. In the 90s, Wine Spectator decreed Eberle as the “Johnny Appleseed of Syrah,” and at one point nearly all of the Syrah grown in the United States was from his original cuttings.
Gary recalls Paterno pounding on the team to “be better,” and that seems to still drive him as he works to produce a record number of bottles at Eberle Winery while maintaining his exclusive estate, wine tasting at no charge, and carries the weight of being one of the finest winemakers in the United States for 40 years and counting.
When you visit Eberle, coming off the busy and fast-moving CA 46 and pass through the large gate onto the one-lane drive up the hill, a serenity sets in that has been crafted, built, protected, and defended. When you hit the front doors to the tasting room, you are greeted by a statue of a wild boar spitting a steady and purposeful fountain of water that seems to say, “Welcome. Enjoy yourself, and be yourself.”
The boar comes from the German translation of “eber” and the name Eberle is known as brave, hardy, or strong, according to surnamedb.com. Makes sense. Keep up the good work Gary.