Wine of the Week: Eberle, 2018 Eberle Estate Vineyard Paso Robles Chardonnay
If you know how to ride a roller coaster, if you can stomach the hairpin curves, chances are you’ll make an excellent winemaker.
“We might have very little rainfall one year, then have all we need the next,” said Chris Eberle, winemaker of Paso Robles’ Eberle Winery. “We might have elongated heat spikes during the ripening season that can last for 10 days bringing fruit in all at once, then suddenly cooling down from the coastal influence slowing harvest to a snail’s pace.”
The nimble thrill-seeker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner - the Eberle, 2018 Eberle Estate Vineyard Paso Robles Chardonnay at $26. This is a smart pick for the budget minded. It’s rich, yet kept in check with bright notes of pineapple, lemon and green apple. While creamy, with a silky texture, what’s most remarkable about this wine is its excellent balance. It’s a steal for this caliber of chardonnay.
“Our goal every vintage is to make a well-balanced chardonnay,” Eberle said. “Meaning balance between the fruit, acid, and use of oak. We describe our chardonnay as having fruit flavors of pineapple, lemon cream with a hint of French oak. It’s not really one style or another - its right in the middle - balanced.”
Eberle said he’s particularly passionate about crafting white wine.
“When it comes to making chardonnay from Paso Robles, it can be challenging because you have to be meticulous about when you pick it, how it is fermented, how it is pressed and then how it is aged,” he said. “I use a mixture of various aging vessels - stainless steel, new and neutral French oak barrels.”
The fruit in this bottling is from the recently replanted Estate Vineyard chardonnay, now in its fifth leaf, Eberle explained.
“Young vines produce vibrant, fruit-forward wines, which need to be balanced with oak and malolactic fermentation,” he said. “The estate is harvested in two separate picks. I start picking at 2 a.m. and stop just as the sun comes up. It takes two days to harvest because I want to make sure the fruit is picked at cooler temperatures.”
Eberle, 37, graduated from Cal Poly in 2005 with a degree in agricultural business with a focus on marketing, as well as a minor in viticulture. Concurrently, he earned a diploma in enology from Washington State University.
“During my time at Cal Poly, I worked at a fine wines gourmet restaurant called Hoppe’s,” Eberle said. “It had an extensive wine list from all over the world. I had the opportunity to try many of these wines and became curious about winemaking. Many local winemakers would come and eat at Hoppe’s and I got the chance to meet and chat with them.”
Eberle, who’s not related to Eberle vintner Gary Eberle, accepted the position at Eberle Winery as assistant winemaker in 2006. But by 2009 his wanderlust enticed him away from the Central Coast to look for opportunities in other winemaking regions. For 15 vintages, Eberle spent time expanding his winemaking knowledge in South Africa, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and France.
Though his longest stint was in Australia, where he met his wife Tessa, Eberle said his time in Germany probably contributed the most to his winemaking career.
“I loved the German culture and people,” he said. “Even better, I had the opportunity to work in the experimental cellar at the Staatsweingut (state-owned winery) in Weinsburg, Baden-Württemberg. Between vineyards and winemaking we managed 200 plus experiments. I learned an incredible amount about winemaking in a short amount of time.”
That knowledge base would come in handy. In 2015 co-owner Gary Eberle, in his search for a new winemaker, contacted Eberle in Australia and offered him the head winemaking job. Eberle and Tessa were back in Paso Robles within three weeks.
“From the vineyards to the caves to (vintners) Gary and Marcy and the crew,” Eberle said, “it was like coming home. I always knew I’d be back.”