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Four from Eberle

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Over the years, we have had very little experience with the Paso Robles producer Eberle Winery, which is perhaps surprising, considering the fact that Gary Eberle was a co-founder of the Paso Robles Appellation in 1980, opened his winery in 1983 and has been an important player in that region ever since. We liked the two Zins that we tasted way back when we covered ZAP ’99 (look at those garish page colors!), but truth be told, their availability in Day-twah has been sporadic, so when we got our hands on four late model bottlings last week, we made a point of trying them over a four-day period, so as to spend some time getting to know each of them individually. The wines are made by Ben Mayo, who took over those duties in 2003, and as it turns out, offer good QPR for their respective prices.

2008 Eberle Paso Robles Viognier Mill Road Vineyards, 14.9% alc., $21: There was a time back in the mid-90s when Viognier seemed like it might become the next big thing in Californian white wines. With its rich character and floral aromatics, the best of them provided a good alternative to Chardonnay, but for whatever reason, the variety never really took off, and remains one of many in the “Other White Wines” category, at least here in our neck of the woods.

This is the first Viognier I’ve tried in quite some time; it’s not a “great” example by any means, but it certainly is a good one. It shows clean color and offers pretty, ripe apple/pear flavors and aromas that never go over the top and only hint at the honeysuckle overtones that often dominate other, more Dolly Parton-like specimens. Full bodied, and perhaps a little plump, but not fat or heavy, with adequate acidity and good length, this is a friendly white that invites another sip in a kind of offhanded way. It also shows none of the bitterness on the finish that these sometimes do. To call it charming might go too far, but it certainly is pleasant and enjoyable. Find this wine

2006 Eberle Paso Robles Zinfandel, 50% Steinbeck Vineyard, 50% Wine-Bush Vineyard, 14.9% alc., $24: This is Zinfandel the way I like it; ripe, but not too ripe, not over-oaked, and despite the alcohol level listed, not at all hot. Clean and dark in color, it delivers the goods, with rich black raspberry and black cherry flavors and aromas, underscored with subtle earth and a nice touch of briar-bramble. Full bodied, with good length and enough structure to go for several more years in the cellar if one is so inclined, but there’s no reason not to open one tonight and enjoy it with some good duck confit on a bed of greens and salad vegetables like I did. Find this wine

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2007 Eberle Paso Robles Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard, 14.7% alc., $21: Similar in character to the above-noted Zinfandel in that it seems to clearly show a consistent house style; the color is clean and dark, the fruit is ripe without going over-the-top (though I suppose it DOES push the envelope some) and the oak is in good proportion to the solid core of rich dark plum and berry fruit. Full bodied and fairly smooth in texture, this is structured for some years yet in the cellar; I wouldn’t mind trying it again at 10-years old. You’ll never confuse this with a northern Rhone Syrah, and that’s OK, it is what it is, Paso Robles-style, and I can enjoy it for that. Find this wine

2007 Eberle Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection, 14.3% alc., $20: Once again, the house style is evident, and perhaps the intense heat of the appellation as well. Clean and dark in color, and quite ripe, though not to the degree of the Zin and Syrah, this almost strays more towards creme de cassis in character than the more traditional cassis and black currant descriptors, with a very subtle earthy underbrush note in the background, and yes, the oak is evident, but for me, not quite intrusive. Smooth and rich in character, with the structure to go for several years in the cellar, this is another one the pushes the envelope, but never quite crosses the line for me. I might feel differently about all three of these reds if I didn’t find the fruit so damned attractive, but as it is, I like them all enough to pour a second and third glass, though this one did get a bit tedious towards the end. Find this wine

I like all four of these, but your mileage may vary. For the record, Kim, my better half, doesn’t care for any of the reds, and seems a bit surprised that I do. Things might have been different back in the mid-90s, but since then, her preferences have diverged towards those earthy southern Rhônes, and these bear no resemblance to them whatsoever. I can still get behind rich, ripe New World wines like these, however, and if you are of like mind and palate, they are definitely worth checking out.

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

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