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Eberle Wine Dinner At Calvert’s
C alvert’s Eberle wine dinner Tuesday night was another blockbuster.
Seven great wines paired with incomparable food made for an evening that will be hard to forget. It often sounds like hyperbole, but the Calvert’s wine dinners just seem to get better and better.
This time Craig Calvert whipped up six courses to match wines from Gary Eberle, one of the pioneers of the Paso Robles wine region. Georgia onion soup, bacon wrapped shrimp, wild board lasagna, lamb, duck and chocolate cheesecake had the diners smiling and practically roaring in delight. It was clear everyone was having a good time.
The wines included a white Rhone-style blend, a chardonnay, a zinfandel, a syrah and two cabs. There wasn’t a mediocre wine in the bunch, but the white Rhone blend and the syrah stood head and shoulders above the others.
Stacy Bonnifield, sales and marketing director for Eberle Winery, led the group through the wines, giving a bit of history and background of the winery as she went along. Having grown up in Paso Robles, she said she could remember when Gary Eberle came to town to start a winery. There were very few wineries in the area when he arrived in 1973.
He grew up outside Pittsburgh, played football at Penn State, and after getting his degree went on to LSU for graduate studies in cellular genetics. A professor there got him interested in wine and he decided to go to UC-Davis, the most noted wine program in the country. He earned a degree in enology in 1971 and headed south to Paso Robles two years later.
In Paso Robles he helped to establish his family’s Estrella River Winery & Vineyards. In the late 70’s, he decided to pursue his own project and acquired nearly 64 acres just down the road from Estrella River Winery. Shortly thereafter, Gary released his first Eberle wine, the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon debuting the iconic boar logo depicting the German origin of the name Eberle, meaning “small boar.”
Wine legend Robert Mondavi was one of his mentors, and apparently Gary learned his lessons well, because the Eberle wines are outstanding. The crowd appreciated both the reds and the whites.
The wine served as people arrived was the only non-Eberle wine of the evening. It was a tasty French sparkler, Duc de Valmer, made of 100% Chardonnay. Priced at $9.99 it was a steal, full of small bubbles and a crisp taste.
Georgia Onion Soup, paired with Cotes Du Robles Blanc 2014.
This was one of the favorite pairings of the night, though it is impossible to pick just one favorite from this lineup. The soup was full of tasty Georgia sweet onions and covered with creamy smooth melted cheese.
The wine was a great example of a white Rhone blend, which has become a specialty of Paso Robles. It was crisp yet round and full of fruit. I could taste some pears, lemon and spice on top of a rich, velvety mouthfeel. There was a lot of depth to this wine.
The blend is 59% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc and 13% Viognier. After a cold soak and fermentation the wine spent nine months in French Oak barrels (20% new), where it was aged sur lie and stirred twice a day.
Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Sausage & Peppers with Napa Slaw, paired with Eberle Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2014.
The flavors in the shrimp, bacon and sausage were incredible, mixing together and blending perfectly. I could have made a meal out of this dish, but you could say that about each course.
The wine was well balanced, a little fruit forward, creamy with some oak notes. This is a versatile wine that should pair well with a wide variety of dishes. There were some flavors of green apple, Meyer lemon and pineapple, with a medium finish of toasted oak.
Wild Board Lasagna, paired with Zinfandel 2015.
This was unlike any other lasagna I’ve ever had, and better and any other, too. The creamy cheese, nicely textured noodles and flavorful boar sent the taste buds soaring. I wanted to lick the plate clean.
The wine pairing was great, as the spiciness of the wine matched the spice of the food. It was fruit forward, but not over the top. It was a typical Zin, filled with blackberry, raspberry and strawberry flavors sprinkled with spices. I liked it because it was not big and bold, as so often happens with Zin. By dialing back to fruit a notch, the wine is much better with food than some Zins.
Wood-Fired Leg of Lamb with Rosemary and Lavender, paired with Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah 2014.
The rosemary and lavender flavors were a nice accent to the rich lamb. The dish looked like it even had some fruit mixed in with the strips of lamb, carrots and string bean. I love lamb, and this was a wonderfully rich treatment.
The Syrah more than held up its end of the pairing. It opened with a huge nose, suggesting blueberries, thyme, rosemary and lavender with flavors of blackberry, blueberry and spice. The pairing clearly was inspired as the herb flavors of both brought a smile with each bite. It is infused with silky tannins.
Stacy said Gary Eberle describes this wine as “blueberries and blood.” It shows the restraint of Old World Syrah, combined with the rich fruit flavors you get in California. Wine Enthusiast just rated this wine at 92 points.
Eberle was one of the first wine makers in the United States to produce 100% Syrah. With encouragement from one of his professors, Gary obtained cuttings of the Chapoutier clone that had been planted in the Rhone Valley. He planted 20 acres in 1975 and released his first 100% Syrah in 1978.
Plum & Fig Glazed Duck with Roasted Potatoes in Duck Fat, paired with Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection 2014.
Duck is another one of my favorite foods, and this was a wonderful rendition. The sliced duck breast was barely cooked (medium rare, I would guess), but extremely flavorful. It was served with a delicious sauce, two small potatoes and vegetables. My wife, Teri, said this was her favorite course.
The Cab was full bodied with well-integrated tannins. The flavors in the Cab kept unfolding, showing blackberry, plums and oak. It was a rich, deep wine with a velvety mouthfeel and a long finish.
The grapes for this wine come from throughout the Paso Robles region. Each lot is fermented and barreled separately. After the wines are tasted the blend is determined. Then the barrels are left to age for 18 months, blended in a stainless steel tank and bottled. At around $24 a bottle it is a great buy for such a good Cab.
Chocolate Cheesecake with Drunken Dark Cherries, paired with Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.
I have been trying to skip desserts because of the sugar, but I couldn’t avoid this one. The smooth, dark chocolate flavors were incredible, and the Cab made the finale of the evening even better.
The wine had rich flavors of black cherry, cola and cassis with some herbal notes. Fine tannins give the wine some backbone and lead to a long finish. The wine was restrained, and probably not yet fully at its peak. You could lay this wine aside another 3-5 years and it would be spectacular.
During fermentation the must was pumped over twice a day for color and flavor extraction. Following pressing, the wine was gravity fed into the underground caves and aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. The final wine was left unfined and unfiltered for bottling.