Gary Eberle, founder of his eponymous Paso Robles winery and a modern pioneer of the region, has been removed from his position as general partner of the property as of December 14, 2014.
The news came as a shock to Eberle, who says that when he walked into his office earlier this week, “all the other partners were there, and they just said I’m no longer general partner.” A distraught Eberle admits to Wine Enthusiast that he hasn’t “slept for two nights.”
Eberle, who founded the company in 1983, and his half-brother, Jim Giacobine, controlled 78 percent of the company, granting Eberle the leadership role in winemaking, marketing and sales, not to mention being the public face of the winery since its launch.
Last year, however, Giacobine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and placed in a long-term care facility.
“He was no longer in charge of his affairs,” Eberle says, so Giacobine’s wife, Jeanne Giacobine, inherited his role in the company. She gathered with early investors to secure her 52-percent control of the company, and voted out Eberle.
The new team hired veteran-winery businessman Willis Blakewell to lead the company. Blakewell, a former top executive with the Terlato Wine Group, told Wine Enthusiast that he hopes Eberle, 69, “will continue to do his excellent work at the winery.”
Blakewell also said that Eberle’s public announcement that the new team behind the winery plans to increase the 25,000-case production to a whopping 200,000 cases a year “is totally false.”
Eberle, however, stands by his assertion that production increases were indeed what was being buzzed about in the office on the day of his demotion—and his fear is that a huge spike in production would lead to a decrease in quality.
“This winery just couldn’t handle that,” Eberle says. “We’d be stressed at 30,000 cases.”
Eberle adds that he was told this increase in production was a result of other partners’ concern about decreased profits—a false analysis, according to Eberle.
“We finally got back [financially] to where we were in 2007,” he says, adding, “We’re making money.”
It remains to be seen what role, if any, Eberle will play at his namesake winery. In the meantime, he is “praying that it works out,” he says. “My entire net worth is in my house and in this winery.”