Following the Dream - OC's EB Winery

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Quality wines are our specialty at Third Street Wine Shop: we taste everything that we bring into the shop and we make sure each wine over delivers in value and taste. Our palates seek the best wines from small and interesting producers: good wine from good people. Ed Szubielski of EB Winery has a similar philosophy: get good fruit.

We just try to make wine using the best fruit.  You cannot make a filet mignon out of strip steak.
— Ed Szubielski, owner and winemaker EB Winery

We have plenty of people who bring us wines to try and potentially carry in the shop, but when Wes Kollar brought us an EB Wine –Grenache Blanc, we had to ask for another sip (or two, or three). It was true to the varietal, yet interesting and elegant. Needless to say, it picqued our interest into sampling EB Winery’s other wines. When it comes to enjoying wine, it seems that EB Winery and Third Street Wine Shop are on the same page: “We are just trying to make a really good wine at a reasonable price point that folks can enjoy in any setting.” – Ed Szubielski.

History of EB Winery

Ed Szubielski - owner and winemaker of EB Winery.

Ed Szubielski - owner and winemaker of EB Winery.

Ed Szubielski has been an oenophile since the 1980s when he started to collect wines. In 2002 Szubielski planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines in his backyard in Orange County. The first vintage of “Eddie’s Backyard” (EB) Wines was in 2004, as Szubielski recalls,

“We planted about 80 Cabernet Sauvignon vines in our backyard in 2002.  The first harvest was 2004 and the yield was about 100 lbs.  We purchased an additional 500 lbs of Cabernet Sauvignon from Camarillo Custom Crush.  We named the wine ‘Eddie’s Backyard.’  The wine was not that good.”

After a humbling first vintage, Szubielski put an emphasis on securing the best fruit he could, often going to the vineyards and picking out which vines he wants to purchase fruit from. Winemaking philosophy is simple: “Keep it simple.  Secure the best fruit.  Make any adjustments to the wine in steps.  You only get the fruit once a year.”

Szubielski, an active member of the Orange County Wine Society, continued his wine education and began submitting his wines to wine competitions geared towards home winemakers, where he started to win awards. In 2009, EB Winery’s 2007 Syrah from White Hawk Vineyards in Santa Barbara, won the “Grand Champion” award – best amateur wine in the U.S. (beating out 4,747 other entries).

Szubielski family at their We Olive and Wine Bar, San Juan Capistrano

Szubielski family at their We Olive and Wine Bar, San Juan Capistrano

Recently retiring from his “day” job, Szubielski is throwing himself into winemaking full time. EB Wines are not easy to come by, as they were, until recently, only sold to EB wine club members and through Szubielski’s We Olive and Wine Bar in San Juan Capistrano. In addition to offering EB Wines to taste and by the glass, guests have the option of choosing other wines from other small California wineries. Szubielski confesses that, “…[W]hat makes you feel good and satisfied, is when that guest comes to the store for the first time, builds their own flight of wines and selects one of the EB wines, then we share our story with them ‘follow our dream.’”

Following the Dream: From Home Winemaker to Commercialization

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“Our style and approach of wine making has not changed.  Never thought we would be where we are today regarding commercially making and selling wines.  It’s much easier making a really good wine, but much more difficult commercializing the brand.   I am really encouraged by the support from friends and family.  But what really makes you feel good and satisfied is when that guest comes to the store and taste.” - Ed Szubielski

Szubielski takes a very hands on approach to the production of EB Wines, from selecting the grapes and the vineyards—even deciding when to harvest, to picking the barrels and yeast strains. Szubielski blends  modern technology of crushing, destemming, and pressing, with traditional methods of wine production, including the use of both new and old oak barrels (both French and American) with different levels of toast. Szubielski, like many accomplished winemakers, seeks to tell the story of the grapes themselves, no over-oaked zinfandel here!

Szubielski produces and bottles all his wine at Solterra Winery, in Encinitas. It was through the Orange County Wine Society that he met Chris Van Alyea and have been working with Solterra Winery since then. “We have the pleasure to work with a winery – Solterra in Encinitas, CA.  There is a “father son” relationship.  The Father owns the vineyard and the son is the owner / winemaker at the winery [Solterra].” 

The EB Winery portfolio currently sports over 20 wines, and is very much dependent on Szubielski’s own vineyard selections, but also what becomes available to purchase.  

“Last year we crushed around 75 tons.  At the last minute we could secure some additional fruit.  We produced a Tannat, Malbec, Port, Mourvedre and Cab Franc.  This year we will only be making a few wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  We had a few varietals that were damaged by the fires—mostly smoke damage.” – Ed Szubielksi

Despite experiencing success in winemaking, Szubielski remains humble and gracious, often expressing how he came to where he is today by the support of family, friends, and supporters in the industry. Szubielski mentions that, “we still have a number of [the original EB Cabernet Sauvignon] bottles and I open one ever know and then to remind me where we started.”

Tips for Aspiring Home Winemakers – the Value of Local Home Winemaker Groups

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"I was very involved in the Orange County Wine Society home winemakers group.  They usually have meetings and classes almost every month.  They do group purchases of grapes, bottles, corks, etc.  In most cases they purchase the fruit directly from the growers –again secure the best fruit.” - Ed Szubielski

  • Get a mentor in these groups.
  • Subscribe to Wine Maker magazine. 
  • Enter your wines in local competition, OC Fair, LA Fair, California State Fair –All of them judge your wines against other home winemakers.  You also receive written feedback from the judges. 

At the end of a day in the winemaking industry- pressing, vinifying, and venturing into commercialization, Ed prefers to relax at home with a bottle of EB wine. Have more questions for Ed Szubielski? Join us Saturday, October 14, from 3 to 5 pm, for a special winemaker tasting with Ed Szubielski and guest Sommelier Wes Kollar.