Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles to be sold

jhickey@thetribunenews.comApril 29, 2013 

Gary and Mary Lou Stemper pose with 'Carlos' at Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles in 2006.

JAYSON MELLOM — The Tribune

Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles is in escrow to be sold to a California-based buyer for an undisclosed sum, winery founder Gary Stemper confirmed Monday.

But life at the faux-medieval castle is no fairy tale.

In its 20 months on the market, the listing price fell from $9 million to $6.9 million, the winery filed for bankruptcy protection, and an employee told The Tribune on Monday that its tasting room was closed. The employee, who declined to explain further, would not confirm whether the closure was permanent.

Stemper did not say what will happen to the winery’s operations if the sale goes through. “I have no idea,” he said. Stemper declined to comment further.

It is unclear whether contracts for upcoming weddings at the Eagle Castle will be honored.

However, according to public bankruptcy filings, the business is profitable; in March, it reported sales of approximately $82,000 and a net income of more than $20,000.

Eagle Castle Winery LLC petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2012. Chapter 11 allows debtors to keep creditors at bay, creating an opportunity to restructure business affairs and assets to allow a fresh start.

At the time of bankruptcy filing, Eagle Castle Winery reported $8.9 million in assets and $5.9 million in liabilities.

The lion’s share of liabilities took the form of loans from agribusiness lending firm Farm Credit West ACA of Templeton. The winery also owed the San Luis Obispo County tax collector about $268,000.

Among Eagle Castle’s assets were approximately $19,000 in antiques, artwork and suits of armor; $375,000 in bottled wine; and $132,000 in unbottled, barreled wine.

A former Paso Robles mayor, bank founder and longtime businessman, Stemper purchased the 25-acre property in 1999 with his wife, Mary Lou Stemper. They built a castle event center complete with moat and drawbridge.

As of 2012, the winery was owned by an eight-member ownership board called Eagle Castle Winery LLC. In addition to the winery, the company owned 690 acres of vineyards, as well as a three-bedroom residence on the winery property.

Public documents list the primary stakeholders in the company as the Stemper Family Trust of Paso Robles and the John & Berna Dallons Trust of Templeton.

In April 2012, real estate agent David Crabtree told The Tribune that the winery had received offers from interested buyers in China, Argentina, Chile, Australia and California.

Court records show that as of early this month, Eagle Castle Winery had eight employees.

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