It may strike people as odd that someone who studied in Bordeaux, produced wine for his family’s estate there, and consulted for several other Bordelaise properties, would settle on California’s Paso Robles as the perfect spot to establish his own winery. In fact it may even strike some as crazy. If you ask Stephan Asseo I think he might just tell you it’s adventurous!
Stephan’s L’Aventure Estate is the result of an adventuresome spirit stifled by strict, and arcane, wine making regulations. While this may make you think that Stephan is a modernist winemaker intent on breaking all the rules, the truth is that he searched around the world to find the ideal combination of sun and soil, and in particular, limestone, before settling on these 127 acres in Paso Robles.
What to expect: Paso RoblesPaso Robles is the great wine secret of California’s central coast. Home to some of the state’s most intrepid winemakers, this is a land that excels at producing gutsy, robust reds and rich whites. The climate of Paso, warm days coupled with cool night, and its’ unusually long growing season, give winemakers incredible raw materials to work with, but the holy grail of Paso’s vineyard is the limestone. Almost unique in California, Paso’s limestone rich soils place it squarely in a privileged family. Almost all the great winemaking regions of the world share one thing, limestone rich soils.
I recently caught up with Stephan at the recent Montreal Passion Vin and discussed not only his move to Paso Robles, but also the terroir at the L’Aventure estate and the effects of the climate on the various grape varieties used in his wines.
It’s that limestone that unites the majority of the greatest wine regions of the world and Stephan was not about to give up on the notion of terroir. On the contrary, his mission was to develop blends that would highlight the terroir of his lands. The strict regulations governing the use of specific grape varieties in France was too restraining for Stephan, who freely blends the grapes associated with Bordeaux and the Rhone valley.
The vineyards of L’Aventure are located on the Westside of Paso Robles and are include plantings of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and small lots of Grenache, Chardonnay, Mourvedre, Roussane and Viognier. The vines are carefully selected to fit each contour of the vineyard and take full advantage of the various expositions and elevations that the estate’s rolling hills offer.
Stephan used a system of vertical trellising to take full advantage of Paso Robles sun while allowing for excellent flow of air through the vines. This orientation has produced grapes that are rich and full of Californian fruit yet at the same time retains remarkably refreshing acidity that gives the wines of L’Aventure a distinct freshness that is frequently lacking in warm climate wines.
The yields at L’Aventure also play a role in this fine balancing act. Coming in at just 2 tons per acre, these low yields allow the vines, 2500 per acre, to focus all their efforts into producing and ripening only the finest fruit. The cool nights of fall afford the fruit exceptionally long hang time, allowing for the development of intense aromatics and flavors in the finished wines.