Some wine writers really have it rough. Pity, for instance, poor Robert Parker. In 2015, he and his staff were burdened with tasting over 30,000 wines. Ah, I can see why in 2012 he sold a major stake in his company to Singapore-based investors. And, more’s the pity, because according to Singapore’s Strait Times, he only got $15 million.
But back to 2015 wines. Parker released the top 50 wines from the 30,000+ tasted. Included in that prestigious group was L’Aventure, that cutting edge Paso Robles winery, headed by the French upstart, Stephan Asseo. A significant acknowledgement of Asseo’s accomplishments.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Chloe Asseo, Stephan’s lovely daughter, in the new 8,000 square foot wine cave to learn about L’Aventure and taste its wines.
After chafing for 17 years under the strict rules (the Apellation Controlée) in Bordeaux, Stephan decided to expand his viticulture horizons by coming to America. After exploring Napa and Sonoma, he made the unorthodox decision to uproot his family and move to Paso Robles in 1997. He and his wife, Beatrice, were off to their new adventure. Hence, the name L’Aventure.
Paso spoke to Asseo, given its calcareous and siliceous soils along with the daytime heat but cool evening temps. The soils matched what is found in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley. Thus, for someone who wanted to make wines blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Paso was ideal.
But talk about going out on a limb. Yeah, maybe the soil and climate were favorable, but when Stephan bought his 60 acres in 1997, there were no vines there. He had to fund and build everything, from the vineyard to the winemaking facility to a tasting room.
When asked if she helped plant the vine cuttings, Chloe looked at me like I clearly did not understand her. Her father likes to say she was born in the wine barrels, but she didn’t soil her young hands. She’s more interested in talking about the wine than in producing it.
Our first was the 2014 Optimus, a balanced blend of Cabernet, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. The nose is of black berry and cherry, with raspberry and spice taste notes. It’s quite approachable now, with balanced tannins. We were also presented with the 2004 Optimus, which is still remarkably young. The 2004 was all purchased fruit as opposed to the 2014, which was all estate. Even though the source of the grapes is different, you can see that Asseo’s wines have great longevity.
Next was the seductive 2013 Cote a Cote, composed of Mouvedre, Syrah, and Grenache. Well-structured with an inviting suppleness. Besides the black fruits often found in such blends, Cote a Cote also features a treat with a long, peppery finish.
We then tasted Chloe’s namesake wine, the 2013 Chloe, 71% Syrah and 29% Grenache. This is a well balanced, fruit-forward wine. Soft tannins, especially considering it’s only 3 years old. Strong blackberry flavor, along with vanilla from the lightly toasted oak barrels. This was my favorite.
We finished with the 2014 Estate Cuvee. This is the flagship wine for L’Aventure. It features initial lush fruit followed by baking spices, licorice, and vanilla. While rather tannic now, give it a few years (or open it a few hours before drinking it) and it will be amazing.
Add L’Aventure to your tasting destinations.