The entire winemaking process is an adventure. This journey begins with the establishment of the winery and continues through the process of growing the grapes, harvesting and putting one’s creative juices to the test of making exceptional wine. The story behind L’Aventure Winery is a voyage across the continents with a quest to pursue a dream that is now a fulfilling commitment to making exquisite wines.
The Wine Adventure
L’Aventure in French means the adventure and it best describes the wines of winemaker and owner, Stephan Asseo. Stephan began his wine career in 1982 after completing his education at the L’Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France. With his family, they owned Chateau Fleur Cardinal and Chateau Robin in the Cotes de Castillion, Bordeaux where Stephan developed his winemaking prowess. French laws under the AOC hinder his progress in creating wines that defined what he wanted his wines to express.
It is in 1996 when his adventure truly begins as he sought to find what Stephan considers the ideal terroir. His search took him all over the world and it was when he discovered the terrain of the west side of Paso Robles with its rolling hills and the cooling breezes coming off the ocean through the Templeton Gap that he knew he had found his home.
What attracted Stephan to this area were the bipolar climate and the limestone, very rocky cold soils that are the key to growing grapes. Knowing these factors Stephan knew he could work his magic with Mother Nature rather than fight against it. He felt he had the optimum soil to grow excellent fruit. Half the vineyard was first planted in 1998. The second half was planted in 2004 for a total of 58 acres. In 2001 L’Aventure produced their first vintage that utilized their own grapes and by 2008 the wines were 100% estate grown.
My own adventure with L’Aventure began with meeting Chloé Asseo, daughter of Stephan, who has joined the family business as the sales, marketing, and communications director at the West Restaurant and Lounge in Los Angeles. Her goals for the winery are to focus more on L’Aventure’s identity, telling the story, moving from an open tasting room to a one on one by appointment experience, and offering more specialized events at the winery to wine club members.
Currently, the winery is in the process of building a new tasting room with caves that should be completed in a year. This renovation will facilitate the goals that Chloé is envisioning for L’Aventure.
It is the wines that are the true adventure. We started with the 2012 Optimus, a blend of 53% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petite Verdot. It is a big fragrant wine with a deep purple color. The wine has complexity yet is approachable, smooth and velvety on the finish. The flavors are blueberries. This wine is L’Adventure’s signature wine and shows the true character of what L’Aventure is all about.
As I sipped, I thought this wine reflects the outlook of Stephen Asseo. Perhaps it is named to signify his optimism at perfecting the best qualities in a wine. I asked Chloé if this describes her father and she said, “ I consider my father optimistic but at the same time a realist.”
The Optimus was the first wine that L’Aventure produced and is perhaps the reason Stephan left France because it was known as a crazy blend that united Bordeaux with the Rhone and in France in the 1990s this was considered a no-no. In the late 1990s in California, it might be considered Avant-Garde or thinking outside the box. Today the wine is an exquisite example of what an excellent winery can produce.
L’Aventure Côte á Côte
The second wine I sampled was the 2012 Côte á Côte a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Mourvédre and 10% Syrah. This is L’Aventures flagship wine. Stephan prefers this wine to be composed mostly of Grenache yet it is a more traditional Rhone blend. This is a medium-bodied, deep purple fruit-forward wine. It has a fruity aroma and is a sexier wine than their Estate Cuvée. Again this is an easy-drinking wine with a softer palate yet is silky and velvety. I tasted currants and stewed fruit. My immediate thoughts were “I like this wine.”
L’Aventure Estate Cuvée
We moved on to the 2012 Estate Cuvée a blend of 57% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Petite Verdot. This wine is more complex. I found a big, very balanced wine, smoother than some of the other wines I tasted. The flavors are raspberries.
The wines age in French oak mostly new and one-year-old barrels but in the case of the Estate Cuvée, it is 100% new French oak. L’Aventure works with about ten coopers and often each block of Syrah is placed in barrels from different coopers. Once aged, Stephan than blends the different blocks of Syrah.
The grapes for the Côte á Côte and the Estate Cuvée are cherry-picked. It was fascinating to discover that Stephan often achieves his ultimate blends through blind tastings. This method allows him to determine the exact proportions of each varietal.
L’Aventure Estate Rosé
On a separate occasion, I tasted the 2013 Estate Rosé, a blend of 39% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 26% Mourvédre, and 8 % Petite Verdot. There is a soft quality to this wine when you first sip. I thought of peach sorbet with hints of spices on the finish. A refreshing summer wine you definitely savor the stone fruit as well as some citrus flavors too.
L’Aventure Cuvée Chloé and The Sibling
Utilizing the leftover grapes from harvest, depending on the year there are some special blends created. One is the Cuvée Chloé a single block co-fermented blend of Syrah and Grenache and obviously named after Stephan’s daughter Chloé. Another is The Sibling, which stands for the little brother and sister. This like the Côte á Côte is a Rhone blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvédre.
L’Aventure has three wine clubs. The first is Club L’Aventure, which has a waiting list, allows one to customize your options of 12 bottles of wine that are shipped once a year. Club Stephan is also 12 bottles and shipped once a year but Stephan Asseo makes your selections. Finally, there is Club des Amis where one gets 2 of the Optimus, 2 of the Côte á Côte and 2 of the Estate Cuvée.
Tasting the wines of L’Aventure one observes that these wines not only reflect the region but also reflect the goals of Stephan Asseo’s winery. With that in mine, L’Aventure strives to remain a small boutique winery in order to maintain the marvelous quality that its wine imparts on the wine connoisseur.
My introduction to these wines inspires me to venture up to Paseo Robles to observe first hand what makes these wines exquisite and sample more of what L’Aventure has to offer.
To arrange an adventure discovering these wines: