Stephan Asseo, Bordeaux transplant and L'Aventure's owner and winemaker, restored my faith in balanced, disciplined Paso Robles wine. Prior to this trip, I had very high alcohol, low acidity, jammy, and generally klunky encounters with (benchmark) wines from this region. However, I always approach a new wine with an open mind and I was ready to be pleasantly surprised.
When we arrived at L'Aventure's tasting room at 10am Saturday morning (opens to the public at 11am), Stephan was sweeping the stoop outside his tasting room. The sign of an artist...we were in for a treat.
He greeted us humbly and then told us the story of his search for the right piece of land in California. His winemaking techniques are old world. His vines are (relatively) new. Plus, he has the freedom to work with any varietal, as the wine laws here are much more flexible than those in France.
As we learned more about his style, I honed in on his focus around harvest time. It is not on the brix level (sugar level) of the grapes or, more generally, the ripeness of the fruit. Stephan picks his fruit when he believes the tannin to be ripe. Tannin is the skeleton that gives red wine its structure and ultimately connects, and supports, every other element. Choosing to harvest when "the tannin is ripe" is not a technical decision at the mercy of a number (like picking at "x" brix, or sugar, level in the berries). It's based on taste, experience, and the 6th sense of man who grew up in one of the most remarkable wine regions in the world. Ripe tannin sets a wine's "tannin" skeleton in perfect alignment. The fruit, alcohol, and acidity work their magic to fill it out. The result is a work of art. An integrated, disciplined, and memorable wine. I almost forgot to mention...it tastes fantastic. Like all of the wines at L'Aventure.
The Estate Cuvee had to be my favorite, but I also enjoyed his Estate Cote a Cote and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Buy and drink or hold: