Oenology graduate Stephan Asseo began his winemaking career in the 1980s in Burgundy and among the many celebrated Bordeaux family vineyards. It was here he build his name, thanks to the wines from Chateau Robin and Chateau Fleur Cardinale.
After working for 17 years in Bordeaux, he decided to turn to new horizons and escape the strict rules and regulations of the French AOC system. He was looking for a vineyard in California – with the intention of not reproducing a copy of Bordeaux, like Napa Valley – and he found his Eden in Paso Robles. An unwanted and virgin territory situated halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and only 30 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. It was in this region that in 1998 he created his ex-nihilo estate and named it l’Aventure, reminiscent of his adventurous installation on a barren plot based on a gut feeling.
French Spirit and California Terroir
Stephan Asseo preserved the traditional French winemaking spirit and made terroir the crucial element in his process. The estate’s 51 hectares are divided into 40 parcels so that careful attention can be paid to the development of each vineyard and the meticulous expression of each of the different soils. Stephan Asseo can then play with a verifiable patchwork of different soil combinations. His soils include silicon, limestone (a rarity in California), clay, quartz and different metals. As such the vines deliver a wide array of mineral characteristics which in turn produce singular notes in the grapes. To better express the elegance and finesse of this terroir, the wines are made without the purchase of additional grapes.
Paso Robles: A Great Region
Given the proximity of the Pacific Ocean (only 30 kilometers from the estate) and the maritime climate, the days are hot (35 to 40°c) and the nights are cool (13°c). Despite or perhaps because of this climatic influence, the relatively small AVA (American Viticultural Area) of Paso Robles is divided into several distinct districts or zones. Despite its relative lack of acclaim, it is an area with immense potential. In a Mediterranean climate such as Paso, the large diurnal range helps to prolong the maturation of the grapes, which is longer and slower than either Bordeaux or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This long maturation gives the grapes time to develop interesting aromatic complexity while maintaining their acid balance. This acid base is in part due to the minerality of the soil and is ideal for the development of ripe wines that are nonetheless balanced and profound. Given his quest to work with distinct parcels rather than focus on grape variety or a specific identity, Stephan Asseo can produce what he calls “terroir wines.”
In the winemaking arena, Stephan Asseos combines his traditional knowledge and the modern technology at his disposal. The winery is run with solar power and more and more Biodynamic principles are employed in the vineyards. In fact, Stephan believes that the past 28 vintages have proven: the simpler the work in the vineyards and the cellar, the more interesting the wine at the end. Clearly, he opts for as little intervention as possible.
The “Caviar” of Grapes in a Bottle
With his very thorough harvest approach, where only the best grapes are utilized, Stephan Asseo has produced a real achievement on this very difficult land. The L’Adventure wines, today represented by a complete range from Estate Cuvée to Optimus (the longstanding flagship of the estate) to Cote a Cote (Coast to Coast), are the expression of the complexity of Paso Robles, particularly its Willow Creek District. These wines are incredibly velvety and yet defined, never suffering from alcohol heaviness. Under the motto “Bordeaux meets the Rhone Valley in Paso Robles,” Stephan Asseo brings together Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Mouvedre in expressive and full-character wines.
Discover Stephan Asseo and his domain in video.
Video Wine Region News (2009)