During the last weekend in February, I had the honor of attending L’Aventure Winery’s unveiling of the 2008 vintage. I joined Club L’Aventure last year on my birthday and have developed such a passion for these wines, I was waiting to taste the new vintage like a little kid waiting for Santa to arrive. I wasn’t going to let torrential downpours and hurricane-like winds stop me from getting up to Paso Robles. More on that later.
L’Aventure is very near and dear to my heart. The Optimus blend is the single wine that turned me from a casual wine drinker to someone who truly appreciates and understands incredible wine. Flash back to very early 2005. I was at a Learn About Wine tasting in Los Angeles called “The Best Wines for $20 or Less”. As I meandered my way from table to table, tasting a lot of better than average, relatively inexpensive wines, I came across a man who poured me the wine that changed my life.
He actually wasn’t even representing L’Aventure. In fact, I don’t really recall which winery he was representing, but I tasted his wines and they were pretty good. Nothing special, but not bad. We started chatting about my favorite wines of the night, etc, etc and then…he reached into a bag behind him and said “you really need to try this. Just keep it quiet… it’s from my personal collection.” My new friend pulled out a bottle of 2002 L’Aventure Optimus and poured a little into my tasting glass. I smelled it (wow…incredible. So much more complex than any wine I’d experienced). I tasted it (unreal). I literally stood there and savored every little bit of berry, spice, cassis and minerality I was tasting. This wine was unlike anything I’d ever tried.
I pulled out my tasting note brochure I got for the evening and scratched in pen “L’Aventure Optimus. DELICIOUS!!”. I thanked my friend for opening my eyes to a whole new wine world, tasted a few more wines – none of which could stand up to what I just experienced – and I left the tasting event with a whole new perspective.
I’ve been following L’Aventure ever since and have been equally impressed by each and every vintage. Winemaker and owner Stephan Asseo has been making wine since 1982. Since then, he has “developed into an artisan winemaker of fastidious craftsmanship, and gained a reputation as a maverick vigneron”. Stephan’s passion for winemaking and his desire to raise the bar for other wine makers in his league is evident in each and every bottle he produces.
I’m particularly drawn to the fact that Stephan is truly a trailblazer in his craft. He grew tired of the strict AOC laws in his native France and decided to venture out on a quest – a great adventure – to find the perfect terroir to craft his remarkable wines. After traveling the world from South Africa to Argentina to Napa Valley, Stephan fell in love with Paso Robles and has been there ever since.
So, back to that weekend in February. I first visited the L’Aventure tasting room 4 years ago and have made a yearly pilgrimage to Paso every year since, just to taste the latest vintage. But this weekend was my first visit as a wine club member. The winery was closed to the public so this was our exclusive opportunity to see what 2008 was tasting like. Unfortunately Mother Nature wasn’t sure if she wanted us to make the trip.
We left Los Angeles on Friday evening, fully aware of the fact that it might rain. When we got in the car, things were dry as could be and we though we may have dodged the storm. Unfortunately half way up to Pismo Beach (where we were spending the night), it started raining. Really, REALLY hard. There were a few moments where I wasn’t sure if we should press on or pull over.
Fortunately we made it to Pismo Beach and checked into our lovely hotel room at the SeaCrest Resort. This hotel was recently renovated and is highly recommended. The attention to detail throughout the hotel and the gorgeous seaside location are unsurpassed for a relatively inexpensive hotel. After a night of more rain and wind that nearly convinced us there was a hurricane blowing outside, we woke up to clearing skies and were excited for our day of wine tasting.
We left Pismo Beach and were in Paso Robles in less than 30 minutes. We drove down the beautiful gravel road toward L’Aventure, parked, and quickly made our way towards the tasting area. Before we could enter the winery, we were stopped by a voice declaring “wait a minute… you have to see me first”. At a small table near the door to the winery was the artist himself. Stephan was pouring his ’09 Estate Rose and personally greeting his visitors.
After chatting with Stephan about his newest releases, this past growing season, and about what he has up his sleeve for the next year at L’Aventure, we headed inside to taste the rest of the wines. I honestly can’t say which were my favorites. They were all poured directly from the barrels so they were all perfectly “open” and so delicious.
The ’09 Estate Rose was an incredible start. We decided to purchase 3 bottles right off the bat. The ’08 Optimus was perhaps one of the best to date. The ’08 Le Grand Verdot – a new release for members only and inky purple in color with just the right amount of tartness on the palate – was another stand out. The Estate Cuvee and Cote a Cote are always favorites and this vintage certainly didn’t disappoint.
We got home and placed our order for a mixed case without hesitation. L’Aventure wines are a bit on the pricey side, but well worth it if you appreciate quality wine. We’ve already received our shipment and finished off 2 bottles of Rose which were just as delicious as when Stephan handed me my first taste. If you’re in the Paso Robles area, L’Aventure is an absolute must see. I can’t wait for our next visit…
2815 Live Oak Rd.
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-1588
Fax: (805) 227-6988
Tasting room hours: 11AM – 4PM Thursday through Sunday. Monday through Wednesday by appointment.