6. 2014 L’Aventure Côte a Côte: Deep, full-bodied, gorgeously layered and with plenty of fine tannin, this big, rich 2014 is loaded with notions of cassis, toasted spice, peppery herbs and graphite.
L’Aventure – A Slice of the Bordeaux in California
Stephan Asseo equals L’Aventure. ..
Stephan Asseo has been in the wine industry for nearly three decades. After he graduated oenology college in the Burgundy region of France in 1982, the Asseo family purchased their first property, Domaine de Courteillac , on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. Later they purchased a further two Chateaux. With accolades and offers flowing in, Asseo choose to take the path less traveled…
For Stephan, who wanted to expand his expertise while gaining more freedom in viticulture and vinification, it was the beginning of L’Aventure (the “adventure” in French). Whilst searching with his wife, Beatrice, in California for land, including Napa/Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties. It was after this tour that he was most impressed with the quality of terroir of California wine country’s newest rising star: Paso Robles.
The vineyard site was selected after an extensive study of the area utilizing Stephan’s experience as a vigneron. He immediately favoured the west of Paso Robles for its sloping hills and authentic quality terroir. The one hundred twenty seven acre property he chose is comprised of multiple hills of various elevations, complex soils and excellent water drainage. He finds the aspects of this terroir to be fundamental in obtaining the high quality fruit necessary to create the wines he had envisioned for L’Aventure. Combined with its proximity to the ocean, the vineyard is characterized by warm clear days with nighttime temperatures which can drop by approximately 4.4 degrees(c). This diurnal activity creates complexity and combined with the long growing season mean fruit with developed flavour and a good level of acidity.
This combination of excellence from Bordeaux, invigorating terroir and lack of restrictions, means some truly unique wines are coming out of this hip little section of So-Cal.
Vérité – In vino, veritas
Vérité translates from French to “truth”. This is the dream of the late great Jess Jackson and Vigneron Pierre Seillan. The resulting combination of old world experience and new world fruit. The wine is a distinct blend of varietals harvested from small vineyard blocks, each cuvée culminating in a bespoke union of grape varieties, climate, soil expression and wine-making technique.
“In vino, veritas – In wine, Truth”
This outpost of France, more specifically Bordeaux, specializes in producing high level micro-cru wines in the 3 styles of Pomerol (La Muse), St. Emilion (Le Désir) and Pauillac (La Joie). All of these styles are uniquely blended from specific sites throughout the region whilst keeping to the tradition of the Bordeaux blends, which they are a hommage to.
La Muse focuses on a Merlot dominant style heavily associated with Pomerol. In 2013 the vintage was comprised of 89% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec and coming in 14.2%abv. Likened by Robert Parker to a great vintage of Petrus “…mulberry, black cherry, licorice, truffle and unctuous, thick, juicy fruit all present in this full-bodied masterpiece. The tannins are still present. The wine has purity and savory presence and is remarkable. The finish goes on for well past a minute. This wine would probably benefit from 5-8 years of bottle age and last 40-50 years. 100pts”
This is considered the peak of this little patch of California raking in a whopping 100 points from Wine Advocate. This is definitely something worth hunting down…
7. Jackson Family 2013 Cardinale: Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, Oakville, and Diamond Mountain come together in perfect harmony. Likened to Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, “…deep, powerful and explosive..”.
8. Opus One NV “Overture”: As a natural extension of the creation of the estate’s signature cuvée – Opus One – Overture’s varietal composition evolves based on the lot selections made for each vintage. Overture reflects the proportion of Bordeaux-heritage grape varieties planted on the estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot & Malbec. Uniquely, Overture captures the essence of the estate across vintages; therefore the exact blend and cellar approach will always differ from Opus One.
HdV – Napa Meets Burgundy
When it comes to Pinot Noir there are few sites as synonymous with it as Romanée-Conti and the Napa Valley. With these two regions come a bevy of famous names; De Villaine and Hyde are definitely in the upper echelons. Linked through marriage and a mutual love of Burgundian wines, collaboration was unavoidable.
Aubert de Villaine needs little introduction, as one of Burgundy’s most recognized figures due to his directorship of Domaine Romanée-Conti, one of the world’s most sought after wines. His focus for many decades has been perfecting the relationship between man and the ecology of viticultural and enological practises.
Larry Hyde is the 6th generation of one of California’s oldest agricultural families, their winemaking roots date back to the 1800’s. He founded the the Hyde vineyard in Carneros 1979. He is partly responsible for the obsession with terroir and the sustainable management of soil.
Between these two, deftly assisted by a cohort of family and some of the best wine minds of the world, they have created a unique vision of Terroir. Combining the histories of California and Burgundy they focus not just on what the land and climate have to offer the ecosystem but man’s imprint as well. This human component is the guiding structure they used to lay out the winery and select the parcels of the Hyde Vineyard where the grapes are picked. Every element is taken into account from the row direction through to the amount of compaction on the soil and its effect on the micro-biology. They also believe in low intervention and sustainable farming looking to create something for generations to come.
In the winery, Stéphane Vivier brings an international esteem to wine. Stéphane has worked everywhere from Pommard, Meursault through to New Zealand and Sonoma. The purpose built winery is tucked in next to the Napa River. Super gentle handling and minimal intervention are the key elements in producing these wines which are true to their terroir. Meticulously sorted and using gravity rather than pumping is all there to preserve the the characteristics of each block.
The final key point in this collaboration is Pamela F. de Villaine, the cousin of Larry Hyde and the wife of Aubert de Villaine. The wine from this partnership is bottled under the historic coat of arms of the De la Guerra family which Pamela and Larry are both descendants of. They feel this historic link really ties the partnership’s focus on tradition, family and their unique philosophy to winemaking.
9. 2013 HdV Chardonnay: This Napa-Burgundy love child balances the finesse of Romanée-Conti with the brashness of Hyde Estate. White peach, tangerine and citrus blossom with balanced acidity.
10. 2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay: Blending from the two extreme vineyards of Camp Meeting Ridge and Seaview Ridge, this stunning wine layers richness against minerality.
Flowers – Wine at the Extremes
Flowers sits grandly on top of the coastal ridges that border the Sonoma coast. The balance between the extreme height, maritime weather and a constantly shifting geography means there is nothing stationary about this producer!
Flowers’ initial plantings in 1991 were some of the original plantings in this extreme location. Only two miles (3.22km,) away from the Pacific Ocean and varying in elevation from 350m to 571.5m, this is a unique slice of coast. This is particularly relevant to Sea View Ridge and Camp Meeting Ridge. All of these sites originated as sea floor was pushed up with seismic activity. The original marine sedimentary rock was transformed into schist, shale, sandstone, greywacke and greenstone through the addition of heat and pressure. These ancient rocks and the weathered coastal soil play a huge part in building the flavour of the wines, limiting the vigour of the vine and in producing bright fruit notes with very distinctive minerality.
The other benefit of these coastal sites is the sea fog and maritime breeze. These dual cooling elements really come into play when dealing with the summer heat California is famous for. This cooling effect means that the grapes have a longer ripening period. The hallmark of this is the fully ripened fruit bringing lively acidity and fresh, complex palate notes.
These extreme elements really work together to produce wine that sings of it’s location. Perched in amongst these coastal pine covered ranges, both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are present. The boney, mineral laden soil and these crisp climatic conditions lead to low, concentrated yields. Both varieties are rendered with aromatics and the kiss of the coastal environment.
Eultimately, Californian wines really give you a true impression of the area where they a grown. “A true sense of place.”
California has been producing wine for over 200 years. Largely driven by Zinfandel, Cabernet and Chardonnay this state is also home to a diverse array of varieties and terroirs spread over more than 100 unique AVA’s (American Viticultural Area).
If California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. The history of wine in this American state goes back over 200 years, though it is still young in comparison to Europe for the new world. Grapes originally came to California via Mexico by the way of the Franciscan Padres as they built a series of missions along El Camino Real (US 101). This surge increased with the gold rush in 1849. The influx of European settlers scouring the land for gold eventually looked to the Mediterranean climate to bring in more consistent incomes. This, tied in with the veritable cornucopia of climatic sub-regions, has allowed for grapes of many different varieties to flourish.
The major sub-regions are; Sonoma, Napa, Lake & Mendocino, Bay Area, Monterey & Benito, San Luis, Santa Barbara, Southern California, Central Valley and the Sierra Foothills.
The majority of early plantings took place in Sonoma and Napa, and both now boast over 150 years of wine history, meaning they are littered with stunning stone cellars and commendable architecture.
California climatically resembles the Mediterranean, meaning there is a large diurnal differentiation between day and night temperatures, and the majority of planted regions are either exposed to a marine element or at least some form of evening cool. With this being taken into account, grapes with a higher acidity level (Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc etc.) are found closer to the coast and the hardier varieties, (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel etc.) are found up in the hills.
To learn more about this diverse and stunning wine region, click here.