Monday, October 17, 2011

10/17-Michael Horn talks with Michael Young & Randy Ullom

Michael Young - Sales & Marketing Director Stephan Vineyards/L'Aventure

Stephan Asseo, owner and winemaker at L'Aventure Winery, began making wine in 1982, following his education at L'Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France. In that same year, Stephan established Domaine Courteillac in Bordeaux. He and his family later purchased Chateau Fleur Cardinal, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, and Chateau Robin, in the Cotes de Castillion, Bordeaux. Over the next 15 years, Stephan developed into an artisan winemaker of fastidious craftsmanship, and gained a reputation as a maverick vigneron. However, his true desire was to be more innovative than AOC law would allow. In 1996, this led him on a quest for a great terroir, where he could pursue his ideal as a winemaker. After searching for over a year among the world's great wine fields, ranging from South Africa to Lebanon, and Argentina to Napa, Stephan found Paso Robles. Stephan immediately "fell in love" with the unique terrior of west side Paso Robles. The rolling topography of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, the deep calcareous soils, and the maritime influence of the renowned Templeton Gap all combine to produce a world class wine country, with the potential to craft some of the world's greatest blends. It is here, in Paso Robles, that Stephan began his adventure, "L'Aventure".
In order to maximize quality in our harsh terrior, Stephan has established a high density plantation scheme of 2,100 vines per acre. A meticulous regimen of leaf pulling, shoot thinning, and cluster dropping result in benchmark yields of two to two and a half tones per acre. This equates to one bottle of wine per vine. In addition, Stephan's drive for fully mature fruit allows our grapes to fully express their character, in the form of intense, concentrated wines. After the painstaking labor in the vineyard, we continue quality selection by hand sorting the grape bunches as they come in. The grapes are then destemmed, and vinified in small lots, to maintain the integrity of each source or parcel. Thermostatic control enables us to manage premaceration and fermentation flawlessly, with silky, rich wines as the result. Furthermore, aging in French oak, and a minimal racking program contribute much to Stephan's artisan, handcrafted style.
The spirit of L'Aventure is most evident in Stephan's "Paso blends", such as Optimus and Estate Cuvée. Both wines are Cabernet Sauvignon /Syrah blends. In these wines, as well as in our Rhône blend Côte à Côte, the blending of premium varietals increases the authenticity, complexity, and balance of the wines. In this adventurous spirit, we find the future of Paso Robles wines…great, balanced red blends.

Personal Philosophy on Winemaking: Make wine that can be enjoyed by all, enjoyed without a PhD, wines that have a lot of forward fruit, are easy and enjoyable to drink, with long enticing finishes...that linger, beckon and entice for another sip.
Favorite Part of the Process: Walking the vineyards, tasting the grapes, then the excitement, anticipation and chaotic rush of the harvest! I love the family feeling and team effort of our winemaking group. And finally, watching a smile appear on someone's face as they sample and enjoy the wines we have made.
If you were snowed in on a mountain-top villa...what two wines would you want?
I'd have to go with our Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay and Stature.
Favorite wine descriptor? "Lush." "Rich" and "Velvet" are close seconds.

Randy's Creative Path: A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Randy became interested in wine during a three-year stay in Chile, while on sabbatical from college in the early 1970s. His stay inspired a cross-country trek through Chile's vast wine-growing regions. On his return to the United States, he entered Ohio State University to study crop production with a specialty in Viticulture and Enology and received his degree in 1975.

After six years as a vineyard manager and Winemaker in Ohio and upstate New York, Randy moved to California to become associate Winemaker at De Loach Vineyards in Sonoma County. He was promoted to Winemaker and Vice President in 1991. The wines produced during his tenure were consistent gold medal winners at wine competitions.

Hired by Jess Jackson in 1993 as Winemaker for some of our smaller and international vineyards, Randy was handed his most prestigious assignment in 1997 - Winemaster for Kendall-Jackson Winery.

"I look at all of the vineyards we own, and all of the individual lots of wines that we make, and the thousands of barrels we have sitting in our cellar and sometimes I think, you gotta be kidding me! After I've sufficiently recovered from my daily panic attack, I take off my coat, dig in my heels and take it one barrel at a time. It's a rewarding job that I love."

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