While in Paso Robles next month, I shall visit L’Aventure Winery, a place on my list ever since the late Johny Hugel told me about it. One must respect a Hugel opinion on wine; the family has been in the business since 1639. When I was last at the Hugel estate a couple of years ago, even Johny’s grandson was urging me to call on Stephane Asseo on his L’Aventure premises.
The Hugels explained that Asseo is a practitioner of sustainable agriculture personified. Their place is powered by solar energy, and their production methods are so rigid that each vine gives only a single bottle of wine.
The Asseo story is one of adventure, hence the name of his winery. Schooled in Burgundy, chateaux owner in Bordeaux, and spirited in such a way as to want to escape the strict production laws of his home country, Stephaen sought wine experiences around the world, finding in the 1990s that the Santa Lucia Mountains met all his expectations.
His top wines are blends of varietals not usually put together — Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, labeled “Optimus” and “Estate Cuvee.” Communicating with him is like making contact with an old friend, and when a mutual friend recently gifted me a bottle of his 2010 Estate Cuvee, I opened it immediately, even though its vintage year suggested a little more patience. It lived up to its hype.
It promises to be a highlight of my Paso Robles visit.
My husband and I just returned from a whirlwind visit to Vancouver. This was my first visit to the area, but I knew to expect some wonderful opportunities for enjoying local wines. Our host, eager to show off the wonders and resources of Vancouver took us for a fabulous stroll along the famous “Seawalk,” and then took us to the Beach House Restaurant–THE place for great food and great sea views.
We left the wine decisions up to Chrisopher, our friend and tour guide, since he was so knowledgeable about everything British Columbian! Our lunch wine was a Red Rooster Pinot Gris–from the famed Okanagan Valley. The wine was dry and crisp with hints of citrus–wonderful with the citrusy dressed house salad and my carrot soup.
Since the Beach House Restaurant was so good at lunchtime, we unanimously decided to return for dinner. This time, we shared a bottle of Burroughing Owl Estates Pinot Gris–another Okanagan wine. This was complex and crisp, with overtones of melon and pear. This went beautifully with my lobster Mac and cheese.
Later that evening, our hosts Christopher and Dorothy served up a bottle of unoaked Chardonnay from Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery, named Townsend Jack, after the now extinct Jack Rabbit. The wine was bright, with tastes of tree fruits. This was a refreshing end to a busy day of sight seeing.
It is not surprising that all three wines we tried were all from the Okanagan Valley. Most of the British Columbian wines originate from that lovely area–Canada’s Napa Valley, I think. We didn’t have time to explore the wineries, themselves, but a look at their websites is enticing, with not only tours and tastings, but luxurious accommodations, as well. I can’t wait for a more extensive visit in the future!
Does altitude affect wine? That’s a question I hadn’t considered for a long time. A few years ago, discussions about altitude and wine were awash in the wine world, as we all wondered how wines would do at 30,000 feet on a jumbo jet. Of course that issue was of concern to those who sat in the front of the plane where wine was poured from real bottles, not to those of us who sat in the rear and contented ourselves with quarter-liter bottles often of plastic. Even the folks in the Sears Tower and Windows on the World took precautions to make sure the wines in their elevated cellars were properly cared for.
The question in my mind arose this weekend when I moved my small collection of aging Napa Cabernets from our place 7,000 feet above sea level in the mountains just east of Albuquerque down to our place in the city, only 4,000 feet in our neighborhood. In our Indiana home, 616 feet above sea level, altitude had never been an issue, but in the Sandia Mountains we knew that water boiled at temperatures considerably different from Indiana, and other adjustments had to be made because of the heights. I recalled a conversation with Paul Bocuse who cautioned me to be careful with his recipe since we were headed for the Alps where “adjustments will have to be made.”
Like many issues, this one seemed to take care of itself. It just went away. Most people who thought about it began to see that the wines weren’t affected very much at all, and on those rare occasions when I could get a business or first class airplane seat, I found the wine delicious — perhaps at the excitement of just being there but nonetheless finding the wine what it should be.
In the Sandia Mountains all my wines tasted exactly like they do in the Hoosier National Forest. We should not forget that grapes grow at all kinds of elevations, from coastal plains to mountainous tree lines. In Alsace some growers claim the quality derives from being 2,000 feet above the Rhine; others say their wines benefit from the proximity to the river. Think of the high elevation of the great grapes of Chile and Argentina and of the Bordeaux and Sonomas at the sea’s edge.
No, I wasn’t worried about moving my Cabernets. But the descent did remind me of a hot topic some years ago, and it never hurts to care enough about your wines to consider every possibility.
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