The site for the vineyard was selected after an extensive study of the area that matched Stephan's experience as a vigneron. He immediately favored the west side 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 elevation, 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 has envisioned for L'Aventure.
Because of its close proximity to the ocean, the vineyard is characterized by warm clear days with night time temperatures which can drop by approximately 40 to 50 degrees. This dramatic temperature variation increases the time of the grapes maturation cycle providing fruit that creates a more complex and balanced wine. With clear, sunny days typically lasting well into November, our fruit has the chance to stay on the vine longer to develop mature polyphenols, while the cool nights help retain acids, resulting in the ideal combination of maturity and balance.
The rolling hills that define the vineyard provide multiple facings on which Stephan strategically planted vines with carefully chosen grafted rootstocks. The thin layer of topsoil on these hills covers a succession of siliceous and calcareous shale which consists of old marine bones, shells, diatoms and plankton slowly deposited on the sea bed over millions of years, only to be lifted up through tectonic activity. The combination of these base soils with clay, metals and quartz contribute to the complexity of the fruit in multiple ways. This soil locks up nutrients coaxing the vines to create small, thick skinned berries to ensure protection of its precious seeds. The shale also acts like a sponge, storing water during the rainy season and redistributing it back to the roots in dry season. This assures a perfect feeding for the vines, giving them a balanced water source from which they regulate themselves, as opposed to the bingeing characteristics typically developed with irrigation. The shale also coaxes the vines to send roots deeper to collect water as the surface dries, rather than staying close to the surface and collecting from the drip system.
Stephan's choice of this lean terroir provides him with the fruit necessary to create wine with a good balance between alcohol and acidity. The resulting wines are full and rich yet well balanced with finesse and elegance.
The choice of rootstock was made to take full advantage of the terroir. Only those with a long, slow maturation, and a deep root system were selected. For the same reason, planting was done with a very high density of more than 2,000 plants per acre. The irrigation system was designed specifically with the ability to irrigate each row separately. This allows an optimum balance between the amount of water, the sun exposure, and the soil.
The choice of location for each varietal, the irrigation option, the terroir, and the high density emphasizes more complexity and concentration in the fruit. Because of the Paso Robles location, we are convinced that blending is absolutely essential in order to obtain the right balance between tannins, alcohol and acidity, without any one varietal overpowering the others. This insures a superb wine with great originality.
As of 2004, the varietals planted are: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Graciano, Roussanne, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc.
The foliage is a very important element. It is the "maturity factory" of the vine. This explains why the volume of foliage is so large: more than 4 feet, allowing a huge amount of leaf-growth. A vertical trellis system is used in which the foliage is hand trained up between trap wires allowing significant sun exposure and greater maturity of the polyphenol (Tannin / Antocyan). This provides a better balance of the sugar/ phenolic acid combination at harvest.
The pruning is the classic "Guillot Double" with a very low double cordon or low classic double cordon. The rows are disked and chiseled regularly to help the water penetrate and reach the deeper soil. This forces the root system to dig deeper and take advantage of the terroir. Irrigation is not used systematically, but only when needed, mostly during flowering and véraison.
Time of harvest is based not only on the usual sugar level criteria, but also when the phenolic maturation is acceptable. Yields are limited to 2 tons per acre to ensure premium fruit with an optimum concentration, tannin maturity and balance.