Recently I ate at Jung Sik, a creative Korean restaurant in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, with Marie DeLarrard, a friend from France. Her father, Philippe, is a vintner in the village near Bordeaux where I lived in the 1980s, and we were reminiscing about old times.
We were savoring sea urchin served with quinoa, beautifully paired with a 2010 Grüner Veltliner from Nikolaihof when I received a text message from Jack Miller, an old friend who was in Paso Robles visiting a winery I had recommended, called L’Aventure. As it turns out, the owner/winemaker is a Frenchman named Stephan Asseo, whom I had met in that same village, where he was running Domaine de Courteillac at the time. Marie knew Stephan, too, though more by reputation, since he had moved to California in the mid-1990s, when she was still a child.
Then came the meat dishes, including a stew of beef short ribs and rice cake balls called Galbi. The personable, knowledgeable sommelier, Kyungmoon Kim, decided to accompany it with a glass of 2009 Optimus—a Paso Robles red made by Asseo at L’Aventure. It felt as if the bottle had been chosen by the hand of fate.
The wine—a hearty blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot—was muscular in structure, with ripe, black fruit flavors and coffee and licorice accents. (I rated it 90 points, non-blind.) It seemed a world away from Asseo’s roots in Bordeaux or the cuisine’s traditions in Korea. Yet it bridged the gap, bringing out a spicy sweetness in the long-braised beef. And somehow it brought Stephan, Jack and Philippe all to the table, nearly 100 years of friendship for me in total—all through the magic of wine.
WineSpectator.com members: Read blind-tasting reviews for other vintages of Optimus.
• Plus, see scores and tasting notes for more recently rated wines from the Paso Robles region of California.