daou tasting room

Winery of the Week: DAOU Vineyards

There is one word that comes to mind when you visit Paso Roblesbased DAOU Vineyards: WOW.

No, that is not the word of choice simply because it rhymes; though that makes using it twice as nice (oops, I did it again!). DAOU is all things “wow” for several key reasons: its view, its visitor experience, its story and its epic estate collection.

The View and Visitor Experience

The drive to DAOU is straight-up epic, and straight up quite literally as you need to take a paved mountain to the tippy top. After a 2,200-ft. climb, the tasting room appears as if from the clouds. Offering 360-degree views of farms, vineyards and dense forest, breathtaking does not do it justice (again, the word “wow” comes to mind). While still deciding where to look next, the next “wow” appears in the form of a bright red art installation that spells out “DAOU life is beautiful” in cursive. Yes, you may pose by it. Yes, the photos will be insanely cool.

All this and we aren’t even at the winery yet, so let’s step in.

The indoor portion of the tasting room feels as if entering a magnificent villa in France or Italy. But, most guests opt to do their tasting in the outdoor lounge. The lounge is sprinkled with Adirondack chairs, lounge chairs, comfy outdoor couches and more traditional tables and chairs all set between gardens, trees and epic views in every direction. Upon taking a seat outside at DAOU, you will be hard-pressed not to take a few deep breaths. And they will feel so, so good. The fresh air is contagious in the best way possible. The side effect from it: utter, total relaxation. When there, you can actually feel your body untighten, your jaw unclench and your busy mind take a break.

Oh, and then there are the tasting experiences. Wait for it…WOW.

There are glasses and bottles for purchase, but I recommend the Discover DAOU Tasting Experience ($45) with culinary add-ons (prices vary). During the tasting, your group will enjoy five (and usually a few bonus) pours, a combination of red and white wines. At the onset of the seating, you will also get a culinary enhancement menu. Do not use it as a placemat: indulge in a sampling of a few key items that pair exceptionally well with multiple pours. While the menu changes based on seasonality, here is what you can expect:

  • Charcuterie & Cheese, including cacciatorino, ‘nduja (my favorite bite), prosciutto crudo, salmon pastirma, Kanaal, delice du jura, Valdeon, chestnut honey and an assortment of produce from DAOU garden and beyond $50
  • Seared Salmon & Clams with spinach, yellow frisee, DAOU Estate Olive Oil, grilled lemon and French flake salt $37
  • Steak Frites with a grilled Angus culotte, shoestring potatoes, king oyster mushrooms, house aioli and herbs from the estate $32

The Story

We touched on the history of the vineyard a bit here, but it is so special that is deserves a deeper dive.

DAOU is the lase name of vineyard founders Georges and Daniel, Lebanese natives and visionaries who made their dreams a reality, and on top of a mountain, no less!

After an idyllic upbringing in their home country was cut short by violence and unrest, the DAOU family moved to France in the 1970s, igniting the brothers’ passion for wine. They moved to California together in the 1980s, which led to their founding of DAOU Systems, a prominent technology company in the healthcare field. Eventually, they took the company public, and after selling decided to turn full-time to wine with lofty ambitions.

With Georges as the business leader and Daniel as the winemaker, the brothers forged ahead full throttle, eventually purchasing the land that would become DAOU in 1998.

The two have quotes all over the DAOU website, but one really touches me as it relates to what they have created with their wine and property:

“The raw jewels of this mountain have been here for thousands of years, but they can only be unlocked through great imagination. This is the quest we are wholly engaged in—and it is the journey that we invite you to walk with us.” –Georges Daou

The Estate Collection

There are four primary collections from which to choose when selecting a bottle for purchase at DAOU: Discovery, Journey, Reserve and Estate. And while the Journey collection offers bottles with some of the most artistic labels you will ever see, I gravitate toward the Estate collection as it boasts the best of the best varietals to take home.

Its flagship is the 2019 DAOU Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($95), which earned 96 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and is dense with black cherry flavor to spare. Well structured, earth and minerality are also there for sure. Beyond the Cabernet, other estate expressions of note include:

2019 DAOU Estate Micho

A marriage of two Bordeaux-style varietals with an enchanting ruby glow, be prepared to be blown away by the boysenberry, blackberry and dark chocolate here, then a lingering finish on the lips and palate. $85

2019 DAOU Estate Cuvée Lizzy

This is Daniel Daou’s baby. The blend has floral aromatics before dissolving into layers of blueberry and black currant. I’ve never been able to stop myself from drinking it within days, but it is one of the bottles that I am told ages exquisitely. $85

To learn more, visit daouvineyards.com.

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