Nestled majestically at an elevation of 2200 feet, the DAOU vineyards and winery offers breathtaking panoramic views. Above The Clouds, where the wild beauty of the terroir of the Daou mountain meets the visionary science of winemaking, come and savour the melodious nuances of its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. You’d soon forget that you are only 37 miles from Moonstone Beach …
Growing up in Lebanon and France whereby their lifelong love for the grapes begins at childhood, the Daou brothers had studied at the University of California, San Diego. Prior to their winemaking ventures, Georges Daou’s fortunes struck in his successful Daou Systems Inc. business venture. Creating a computer program for hospitals was such a brilliant idea! Georges’s entrepreneurial ingenuity coupled with help from his brother, Daniel, together the close knitted brotherhood bond had enabled them to garner one of the biggest IPOS of the late-1990s! Retiring at the age of 31, the Daou brothers had dreams of producing quality Californian wines. Their wealth could have enabled them to buy any vineyards in California or France, but they had firmly chosen to hone their viticulture skills and use their business brains to break the frontiers and elevate the bar of the Paso Wine Country. Come and meet the courageous mavericks and visionaries that I admire, whose goal is on reduced yields and concentrated flavours! If you were solely focused on yield (quantity over quality), any winemaker would have chosen flatlands to base their vineyards.
I’m actually not surprised at all by their purchase of the 600-acre ranch to create the highest vineyard in Paso Robles, back in the days of 2007. I was awestruck by the beauty of the nature sanctuary of the Adelaida region on driving to the Daou winery. Aesthetically pleasing at such a high elevation, the wild rugged beauty of the Central Coast terroir would be a definite pluspoint for a winery with tasting room Above The Clouds. I love its glorious purple lavender blooms in the summer too! The Spanish Colonial style winery estate is the labours of love of designer John Jensen. To attract wine enthusiasts and stargazers who would appreciate a romantic luxe vacation with tangible tranquility, there are further rooms for natural progression to include a five star wine hotel. The ranch’s legacy was attractive enough, part of the 1200-acre rolling ranchland that had once belonged to Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a Beverly Hills cardiologist, a visionary who had pioneered Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Paso Robles in the 1960s.
In terms of the scientific and geographical considerations of the site of a vineyard, the constant sea breeze through the Templeton Gap from the Pacific Ocean would moderate the temperature, which is already much lower average temperature than the east Paso Robles. High elevation would offer frost protection, whilst rose bushes are planted for its aesthetic beauty and most importantly as an early detector of mildew. The star of the show, which I believe is the main attraction of the vineyards’s location, is that the roots of the vines would dig deep into the dramatic terrains of ancient calcareous or limestone-rich soils, heavily laden with the goodness of whalebones and other marine fossils. Limestone offers nutrients which is beneficial for the growth and production of grapes with ideal ripeness without losing its natural acidic appeal. Tartaric acid is unnecessary during the winemaking. As the estate receives more rainfall than on any other Paso vineyards, dry farming of the vines are possible in some years. The limestone enriched soils are also water-retentive in the dry and hot weather and offer good drainage in cool weather, an important trait for production of bold wines with character. Do you remember Aube’s champagne, Burgundy’s Chablis, Loire Valley’s Pouilly and Sancerre and Southern Rhone’s Côtes du Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre?
Above all, the success of this winery will depend on the passion and nerves of steel from the two brothers, navigating not only the steep terrains but the steep curve of convincing the world about their dreams of the world’s next benchmark for Bordeaux varietals. Daniel Daou, is not your weekend winemaker, preferring to dedicate 7 days a week, a lifetime dedicated to his winemaking passions. Utterly dependant on his taste buds to determine the ideal ripeness to call a pick, Daniel will observe if the grape’s seeds had turned brown, easily separable from the pulp and whether he can taste the bitterness when biting into the grape. For Cabernet, the velvety textures of the skin would indicate perfect ripeness. Grape over-ripeness, above 15% alcohol, you’d lose out on the varietal characters. In order to achieve their goals of reduced yields for concentrated flavours, each vine is limited to 10 – 12 clusters. So precious are the grapes, that these jewels are hand-harvested at its prime ripeness.
Take a pick from the premium Estate Collection or the Reserve Collection. The highly prized 2013 Soul of A Lion blend (Bordeaux style blend – Rated 96 Points, Robert Parker; 96 Points Wine Enthusiast; 94 Points, Vinous; 94 Points, Wong) and Micho blend (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – Rated 94 Points, Robert Parker; 93 Points, Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine; 91 Points, Vinous) are available by Allocation Only. The 2012 Daou Estate Mayote blend (53% Syrah, 37% Cabernet and 10% Petit Verdot) is currently retailing at $130 a bottle. Come and taste the talents of Daniel Daou, a visionary winemaker, guided by the Tasting Menu. We loved the refined moderate acidity yet complex forward fruit, oaky spices of nutmeg, cloves and vanilla and the subtle hints of tobacco of the 2014 Daou Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 20 months in 80% new French oak. Drink it over the next decade and expect enhanced voluptuousness with well-balanced tamed tannins.
I can’t wait to be back to taste the Mayote blend one day. I’d recommend a visit to this stunning hidden gem winery. I truly can’t keep this beautiful secret for ourselves anymore! Let’s continue to dream, explore and discover together! Until our next day trip inspiration from Moonstone Beach, have a happy autumn! Cheers! 🍷