Daou Vineyards is one of the newest wineries on the Central Coast, but with a history in winemaking that goes back decades and all the way to France.
It's always good to have "friends in the know". I am lucky enough to have a few. Those people who always seem to know the new places you should check out, the undiscovered hot spots. When they suggest something, you listen and check it out. It's how I found a lot of my favorite wineries on the Central Coast and our next featured winery is no exception. It is, though, exceptional!
Daou Vineyards is one of the newest wineries on the Central Coast, but with a history in winemaking that goes back decades and all the way to France. Visitors to the hilltop, on which its gorgeous Italian villa-style tasting room sits, are blown away first by the facility. That alone is impressive! With its beautiful blend of rustic reminders of European countryside to modern edgy touches like a onyx bar lit from below, you'll want to cozy up in one of the rich leather high back chairs or around a table that seems worthy of royalty until you take a glance at what lay before you just beyond the doors to the patio. The views from Daou are simply breathtaking!
The attention to detail in the construction of the place doesn't end inside. If you are lucky enough to be there on a special occasion like the beginning or end of harvest, you'll hear the ringing of the bell hung in the bell-tower. This is the inspiration for the unique bell logo you will see on all Daou wine and products. The bell once belonged to an old Spanish monastery. There's something special when you hear it ring and realize the journey it has taken to get to its place of honor on the hilltop at Daou Vineyards.
Oh yeah, and then there's the wine. I can't say there is one from Daou I have tasted that I wouldn't be thrilled to take home with me. I'm fairly confident you will be thrilled with the mix we have picked for this month's shipment.
But there's more to my affinity to Daou than the location, the facility, or even the wine. I am, after all a reporter. I love good stories. And I love the fact this winery that had me at first glance, comes with an amazing story through its owners Daniel and Georges Daou as well. They are engaging characters as is, without the story that brought them here. They become all the more intriguing after hearing the tale.
Georges and Daniel Daou were born in Lebanon, raised largely in the wine country of France, and built their successful businesses in the United States after coming here for college. Georges is the older brother of Daniel. Spend enough time with Georges and you can't help but think "Godfather", as in the movie, not the religious role. I'm not trying to insinuate any kind of criminal aura around the guys or sense that they are anything but open-hearted kind men. But there is that sense of "familia" when you spend enough time with them.
In trying to get them on board as a Ruby Shoes partner, I had a hunch it wasn't the pitch that got them to give us the okay, but the fact it was my mom's birthday on the day of our big meeting and I brought her with us. "Okay, I'll do your club, Jeanette." Georges finally said after grilling me about details. "But not because of anything you said. We'll do it because we like you, we like local and you bring your mama up here with you. Now enough business, go get your mama (who was sitting outside on the gorgeous patio trying to give us some privacy) and let's have some wine!" That is where "Godfather" comes to mind when I think of Georges Daou.
Daniel is a gentleman with a sweet smile, and a grateful heart. He is a man living his dream, and you feel that every time you talk to him about wine. As the winemaker at Daou, he is doing exactly what he always dreamed of doing. You get the sense that reality is even better than he imagined as you follow him around the vineyards, crush pad or barrel room. The sparkle in his sky blue eyes overshadows the scars that still exist of a childhood far from the oasis he and Georges have created in the Adelaida region of Paso Robles Wine Country.
Both were born in Lebanon in the early 70's before terrorism attacks turned it into a war zone. Their mother was born in France, came to Lebanon to vacation and met their father. The boys were born and their happily ever after was in progress when the first terrorist attack by the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) happened. The Daou home was hit, as were both Georges and Daniel. Georges' chest and abdomen were ripped open and he spent days in a coma. Daniel took shrapnel in his neck and face and it is why you can still sometimes notice a dissymmetry to his face. But only if you aren't looking at his sky blue eyes.
The Daou family fled to France where the boys lived until they were 18 when one after another left to come to attend the University of California San Diego. Their parents followed three years later. Georges studied Electrical Engineering and Daniel Computer Engineering. When the two of them were 25 and 21 respectively, they founded Daou systems, a software company that would end up being one of the five best performing IPOs on Wall Street in 1997. Ten years later the Daou boys were retired at the ages of 31 and 35. And Daniel decided to pursue his true passion and dream.
He interned for a few years in France, adding to the knowledge he had already acquired through his upbringing in France's wine country as a teenager. He eventually headed to Napa to find a property to start making his dream of producing great wines in California a reality. And then he followed a suggestion to look at the terrain of Paso Robles before settling on a place further north. It took one visit for Daniel to know Paso Robles was where he needed to be.
The first Daou vintage of wine was produced in 2006 with grapes purchased from nearby vineyards. In 2007 the brothers bought the current acreage and planted in 2008. The first estate vintage was 2010 and it's been nothing but great coming from Daou and to Daou, in the way of accolades from the wine-inclined ever since.
Daou now has 600 acres of vineyards, and the owners have every intention of not just making some of California's best wine, but the world's best. Sound like a lofty goal? The Daou brothers don't know how to think anything else but big. They don't believe in cutting corners. They want to eventually have only 100-percent estate wine that is free-run which means no press involved in the crush.
The footprint of the Daou facilities is growing constantly. They have plans for a B and B, another tasting room and a series of caves that will be worthy of wandering as much as the patio is for relaxing. "It will be 5-star everything in Paso Robles." says Daniel. "We want people to come here and say 'Why am I going to any other wine region in the world!?’ We have better facilities, better wine, better views, better, better, BETTER!"
The winery produces about 15,000 cases a year right now, and Daniel estimates probably closer to 18,000 by the end of this year. Georges is engaged and Daniel is married with a family who love living on the Central Coast. One of Daniel's girls is just starting at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in the Viticulture program. So the Daou legacy on the Central Coast is just beginning. These fascinating gentlemen have been all over the world in their lives and travels, but say they won't be living anywhere else after discovering the wine region of the Central Coast.
Thankfully through Ruby Shoes Wine Club, you have "Friends in the Know" who have hooked you up with a Central Coast gem that will likely be considered a global one in the not-too-distant future. There is no Taste Like Home!