I had been in Paso Robles for about 24 hours as we drove to Daou Vineyards and Winery. I had admired the rugged natural beauty of the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA and the civilized ease of touring the more centrally located Vina Robles. As we approached Daou Mountain in the Adelaida District, I could see we had entered new territory again.
The mountain stands at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the coastal range west of the town of Paso Robles. The western hillside vineyard faces the Templeton Gap, an opening in the range that allows Pacific winds through which cool down the grapes. This leads to thicker skins giving structure and flavor all while maintaining natural acidity. The rows of vines are grown atop the coveted calcareous clay soils for which the area is famous.
a place where the sunlight seemed to dance around the vines. Alive with color from the mounds of lavender and the many rose bushes, the 212 acre property was a hidden vineyard garden oasis.
The soil is known to promote healthy vines, Daniel Daou and his brother purchased the land a decade ago after searching for the right California location to grow and create world class Bordeaux-style wines. The soils of the estate property are very similar to the ones in Saint Émilion.
The vineyard had a different appearance than those we had seen thus far in Paso Robles. The vines are planted closer together at about 3 feet apart and trained into lower cordons about 18 inches above the ground. Daou believes this high density vine training technique leads to balanced grapes with more concentrated flavors.
Daou is also a believer in tracking those phenolics in the grapes throughout the growing season and into the winery. Phenols affect the color, flavor, feel and longevity of a wine. This information helps him decide not only his harvest dates but also shows him differences between blocks within the vineyard. He made the point that he chooses to make multiple tiers of wine so he always has a home for his own grapes and never feels compelled to compromise on quality in his premium wines.
The terroir of Daou Mountain encourages the estate grapes to easily ripen through an extended hangtime while maintaining their acidity. This also helps to create naturally high levels of phenolics. Daou harvests slightly past peak at a higher brix which enables more extraction. Protecting the natural color, structure and flavors from the grapes in the winery is made easier with the phenolic tracking as well. The grapes have naturally high levels of tannins so he only uses the free run juice. He wants a wine that is drinkable upon release while maintaining its high structural quality for long age ability.
Daniel Daou was entertaining and informative as he enthusiastically toured us around and shared the specialness of Daou Vineyards and Winery. The combination of an ideal growing environment and the highest level of oversight and care are on display. The beautiful location, the charming host and the exceptional wines all united for a very enchanting experience, don't miss it on your next trip to Paso Robles.
Daou Chardonay Reserve 2015 - Full-bodied and rich with pear, lemon butter and toast nuances with a decidedly creamy, lush tropical finish. SRP $46
Daou Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 - Full bodied, rich with dark fruit, coffee and licorice. SRP $56
Daou Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2014 - This wine has sold out. Structured, powerful, intense, cassis, blackberry, cocoa, rich lingering finish. SRP $85
Daou "Soul of a Lion" 2014 - This wine has sold out. It was a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Inky colored, complex, velvety soft tannins, bursting with classic aromas and flavors, this premium wine was the perfect balance of elegance and power. SRP $125