You, a lad of maybe 10 or 12, are asleep in your home with your mom and dad and little brother and older sister. You’re exhausted because you’ve been playing all day in the beautiful warm Mediterranean Sun, basking in the lovely climate that your homeland offers. Suddenly, a huge, ugly noise, followed by a deep rumbling, tears through your home. A shock wave throws you out of bed. This is the end of the life that you have known. Blessedly and ironically, it is also the beginning of the life that you will learn to love.
This is a dramatization of the childhood of Georges and Daniel Daou, growing up in Lebanon. While this may not be exactly what happened, the fact is that both Georges and Daniel were critically injured in the first rocket attack in the war in Beirut. Georges was in a coma for 48 hours (he still has hunks of shrapnel throughout his body), and Daniel suffers to this day from partial facial paralysis as result of the explosion.
Mr. Daou immediately transplanted his family from the war zone to Paris, where the boys grew up. As Georges described it, “Our minds have French rivers in them, and our hearts have Lebanese water.”
What do you do after such a traumatic childhood? Why, you move to California to become a scientist, of course. Georges studied to become a mathematician, while Daniel became an engineer.
In 1989, the brothers founded a public company that provided services to hospitals. They sold it in 1997 for $700 million, while they were both still in their 30’s.
They followed that business success with several others. But then their lives were shattered again, when Georges and Daniel lost their mom, dad, and sister all in the span of one year.
What had seemed important now was not much more than ego. They cast back to their childhoods in Lebanon, where their grandparents had vineyards and olive groves. Going back to their roots spoke to them.
Daniel determined to make the best cabernet sauvignon in the world, and Georges promised to build the business structure to support it.
So, in 2007, they bought essentially a mountain in Paso Robles to do exactly that, in an area known not for Bordeaux varietals but for Rhone. Casting aside this tradition, they decided to follow their heart and invested heavily in an effort to create a Cabernet that could compete with the best from Napa, or even from Bordeaux.
And, if you put any stock in what Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has to say, they nailed it. The Wine Advocate lauds Daou’s 2015 Patrimony, declaring, “It’s a tour de force in Cabernet Sauvignon.”
A few weeks ago, courtesy of Georges Daou and his Senior Vice President, Maeve Pesquera, we had an opportunity to see if the other critics knew what they were talking about. I’ll cover the wines in my next column.