Daou Vineyards sits perched at 2,200 feet in such an ideal location that it is rumored that the local eagles go there to get a bird’s eye view. You need to visit Daou not just for its wine but also for its dramatic, panoramic vista.
But you do need to go there for its wine as well. Terry and I did just that last August for an idyllic and enchanting morning. We were treated like visiting royalty. In truth, however, it seemed that all visitors were well cared for.
Maeve Pesquera, Daou’s senior vice president, strategy and business development, set up an educational facility tour and a delightful extensive tasting of much of Daou’s acclaimed wines.
You should note that Daou became “acclaimed” in less than 15 years. Now, Georges and Daniel Daou (the brothers who own Daou and its related label, Patrimony) did start with a distinct advantage. You see, they had sold their hospital services software company for a reported $700 million 20 years earlier. And you know what they say? To make a small fortune in the wine business, you need to start with a large one.
But then several well-heeled folks have tried their hand at becoming owners of cult wineries. And, for many of those uber wealthy, they hired people to fulfill their dream. Not so the Daou brothers. Georges provides the business acumen, and Daniel is the genius behind the wines. He now oversees 110 acres of vines, about 90% cabernet sauvignon. It is all sustainably farmed with little extra irrigation.
Now, a piece of advice if you are contemplating doing a tasting at Daou. When you make your reservation, also order a charcuterie and cheese platter. It’s like paradise on a mountaintop and brings out more of what the wines can offer.
Now, let me tell you about three of the noteworthy wines we had.
The 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of forest floor. The wine coats your teeth and mouth – a thick, unctuous liquid. The tastes are of heavy, dark berry, with baking spices notes. Either decant it for an hour or give it a couple of years.
Aged for almost two years in 100% new French oak, the 2018 Mayote is a blend of 45% syrah, 38% cabernet sauvignon and 17% petit verdot. 2018 marks the end of syrah in the Mayote. Future vintages will have merlot instead, making it a classic Bordeaux blend. Terry got a nose of black berry and white pepper. Drinking, I got strong raspberry fruit, as well as cherry and pepper. I suspect the pepper came from the syrah, so we will have to compare future vintages that have merlot instead to see if there is a significantly different flavor profile. With all of that new oak, I recommend cellaring this until at least 2025, with an additional 10 years of life after that. The potential (as the aggressive tannins are at the forefront now) for this well-balanced wine is outstanding.
Finally, the star of the show is the 2018 Soul of a Lion, the Daou headliner. Composed mainly of cabernet sauvignon, made exclusively from free-run juice, blended with 15% cabernet Franc and 10% petit verdot, and aged 22 months in 100% new French oak. This competes well against Napa cabs that cost two or three times as much. This was the most aromatic of all the wines we had, featuring smells of blackberry, cherry, tobacco, with some mint and earth mixed in for good measure. Surprisingly, the tannins were fairly relaxed, allowing us to get to the core flavors of berry, baking spices, leather and licorice. While drinkable now, give it five or more years to see how it matures. Both Terry and I rated it a 95.
So, next time you are in Paso, stop by for a relaxing Daou visit.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.