Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou, co-owners of DAOU Family Estates, have personally redefined the terms of where great American wines can come from. “Imagine the impossible, and that’s where you’ll find us,” explains Georges Daou. The Daou brothers realized the potential of Paso Robles with one of the most noble varieties of all—Cabernet Sauvignon—and have inspired legions of wine lovers along the way.
The Daou brothers have an unconventional story. Born in Beirut, the brothers grew up in a vibrant family that enjoyed weekends away in their grandparents’ olive groves. In 1973, their world was turned upside down. A missile struck the sidewalk in front of the Daou family home, leaving Georges, then 12, in a coma for two days, and 8-year-old Daniel with paralysis. As the war escalated in Lebanon, the Daou family relocated to southern France to recover and rebuild. The brothers speak openly about their “trauma bond” as a lifelong force that made them both inseparable and fearless. They went on to study engineering in California and invested their family’s last savings in their first extraordinary venture: DAOU Systems. Through all the hard work, Daniel pursued winemaking studies, hoping someday to make the style of wines he grew up with in Europe. Finally, in 1997, the brothers sold their tech company, opening the door to pursue a new calling in wine.
Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco just off the coastal highways, Paso Robles wine country is a land of oak trees, winding hillside roads and vines. First established as an official wine region in 1983, Paso Robles developed an early reputation for Rhône varietals like Syrah and Grenache. The Daou brothers arrived in 2007 with a vision to make world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. They purchased Hoffman Ranch, a once historic wine estate that had fallen on hard times. Daniel refers to this period of his life as an encounter with destiny. Unloved for years, the dormant site in the heart of the Adelaida District lies at some of the highest elevations in Paso and would emerge as DAOU Mountain, a breathtaking 210-acre estate with exceptional conditions for winegrowing. The argile-calcaire soils (a combination of limestone and clay with gravel that is long-associated with quality wines in Bordeaux and Tuscany), cooler climate and beneficial exposures fulfilled Daniel’s exacting set of criteria to produce refined Cabernet Sauvignon. He had found what he was always looking for: a climate and soils that combine the best of Pauillac in Bordeaux and Oakville in Napa, a reflection of the brothers’ profound ties to Europe and California.
The Daou brothers have an enterprising spirit that is often lacking in the wine establishment. Engineers by training, Daniel manages viticulture and winemaking, while Georges (affectionately known as “GoGo” to family) drives business and strategy with a brilliant flair for hospitality. Daniel’s rigorous standards account for the quality profile of the wines, and many techniques are his own invention, custom designed to extract minerality, acidity and the full expression of the fruit in DAOU wines. These include “dropping” an astonishing 80% of fruit during the growing season to concentrate the berries and achieve vine balance, and groundbreaking methods to extract off-the-charts phenolics (the naturally rich components of the grape that enhance taste, density and color). Wine critics have responded to the quality of the wines with top scores, and in keeping with DAOU’s vision, Cabernet Sauvignon has become the most planted variety in Paso Robles. And while many in the wine industry are struggling to connect with consumers, DAOU Family Estates is a beloved and growing brand in the United States and abroad.
The DAOU portfolio includes four collections: Estate wines, sourced exclusively from vineyards on DAOU Mountain; Reserve wines, which include other top vineyards in Paso Robles; Discovery wines that intentionally over-deliver on quality-to-value from the best Paso AVAs; and Journey, an artistic exploration of distinct varieties and styles. For a pinnacle of DAOU winemaking, this year’s 10th-anniversary release of Estate Soul of a Lion 2020, named in honor of the brothers’ late father, Joseph, is a blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Daniel has long referred to Soul of a Lion as the raison d’être for growing Cabernet Sauvignon in the Adelaida District. Soul of a Lion delivers notes of black cherry, leather and dark chocolate underscored by a silky and voluptuous palate, a wine that reviewers describe as an “iron fist in a velvet glove,” ready to drink now or cellar for years to come. And while Bordeaux varieties are a well-known signature, Daniel follows his heart and makes wines that are a sheer pleasure to drink at every price point. Made in the Provençal tradition, DAOU Discovery Rosé is a delicious homage to the family’s upbringing in the South of France, while Bodyguard Chardonnay celebrates the creamy, rich tones of quintessential California Chardonnay.
Visitors to DAOU Mountain often speak of the joie de vivre they experience. The tasting room sits high above the vines, overflowing on all sides with fresh lavender and hospitality. The estate cat, Bell, will cozy up to you on arrival, and the brothers’ motto, “Life Is Beautiful,” is embedded in a scrolling art display set against the hills. The appeal is irresistible, and everyone lingers over the wines and the views. The brothers also found their way to DAOU Mountain to realize their dreams, and as Georges sums it up, the Paso experience embodies their wine philosophy: “Everyone who leaves here feels like family. There is nothing more important than human connection.”
Helen Gregory is the founder and president of Gregory + Vine. She has worked in strategic brand management and communications for beverage industry leaders such as Moët Hennessy USA, Rémy Cointreau and STOLI, and has led award-winning hospitality, beverage and lifestyle campaigns for prestige clients from the European Union to Argentina, Australia, Chile, Israel, South Africa and across the United States.
DAOU ESTATE SOUL OF A LION 2020
10TH-ANNIVERSARY RELEASE: 81% CABERNET SAUVIGNON, 13% CABERNET FRANC, 6% PETIT VERDOT. DEEP RUBY COLOR WITH COMPLEX AROMAS OF BLACKBERRY, CASSIS AND GRAPHITE. VELVETY TANNINS END IN A LONG FINISH.
DAOU DISCOVERY ROSÉ 2021
GRENACHE-BASED. PALE FLAMINGO-APRICOT HUE. A FRAGRANT,
FLORAL NOSE WITH JUICY NOTES OF SLICED PEACHES, HIBISCUS AND
ORANGE ZEST. CLEAN AND REFRESHING WITH A BRIGHT FINISH.
DAOU BODYGUARD CHARDONNAY 2021
100% CHARDONNAY. GOLDEN COLORED WITH RIPE FRUIT, VANILLA OAK
NOTES AND AN ALL-AROUND RICH AND CREAMY MOUTHFEEL.