Updated: Apr 18
Daniel Daou: ''Someone said it and it was so true; I have the feeling that the way your parents loved you is the way you are loving the world''. That was the most profound thing I've ever heard, which summarizes, basically, everything, everything that we are and everything that we do.''
The Daou family
Georges and Daniel Daou are inseparable as brothers. Their childhood was steeped in Lebanese traditions of generous hospitality, family values, and faith. Growing up in Beirut was sensational. Back in the sixties, Lebanon was a modern and liberated country. But in 1973 their peaceful world collapsed and the terrors of war affected their daily well-being. When the war escalated in 1975, Joseph and Marie Daou made the courageous and difficult decision to save the family, leave everything behind, and move to France to give their children peace and hope for a brighter future.
Dreaming is believing
Moving to Paris and later to Cannes in the south of France, made a great impact on the lives of the Daou brothers. France, the cradle of wine, inspired the brothers to dream of a life in wine. A little seed was planted. Around the 1980s both Daniel and George moved to California to pursue the American dream and build a bright future for themselves. After finishing college at UC San Diego and starting their own company, it was time to fulfill their dream of becoming a vintner. All this year, Daniel was still obsessed with wine. For years, Daniel had been making wine in his garage in rural San Diego, tending to a one-acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, and reading every book he could find about winemaking. Somehow he knew he wanted to become a winemaker, even when everybody told him he was crazy. His brother and his father never doubted him.
Daniel told his father: “I’m going to buy this property in Paso, and I want to become a winemaker, and I think I can make one of the best wines in the world.” Without hesitation, Joseph said, “Go and don’t look back. Go full throttle.”
Photo: Paso Robles.
Hoffman Mountain Ranch
The brothers Daou were searching for a perfect place to open their own vineyard so they could start making beautiful wines. One day, Daniel and George came across the Hoffman Mountain Ranch. A ranch that was abandoned for more than 30 years. In the late 50ies Tchelistcheff, a Russian enologist who became America's most influential post-Prohibition winemaker in Napa Valley had built a respectable empire by concentrating on high-quality California Cabernet Sauvignon aged in small French oak barrels. In 1961, Dr. Stanley Hoffman, a Beverly Hills cardiologist, moved his family to Paso Robles to follow his dream of becoming a winemaker. He hired André Tchelistcheff as a consultant, and together, they developed the Hoffman Mountain Ranch vineyard and winery, the first gravity-flow winery in America, and the first commercial-scale winery in Paso Robles.
When Georges and Daniel acquired the original Hoffman Mountain Ranch property, they completely restored the original redwood winery preserving a vital part of Paso Robles history. The torch that Tchelistcheff and the Hoffman’s lit a half-century ago passed to the Daou brothers along with the responsibility to fulfill the mountain’s long-held promise.
The holy grail called terroir
Making outstanding wines means that you have to have perfect terroir conditions. The Daou brothers looked for the perfect terroir conditions for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. In the mountains of Paso Robles, a very rare soil called calcareous clay is found. This soil, famously found in Saint-Émilion and the right bank of Bordeaux is composed of clay with a calcareous and limestone subsoil perfect for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties. One of the biggest advantages of this region over the Bordeaux region is that the temperature is warm and the nights are cool nights. Because of this fruit will rip in balance.
Photo: late night harvest and the vineyards of the Daou Mountain (slide to right for more photos)
The final touch
A final aspect of terroir is the human touch. The mountain is sacred. Every vine on the mountain is touched by hand at least five times each year—hand-pruned, fruit dropped, every vine hand-picked. The terroir of DAOU Mountain yields harvests of fruit with extraordinary phenolics, small berries with intense flavors, aromas, and deep colors from a low skin-to-juice ratio. Georges and Daniel promise to fulfill this mountain’s destiny of becoming one of the world’s greatest vineyards.
When the harvest is there, all fruit is hand-picked at night to ensure the delivery of cool fruit to the winery by dawn. The vineyard’s natural microflora is not as active as they are during the day. By keeping the microflora in check, they are able to avoid a host of potential complications during fermentation. Once the fruit is picked and sorted, the magic of winemaking begins. The red varieties perform a “cold soak” for three to seven days prior to fermentation. Cold soaking is the act of racking the de-stemmed berries to a tank and allowing the juice to mix with the skins for gentle extraction of color. After this process, native, DAOU Mountain yeast is added. As the yeast feasts on the grape sugars, it converts them to alcohol and CO2 gas. The gas blows off, and the yeasts continue to work until nearly all of the sugar is consumed and the wine is considered “dry.” After fermenting the wine, and finding the right balance between color, flavor, and phenolic richness the wine will be racked on barrels for 18-31 months before bottling. It undergoes secondary “malolactic” fermentation. This is the natural process of converting a wine’s malic acid into lactic acid.
Photo: The Daou team
Together we are one
The vineyard works fully sustainable and carries the certificate SIP (Sustainability in Practice)
Prior is the land, wildlife, water management, energy efficiency, social responsibility, and ethical business practices. And that is not just a philosophy but a daily practice. A family-owned estate winery that makes authentic, pure, and conscionable wines.
Georges & Daniel Daou:“There is a power within this Mountain we call home. It is a power that can turn mere raindrops and roots into extraordinary wines—and into lasting relationships—that will endure for decades. Everyday we strive to create an experience as beautiful as these wines, ensuring that everyone who leaves here feels like family. There is nothing more important than human connection.”
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