On a crisp spring evening in the coastal range west of Paso Robles, brothers Georges and Daniel Daou stand atop DAOU Mountain. In their glasses is the newest vintage of their most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon: the 2016 Soul of a Lion. The vines that producedthis extravagantly layered wine are pitched below them, clinging to precipitous slopes.The sunset views are infinite, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the interior valleys of California. The brothers do not need to say anything to know what the other is thinking: this is the summit of a dream—and the destination of a most unlikely journey.
A dozen years ago, the Daous embarked on a quest to find the perfect terroir for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, and for creating a guest experience to match.They traveled the world’s greatest winemaking regions, and ultimately found it here, on what would become known as DAOU Mountain in the Adelaida District on California’s Central Coast. This was not Bordeaux or Napa Valley. This was, they knew, the next frontier for world-class Cabernet Sauvignon.
“When we first laid eyes on the mountain, we knew that this was the terroir we had imagined all along, right down to the slopes, the soils and the climate,” says winemaker Daniel Daou. “It was an incredible feeling.”
The result is DAOU Vineyards & Winery. In just over a decade, DAOU has established itself as one of California’s most acclaimed wineries. Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate wrote of one DAOU wine, “This is the finest 100% Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve tasted from Paso Robles and it will stand toe-to-toe with the best coming out of Napa. ”Getting to this place did not come easy. The brothers idyllic childhood in Beirut was torn asunder by the Lebanese civil war. The Daou family emigrated to Paris, then Cannes. The brothers later studied engineering in California. Shortly after graduating, they founded Daou Systems, Inc., a medical networking company that ultimately recorded one of the largest IPOs of the late 1990s—paving the way for their winemaking dream to prevail. At DAOU, guests are welcomed into this remarkable journey. Here, nothing is rushed. A luxuriously appointed tasting room opens up to an expansive patio with above-the-clouds views. The DAOU estate chef offers curated food-and-wine pairings, and guests are encouraged to relax and indulge.
All around are reminders of the Daou brothers’ Old World heritage. In a bell tower hangs a piece of living history—an antique bell made in Santa Maria, Spain, which once hung in a monastery that made wine. Nearby, a transplanted 19th-century Barouni olive tree stands in tribute to the brothers’ roots. Indeed, DAOU even offers a special extra virgin olive oil from ancient trees owned by the extended Daou family in Lebanon, and originally planted by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. The next chapter of the DAOU journey is now being written 18 miles to the west of DAOU Mountain, at a companion property known as DAOU Ocean overlooking the Pacific near the village of Cambria. The Daous are renovating this historic property to create an unparalleled coastal food and wine experience. “DAOU Ocean is a place where you will enjoy a sense of belonging, a passion for our story and a feeling of peace, joy and appreciation for the beautiful Cambria coastline,” says Georges Daou, looking westward from the top of the mountain as the sun dips into the horizon. He adds, “DAOU starts with wine, but it is ultimately about relationships. If we can connect with you and enrich your life, that is our definition of success."