This column starts Taste of Wine’s three-part series on its recent press tour of Paso Robles. We were able to enjoy seven wineries and start with potentially one of Paso’s most influential wineries, Daou Family Estates.
Proprietors Georges and Daniel Daou, the head winemaker, purchased Daou Mountain (2,200 feet) in 2007 with its limestone and clay soil like France and perfect weather like Napa Valley to grow Bordeaux varietals. They were pioneers with most of the Paso AVA producing Rhone-style wines.
Today, Daou Winery runs like a choreographed production with majestic, breathtaking views and orchestrated bustling of the most kind, helpful, and accommodating employees in the tasting room, fields, etc. Each employee is an extension of the brothers who believe in the 3 Ps (place, product and people).
Daou has expanded to two other vineyards, Peachy Canyon on a neighboring hill from the mountain and Patrimony Estates a few miles away from the mountain for 650 acres.
Patrimony Estates, which will be a destination experience, is estimated to open in 2025. It will have 360 deg views at the top of 350 acres with 200 acres planted. Eight suites will connect to a Michelin-star restaurant and tasting room via underground wine caves.
As with any business, succession plans are always on the owners’ minds. In the case of Daou, the apple did not fall from the tree. After Anna shared with her father, Daniel, that she did not want to continue her Montana State Agricultural Business degree virtually in Covid, Daniel asked her to take over viticultural operations of the new Patrimony Estates vineyard.
The 25-year-old accepted the challenge with no hesitation. Within the past year, her vineyard grew to 200 planted acres and ten employees. Daniel’s youngest child, Joseph, starting his senior year at Washington State University majoring in viticulture and enology, is having the internship of his life this summer. He will be helping older sis Anna oversee planting an impressive 400,000 new vines at Patrimony Estates.
Master Winemaker Daniel was beaming, seeing his children take charge during our visit. Seeing the trust and confidence, he has put in his children managing multi-million dollar vineyards was endearing.
“Anna does not miss a thing in the vineyard; she would know if an ant were walking in the vineyard,” Daniel said. “Joseph is a mini-me with his interests and prowess in both viticulture and winemaking.”
Both rockstars are the future of Daou! After hearing Anna say, “A-Team to Dream,” her maturity was evident, and it was easy to see why her father put so much trust in her.
Like many Paso vineyards, Daou incorporates sustainable practices being a certified organic vineyard, such as using cleared walnut trees as decor for Patrimony Estates and native shrubs and trees to promote bugs to kill pests.
Additionally, Daou tests all new plantings ensuring no viruses are brought into the AVA. Daniel stated, “Our goal is to have the purest expression of what grows in the vineyard with minimal impact.” Daniel has also planted two native Lebanese varietals, Merwah and Obaideh, representing his native land as the first-ever viticulturist to introduce these varietals in America.
Daniel was kind enough to barrel sample 2020 premier wines with Frank and me during our behind-the-scenes tour. We had the pleasure of tasting Mayotte, Soul of a Lion, Patrimony (cabernet franc) and the new merlot being introduced with the 2020 varietal.
These are all top-notch wines with phenolics 270 to 370 ppm. Being familiar with their 2019 wines that were slightly more fruit-forward and silkier, the 2020s had ultimate structure, especially for barrel wines that will further develop.
“We created our flagship Soul of a Lion Bordeaux blend nine years ago, dedicated to our father, to change the way California looks at cab sauv from Paso,” Daniel said. “We created Patrimony wines to mark Georges’ and my legacy and to change the way the whole world looks at Bordeaux cabernet sauvignon from California, specifically Paso Robles.”
Seeing present and future Daou generations of Daou Family Estates is remarkable and inspiring. See more information at daouvineyards.com.
Derby Wine Estates Tasting Room Visit
Being familiar with Derby Wines, seeing them at the Family Winemakers a couple of months ago, and having a few hours to spare, Frank and I dropped by Derby Wine Estates, located at the Paso Robles train station. The tasting room lead Sean Garner took us through a robust lineup of their wine and story.
Ray and Pam Derby began their journey in 1998 after retiring when they purchased 632 acres in San Simeon (Derbyshire Vineyard) after being told they were crazy for planting in such a cold and windy location.
The risk paid off, and as their business grew, they purchased Laura’s Vineyard on the east side of Paso Robles in 2001. In 2006, they bought Derby Vineyard, the couple’s third and final vineyard, in the Templeton Gap. They currently work with 20 unique varietals.
In 2005 with some leftover fruit, the Derby’s produced their own Cab Sauv and Petite Sirah varietals under Derby’s label with winemaker Tiffanee Vierra. In 2010, the Derby’s purchased the dilapidated Farmer’s Alliance Building, built in 1922 by Blue Diamond Almond, which they restored over four years. This year the building celebrates its centennial birthday.
Sean tasted us through some impressive wines: a 2019 chardonnay, the second release with a great creamy mouthfeel; Fifteen 10 (’19), which happens to be the address, and is a viognier, marsanne, grenache blanc, roussanne, and picpoul (white) blend aka The Lip Stinger; A 2021 blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre (GSM) and rosé; Fifteen 10 (a 2016 red blend featuring GSM and cinsaut); Graciano (’15); Project Espana (a ’16 tempranillo blend); a 2018 pinot noir; Maneater, a 2018 zinfandel and petite sirah blend).
These are created under current winemaker Sean Geoghegan. Unique tasting, Sean! See more at derbywineestates.com.
Those looking to experience some of Derby Estate Wine’s unique varietals can do so at San Diego’s WineSellar and Brasserie at 7 p.m. on July 2 via a Derby Estates wine dinner. Chef Luke Johnson is busy putting together the pairings. Since it is the Fourth of July weekend, they encourage guests to dress festively in their favorite red, white and blue colors! RSVP and additional details at 858-450-9557.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Reach them at [email protected]