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Il Fornaio GM Vittorio Homberger, left, DAOU master winemaker Daniel Daou, and Taste of Wine technical director/writer Rico Cassoni. Photo by Frank Mangio
ColumnsTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Daniel Daou dazzles at Il Fornaio Wine Dinner

Guests enjoyed an unforgettable evening with DAOU Winemaker & Proprietor, Daniel Daou. DAOU wines were paired with the authentic Italian cuisine of Il Fornaio in Del Mar. The five-course menu progression was created by Executive Chef Roberto Gerbino with wine curated by Daniel. Il Fornaio GM Vittorio Homberger and his team ensured that guests had a memorable experience. Before the dinner, DAOU wine admirers were able to partake in a wine tasting at the Del Mar Pavilion’s led by Director of Liquor Phil Markert. 

For Daniel, winemaking is a labor of love fusing art and science. “To do this”, Daniel said, “it takes quality and teamwork.” First, it was important to find the best terroir. Daniel and co-proprietor/brother Georges explored the world to find the perfect spot. When they discovered, in Paso Robles, the rich calcareous soils of France’s right bank and the perfect Napa Valley climate with the elevation of a mountain and diurnal temperature swings, the brothers knew they discovered gold. Daniel shared that it takes up to nine years before a bottle of DAOU wine is ready for purchase. 

This includes five years to create a barrel (compared to two to three years for other wineries), one year to grow in the vineyard, two years to age in the barrel, and one-plus years laid down in the bottle before release.  The time it takes to create a barrel and the quality of the wood (100% new French oak) results in softer wood for perfectly balanced approachable tannins DAOU is famous for. Additionally, DAOU estate fruit is handpicked and sorted with only free-run juice, yielding 80 gallons per ton versus 165 gallons per ton making it into the bottle. At harvest, phenolics are checked up to three times per day ensuring perfect ripeness. Also, a DAOU bottle is a work of art with heavy black glass, foil embossed labels, and ornate, stenciled corks.       

Part of the team and teamwork that Daniel and Georges created includes three of Daniel’s children in study to be future winemakers and oldest child Katherine Daou who leads DAOUs Social Media and Marketing team. We can personally speak of our tour last summer at DAOU Mountain. All employees we met raved about the great work environment at DAOU and how happy they were to be part of the Team DAOU. 

By now, one has probably guessed that the wine was exceptional and was easily matched by Exec Chef Roberto Gerbino and Souse Chef Gianlucca’s delicious courses that included Swordfish carpaccio, Ravioli Di Magro, and Aragosta Al Vino Rosso-Lobster tail over spinach in a red wine reduction sauce or Filetto in Millefoglie of Roasted whole beef tenderloin wrapped with puff pastry and Strudel Con Gelato Al Caramello. These were paired with DAOU Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Chardonnay, Bodyguard, Soul of a Lion, and DAOU dessert wine.  Thank you to Technical Director Rico Cassoni for writing up this article. Details at and

Fly Alaska Airlines nonstop to Central Coast

Alaska Airlines starts nonstop flight service from San Diego to San Luis Obispo on Jan. 7, 2020. This is great news for San Diego Wine Lovers looking to get to Paso Robles Wine Country for quick trips vs multi-hop flights or driving. The Paso Robles wineries were elated when Alaska Airlines made this announcement in September. This is sure to increase current and new customer presence at Paso Robles and Central Coast wineries. 

Wine Bytes

• Gianni Buonomo Vintners invites you to a full-service, sit-down Italian Holiday Dinner in their barrel room for the release of their 2015 Reserve wines at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29. The event is limited to 42 guests and will feature four single varietal 2015 Reserve wines (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aglianico, and Cabernet Franc) paired with an exquisite dining experience created by Chef Max Farina.  Details at or (619) 991-9911.

• Both A.R. Valentien and The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines have Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner Celebrations. A.R. Valentien dinners created by Executive Chef Jeff Jackson are four-course Prix Fixe, $120 per person ($60 under 12) and The Grill dinners are three-course Prix Fixe, $60 per person ($35 under 12). Details for A.R. Valentien at (858) 777-6635 and The Grill at (858) 777-6641.