Paso Robles is often called the ‘Wild West’ of Californian wine country. Located in the no-man’s land between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this region has stronger roots in cattle farming than grape growing. Most Paso wine production today is industrial, with producers harnessing the scorching heat to make ripe, over-the-top red wines. Thankfully though, the ‘Wild West‘ is also a place where daring innovators can buck these trends and find unique terroirs where a huge range of grapes can thrive. Stanley Hoffman of Hoffman Mountain Ranch (HMR) was one of Paso’s pioneers. His successors at the HMR site, the Daou brothers, carry on this pioneer spirit.
An account of both HMR and DAOU’s story has to begin in 1973, even though at the time they were quite literally a world apart.
In Paso Robles, HMR changed from Stanley’s hobby to his all-out focus in ‘73. He had his sight set on making HMR a world-class wine. Stanley hired world-renowned winemaking consultant André Tchelistcheff and began work on a state-of-the-art winery.
In Beirut, the Lebanese Civil war was just beginning in ‘73. The young Daou brothers were at home when a missile exploded right outside. The blast injured the brothers and the rest of their family.
HMR, in the following years, produced notable wines and earned a reputation as the birthplace of modern winemaking in Paso Robles. They built the first gravity-flow winery in America and were the first commercial-scale winery in Paso Robles. The winery was eventually sold, changing hands a few times before eventually wine production stopped and the vines were ripped out. This once-prized terroir was left vacant.
Back in Beirut, the Daou family were recovering. The family managed to leave Lebanon and emigrate to France. The brothers spent their youth there before emigrating to the USA, both enrolling at UC San Diego and studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Upon graduating, they founded DAOU Systems, a networking technology company that would revolutionize hospital computer systems. During their time working on DAOU Systems, the brothers also pursued a long-standing interest – winemaking – out of their garage in rural San Diego.
With great success, the brothers took their company public and sold their shares. Now able to fully pursue their winemaking dream, in 2007, they bought the old HMR property, named it DAOU Vineyards and replanted vines on the calcareous clay soils.
The DAOU site rises 2,200 feet in elevation above the Coastal Range with breathtaking views from the highest winery on the Central Coast of California. The mountain is cooled by the Pacific Ocean, fourteen miles away, and gentle breezes that flow over the Templeton Gap.
The pinnacle of DAOU’s winemaking is Soul of a Lion, made exclusively from free-run juice from the harvest’s best Cabernet Sauvignon. The goal is a trifecta of power, density and elegance. The wine is aged for nearly two years in proprietary DAOU barrels, rare bois rosé French oak barrels whose staves are seasoned in the elements for five years before coopering. The wine is held for extended bottle maturation before allocation. Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon is DAOU’s equivalent of a Bordeaux second wine. It delivers the intense fruit and powerful tannins you would expect from Paso Robles. Look for aromas of cherry and blackberry jam complemented by dark chocolate, tobacco leaf and desert sage. OWC’s third offering from DAOU, Discovery Rose, is a Provence-inspired rose made from 95% Grenache Noir and 5% Sauvignon Blanc.
All three wines from the DAOU range are available in our shops. Swing by your local shop to have a chat about Paso Robles and pick up a bottle!