I’ve only ever heard wine friends refer to DAOU Family Estates as Daou, but family is integral to the story of the winery established by brothers Georges and Daniel Daou. And, DAOU Soul of a Lion is the wine they make and dedicate to their father, Joseph, who through his own actions gave them the courage to follow their dreams. It is the most important wine in their sizable portfolio of wines and the 2018 vintage has just been released. We received this wine as a tasting sample.
Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou moved to San Diego, California from France to attend college. The Daou family had moved to France from Lebanon in 1975 as the Lebanese Civil War intensified. After college, the brothers went on to establish DAOU Systems together, take the company public and then sell it. This level of success would more than satisfy most, but for Daniel advanced computer network systems were a way to achieve his dream of becoming a winemaker.
With his brother as his partner, Daniel established DAOU Family Estates in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles in 2007. Cabernet and Bordeaux varieties have always been the primary focus at DAOU — and in a region better known for Rhone varieties at the time. Daniel recognized the importance of the calcareous clay soils, the rolling terrain and varied exposures of the DAOU Mountain vineyards. In fact, he says the 212-acre mountain estate, with elevations reaching 2,200 feet, is exactly what he imagined as the perfect vineyard site.
The mountain vineyard was known as Hoffman Mountain Vineyard when the Daou brothers purchased it, having been developed in the early 1960s by Stanley Hoffman in consultation with wine great, André Tchelistcheff. The original gravity-flow winery has been restored by the Daous and a new mountain top winery and tasting room have been built complete with views for miles.
2018 Daou Soul of a Lion, Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaida District, Paso Robles — dense ruby with violet at the rim with generous aromas of cocoa, cedar, dark fruit and dried mint. Layered flavors of ripe plums, blackberries, cedar, dried herbs and pencil shavings are supported by fine, drying tannins and bright acidity in a medium body. The finish is very long. 14.7% abv. SRP$ 150
The wine’s ruby-violet color made me think of a young wine and wonder if we shouldn’t have used the Coravin to sample Soul of a Lion rather than opening the bottle. The generous aromas were evident immediately and the flavors were so appealing we weren’t one bit sorry we opened the bottle. Yes, this wine will undoubtedly age beautifully, but honestly it is absolutely charming right now. It is elegant, balanced and complex all while having an appealing freshness about it.
The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and is made from free-run juice only. The wine was aged for 22 months in proprietary, new French oak barrels and aged further in bottle before release.
Peter declared Soul of a Lion to be a wine that you could easily drink too much of. He’s right. We found Soul of a Lion to be very food-friendly and it paired beautifully with Normandy-Style Pork Stew, a perfect pairing for fall weather.
The bottle, label design and even the cork are works of art rivaling the wine. The one thing that disappoints me slightly is the extremely heavy bottle. On the positive side, DAOU vineyards have been SIP Certified (Sustainability In Practice) since 2010. Check the winery website for tasting options at the mountain top winery.
Thanks to GREGORY + WINE for organizing our tasting.