Rusty Sly: Daou Winery
Prior to coming to Paso Robles, a couple of my friends that are regulars to the area introduced me to wines from a new winery called Daou. I was very impressed with the quality of the wines from this new winery. So continuing our Paso Robles adventure Tracy and I decided to stop at the Daou winery as our second stop and see what this new winery had to offer. The tasting room is large, well laid out and beautiful. Stepping up to the wine tasting bar we were greeted by Tiffany Decoux. Tiffany was very warming to the point that you felt like you were a part of the Daou family. She was very informative and it was extremely obvious that she enjoyed what she was doing. Many times I go to tasting rooms and the people pouring do not have much insight or interest in the winery other than a quick description of the wine that they memorized. That was not the case at Daou. She went into great detail on each wine and how it was created and provided information on the history of Daou and the future goals for the winery. These goals include building villas where people can spend the night on top of the hill overlooking the winery. With the quality of the wines, the great view and the fantastic treatment from the Daou staff you can count me in.Tiffany started our wine tasting adventure with a 2011 Chardonnay. This wine displayed aromatics of green apples and lemon zest. On the palate you were greeted by a buttery yet crisp wine that presented a fine balance of acidity along with flavors of green apples and lemon zest. What a fantastic Chardonnay.
Following the Chardonnay she poured a 2010 Chemin de Fleurs. This wine was off the charts in my opinion and one that I had to have. The blend is what I call an Americanized Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. Daou uses the two primary grapes of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne in this style which is in accordance with French AOC guidelines. However, they then add Viognier which is not an accepted varietal by the French AOC for Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, but this is America which also uses Marsanne. Does it hurt the wine? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Like I said in the beginning, I loved this wine. The full body and mouth feel that is offered up by the Grenache Blanc and Roussanne working in harmony with each other is spectacular. Add a little Viognier to get those nice fruity flavors and aromatics that it is known for and you have a gem.
Though Tiffany poured many great wines for us I am going to mention one more that stood out to me. This wine was a Bordeaux blend or Meritage, as we call it in the United States. This wine is only available to members and I was honored to be given a sample. They call it their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and it contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. I really have a great amount of difficulty explaining just how great this wine was. It was silky smooth coating your mouth with a fine balance of fruits that are not overpowering. Tannins were present but so well integrated into the chemistry of the wine that it did not offend one’s palate. I have had Meritages far more expensive than the one made by Daou that cannot match the quality and flavor of this wine. It is quite simply a work of art and shows a lot of experience from a winery that has only been open for a few years.
Tiffany Decoux and Daniel Daou
The last wine we sampled led into a chance meeting with one of the two brothers that own the winery, Daniel Daou (owner/vintner). After a brief introduction by Tiffany, Daniel began to tell me about his vision as well as his background in wines. His wine knowledge stems from France where he lived and trained before coming to the United States for college. While in France, he was trained by Delphine Barboux from Chateau Lascombes in the Margaux appellation and Chateau L’Evangile in the Pomerol appellation. Chateau Lascombes produces what is termed as 2nd growth Grand Cru Bordeaux wines. Chateau L’Evangile is unclassified but resides near Vieux Chateau Certan and Chateau Petrus. What is interesting, and may be the reason I love the meritage wine from Daou, is that I have a case of the 2005 Chateau Lascombes in my wine cellar. This house makes great bordeaux wines. The influence of the French training by Delphine Barboux is very evident in his winemaking. All of Daou’s wines use French oak barrels, no American oak is used.
Daniel had another group at the winery while we were there and he asked if we would like to join them on the tour. How could I say no? We were first lead where Daou has their fermenters. Here he talked about his wines and wine processes from vineyard to fermenter. Next he showed us his barrel room. What was interesting here is that he requested that the bands on his latest barrel order from the cooper (wine barrel maker) be painted red. This is unique as I have never seen this done before and it shows is that he likes to be a little different.
Custom Red Barrel Bands
Next he showed us the process that is uses for sanitizing the oak barrels in preparation for receiving the fermented wine. His barrel sanitizing process does not use chemicals but rather high pressure steam. This method is becoming very popular in the wine industry as it is very sanitary and does not involve the use of chemicals. Using steam also allows one to clean in areas that cannot be reached or are hard to get to using other cleaning methods. Steam also rehydrates the barrels, sanitizes, removes tartrates, residues, tannins, bacteria, parasites, mold and leaves a neutral PH on the surface of the barrels. This is becoming the new state of the art process for cleaning and sanitizing wine barrels at wineries. The steaming process is also used for cleaning and sanitizing many stainless items within the winery as well.
Steam Sanitizing Barrels
I was extremely impressed at the professional effort being employed at the Daou Winery. The winery was started in 2007 and opened in October 2010. From what I can see, they are on their way to becoming an extremely successful winery on a large scale. The wines, people and passion for what the winery is all about shines brightly everywhere you go, then add all of the positive comments from the various patrons at the tasting bar and it is quite evident that the winery and their products are fantastic. Tracy and I had a great time at the Daou Winery and will definitely be back. There wines are one that you will definitely want to stock up on and if you want to really surprise your wine buddies just open their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, I guarantee it will blow them away.