Daou is a blue-chip family operation in California’s Paso Robles. This family operation, founded by sons of Lebanese refugees, produces a wide range of wines, but it’s its cabernet sauvignons that it hangs its hat on. It’s the chalky calcareous soil here, found virtually nowhere else in California, that winemaker Daniel Daou, leading a group of media through an online tasting, said was the real secret sauce for the winery.
We tasted through three recent expressions of wines from Daou’s Adelaida District estate in Paso. Thoughts follow.
2019 Daou Sauvignon Blanc Adelaida District – A beautiful wine, crisp with lemons, grapefruit, and green apple notes but also lots of mineral elements, driven by that calcareous Paso Robles soil. Lightly sweet and full of fruit on the finish, it’s the structure and somewhat creamy body that really took me somewhere special. A- / $50
2018 Daou Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaida District – 100% cabernet, made with 80% new French oak. This wine hits the palate on the sweet side, and it takes some time to settle down into a groove. In time a more sultry note of macerated blackberry and blueberry emerge, tempered by tannin, licorice, and dark chocolate. The finish veers back toward sweetness, giving it more of a milk chocolate character that comes across as a bit too unctuous. B+ / $85 (available only at the winery)
2017 Daou Soul of a Lion Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaida District – 80% cabernet sauvignon, 12% cabernet franc, and 8% petit verdot. Daou’s flagship wine is a complex, enveloping monster that could probably use more time in bottle, but which drinks well enough today. Big notes of blackcurrants and blueberry lead the way to an immersive, chocolate-scented finish, but it has more gravity and and depth than the Estate Cab. Graphite, licorice, and menthol all inform a serious finish, and with time in glass I even get a bit of cloves. It’s an immersive ride through a well-crafted experience. A / $150