Wine Guy: UCSD grads reinvent themselves with wine
After just two years in business, brothers Daniel and Georges Daou might be on the cusp of producing what could be the first true cult wine out of the Paso Robles.
Heady talk when you consider they have not yet produced or even harvested their first estate crop. However, if past business success is any measure of future potential, these siblings with San Diego ties are going to wow wine enthusiasts for decades.
Sitting down with the Daou brothers is a fascinating exhibition in family and business dynamics. While Daniel rhapsodizes about vine spacing, crop load and brix levels, Georges veers off into a romantic vision of the impact their La Capilla wines, which they currently produce from premium grapes grown in the best California regions, will have on family gatherings. Their individual contributions strengthen each other as do merlot and cabernet sauvignon in a Meritage.
Originally from France, George was the first to move to San Diego in the late 1970s, followed by Daniel in 1983. Both graduated from UCSD with engineering degrees. Shortly after they founded Daou Systems, an information technology networking business. In less than 10 years, they took the company public in what amounted to one of the top five initial public offerings in the country.
Their early business success allowed the brothers to embrace their French roots and enter the wine business in grand style.
“I want to make wines like the big châteaus in France,” Daniel said.
One of the first calls Daniel made was to Delphine Barboux-Laurent, winemaker at the Bordeaux-based Château Lascombes. If he wanted to make great wines that will eventually compete with the greatest in France, he knew he needed someone with her winemaking acuity. After a visit to Daou Vineyards and Daniel speaking to her in her native tongue, she agreed to serve as a winemaking consultant.
Daniel drew on his technology background to design what might be the perfectly planned vineyard for their land. He chose to plant nearly four times as many vines per acre as other successful producers in Paso Robles, but allows only 25 percent as many clusters per vine. He also prunes his vines at a backbreaking 18 inches off the ground, just like the great vineyards of Bordeaux.
In a couple of years when the vines have matured, the newly planted vineyard will produce fruit comprising the brothers’ ultra-premium Daou Estate label. “To make great wine, you need tremendous dedication,” Daniel said. “To put your name on a bottle - it is truly a labor of love."George added: “Daou Estate wines will be the best wines our customers have in their cellars.”
Daou Vineyards overflows with a magical potion of location; vision and family that the brothers expect will prove to be successful.
“We want to be well recognized in Paso and loved by our customers worldwide,” Daniel said.
La Capilla has nearly sold out of its 2005 wines, with the 2006 being released in March. Customers may inquire about La Capilla and get on the mailing list for Daou Estate when it is released by visiting
Daou Vineyards 2006 Syrah, $36
This massively structured, full-bodied syrah explodes in the mouth with baked cherry, green peppercorns and scorched earth minerality. The magically integrated tannins carry the flavors on and on where sweet vanilla shows up to complete the 20-second finish. Grill up a rib-eye steak with Montreal seasoning and enjoy. 14.5% alcohol, 91 points