Daou’s Elegant Cabs From Paso Robles

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This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.

Daou Vineyards' elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

When you visit Paso Robles you think of the bold Rhônes or the zesty Zins. This is not Cab country like Napa Valley. But recently I tasted the 2009 Daou Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and was completely bowled over. The wine is elegant and well integrated with smooth tannins. In fact, the wine didn’t taste like a young wine coming from a winery established in 2008.

Daniel Daou was looking for the best place for Cabernets and he found it on Paso’s westside, said the winery’s co-owner when we met in his newly opened tasting room. It was a chilly December afternoon, the blazing fire and the glass of Cabernet Daniel handed us kept us warm. Paso Robles, I ask? Isn’t this the acclaimed Rhône zone? Cabernet grape, Daniel explains, has been planted in the Paso region for the last 30 years. “But it wasn’t planted or treated properly,’ he says. So, this varietal got a bad rap in this region.

Daniel who loves Napa Cabs was drawn to the Paso region for the calcareous soil and its minerality. “Look at Romanée-Conti, St. Emilion and the Rhône they have the same calcareous soil,” he adds. If planted well, he notes confidently, the Cabernet Sauvignon in Paso can outshine Northern California Cabernet.

The Spanish-designed winery sits majestically at an elevation of 22,00 feet with a  sweeping view of the town below. Brothers Daniel and George Daou arrived here four years ago from San Diego and purchased 500 acres in the scenic Adelaida region on Paso’s cool westside. Of the 100-acre Hidden Mountain Road property, where the winery is located, 65 acres are planted to vineyards. Although the plantings are relatively new, Daou has been producing wine since 2006 with sourced fruit from some of Adelaida’s top notch vineyards. The first all estate produced vintage of 2010 is scheduled for a pre-release in June this year. Daniel is also quick to add that theirs is the only Central Coast winery to have planted the original To-Kalon clone of Cabernet Sauvignon (purchased from UC Davis). “Its very low yield and a pain to grow,” says Daniel. Plans are to bottle the wine as 100% Cab and release it in 4 to 5 years.

The ‘09 Daou Reserve Cabernet that we tasted is produced from sourced and some estate fruit. The 75% Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The ‘09  Daou Celestus is a lush blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, the ’09 Daou Micho, a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend exudes aromas of dark fruits. The ’08 Petite Sirah with a 5% addition of Viognier is smoky with hints of honeysuckle and the Zinfandel sings with notes of dark berries and black pepper.  .

For white wine lovers, the Grenache Blanc with a touch of Muscat is well balanced with acidity and a sip of the aromatic Chemin de Fleaurs – a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier is reminiscent of a fragrant field of flowers.