When a pair of brothers from Lebanon spotted a hilltop in California’s Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area), they knew they’d found home … or so the story goes.
Greg and I dropped the top on our little Fiat Spider and climbed the 2200 feet to the top of Dauo Mountain for the “French at Heart” tasting at Daou Vineyards. We stepped out of the car, mouths gaping at the view as we were guided to a standing table under an umbrella where we met Ameris and Eric. They would be our guides through our tasting. The first thing we did was ask about pronunciation: Daou rhymes with wow.
One of the best things about visiting vineyards is hearing the stories of how the wineries came to be — the heart behind the wine. Ameris shared the story of Georges and Daniel Daou. The brothers grew up in France after fleeing bombings and danger in Lebanon. They emigrated to the US and brought their love of French wines and flavors to the Paso Robles area.
They found Hoffman Mountain Ranch, bought it and expanded it while growing Daou Vineyards. Their touching story was amplified by the astounding views. The winery sits atop what is now Daou Mountain and affords the best views either Greg or I had ever experienced at a winery. We sipped and gawked and sipped some more. It was tough to put the camera down and enjoy each other’s company as we lounged in oversized Adirondack chairs — appropriately socially distanced from others.
Ameris and Eric delivered a HUGE picnic basket filled with sandwiches we had pre-ordered, a delicious Muffaletta-inspired salami, ham and prosciutto feast and a ribeye coated with a trio of melted cheeses and fresh pesto. One pair of side containers was stuffed with locally-sourced greens topped with a crisp sherry vinaigrette and the other boasted crunchy, lightly salted house made potato chips. We opened the third pair of containers to reveal sweet and salty nut brittle to top off our culinary pairing options.
Our guides shared more fun facts of the winery, the brothers and the stories behind the wines we tasted. We watched a falcon soaring on thermals over the vineyards. Greg got called to a meeting for work (yes, even on vacation these things happen!) so I strolled a little path and enjoyed the wild flowers and light breeze while he tended to his business and joked that if he had to work on vacation, he was doing it from a winery.
As he hung up, Ameris and Eric returned and offered to take us up into the bell tower and show us the view from the highest spot on the mountain. She grabbed a gigantic iron key and opened the metal gate that led to the staircase. Once up in the tower she shared the story of the bell and a glass for each of us of Daou’s tribute wine. We toasted the brothers and their delicious wines, bought a couple of bottles and sadly headed back to the car to move on to our next stop.
If you’re ever in the Paso Robles area of California, this winery is at the top of my list of must-see stops — for the view, the wines AND the stories that go along with them.
There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Sip the wine, be awed by the view and enjoy the stories along the way.
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