Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> Exploring Paso Robles Part II

Exploring Paso Robles Part II
A Visit to "Daou"
By, Doug and Linda Pendleton

Our most scenic visit was to Daou Vineyards, located on one of the highest points in western Paso Robles. At 2,200 feet, the winery perches on top of what is now called Daou Mountain, just 14 miles (as the crow flies) from the Pacific Ocean. Located on the site of the former Hoffman Mountain Ranch Vineyards and Winery that had fallen into disrepair, it was purchased by Georges and Daniel Daou in 2007 to fulfill Georges’ dream of creating world-class Bordeaux wines in Paso Robles. It probably didn’t hurt that the brothers had sold their software business seven years before for over $700 million dollars prior to their acquisition of the land. The Hoffman Estate had been singled out in the 1960s by the wine legend Andre Techelistcheff for its potential for Bordeaux varietals, but that promise had never been realized. While it would be easy to dismiss the Daou project as two rich guys who wanted to be winemakers, the Daou brothers were on to something. Daniel’s densely planted slopes of Cabernet paid off when Robert Parker scored the 2011 Soul of the Lion, his first vintage, 96 points. Daou was off to the races, and over the next ten years, they put Paso Robles on the map as the next frontier for Cabernet.

The tasting room is truly impressive and as opulent and impressive as anything you will ever find in Napa Valley, but with a much better view. In fact, it might be the most beautiful tasting environment, both inside and outside, that we have ever experienced. No expense was spared, and the $50 charge for the entry-level tasting experience reflects it. The $275 patrimony emersion experience, which is what I suspect we received, includes a barrel tasting, tour, food pairing, and a much more extensive tasting. Obviously, any visit to Paso should include the view from Daou Winery. The winery is equally impressive with all the latest toys cubic money can buy, including optical sorters and a restored cedar barrel room that dates back to the Hoffman Winery. The contrast was almost amusing since we had just visited McPrice Myers Winery down the road, where they produce some seriously good wines in what is fundamentally a pole barn. Since Daou wines were first made available in Indiana, they have been a bit of a phenomenon. Always highly scored by the critics, I have never seen a winery develop a loyal following as quickly as the Daou brand has. The wines are big, bold, and sometimes a little over the top, but they always deliver a solid wine.

Linda commented on this past trip that everything is just a little elevated in California…”Even the weeds are pretty in California.” And I think the same is true as it applies to restaurants. Normally, I wouldn’t rave about an Irish Pub, but Pappy McGregor’s Gastro Pub on the square in downtown Paso was pretty impressive. We had dinner there our second night, and not only did they have an impressive menu, their locally-sourced wine list included wines from My Favorite Neighbor, Daou, Justin, and a host of other wines I would never expect to find in a bar.

And the food was equally impressive, with some of the best Calamari we’ve ever tasted, with strips of perfect panko-crusted calamari steak served with house-made cocktail and tartar sauces. Our shared housemade meatloaf served with a maple bourbon glaze was served with a plethora of grilled fresh vegetables. The vegetables alone would have been worth the stop. And speaking of vegetables, all it takes is a drive through the Santa Maria Valley on the way to Paso to realize where most of our grocery store broccoli, romaine, and asparagus come from. In any case, if you’re ever in Paso, Pappy McGregor’s is certainly worth a stop.