I fully appreciate that it’s Cabernet Sauvignon that’s the headliner for Daou, particularly their Soul of a Lion label that has garnered critics’ and consumers’ high praise.
I get it. Yet, given a choice of options to enjoy for the second Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) this weekend, it isn’t the Cab that I’d uncork from Daou.
For me, I’d opt instead for the Micho, which for the 2019 release is 56 percent Merlot and 44 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. But I suppose that’s part of the point of OTBN, as I wrote in the first post of this series: to open that bottle, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one you assumed needed a special occasion (that all too often doesn’t arrive).
OTBN is about not procrastinating pleasure, I think, and it’s also about saying Yes.
Yes, I do prefer this bottle over that one. Yes, I do choose to make today special, even though it’s an otherwise “regular” day. Yes, I am curious about the story behind what it took to bring this bottle to my table. Yes, I want to participate in the flow of agricultural cycles and creativity and intention.
I also want to drink wine I enjoy. Yes to that, too.
Which brings me to the Micho, which for me is all about the mouthfeel (lush, velvety) and the finish (lingering, gentle, unfolding). A commonality of wines that I particularly enjoy is their aroma which, with my nose in certain glasses, catches my attention and curiosity to know more. With the Micho, I didn’t overlook the aroma (floral, lavender), but it was the mouthfeel that won me over and kept the glass in my hand, returning for sip after sip.
It’s hard to not associate Daou with Cabernet Sauvignon, or to be influenced by their recent history and innovations with that grape in the Paso Robles region of California. Fortunately, their investment in Cab at the core of the brand resonates outward, and infiltrates their cultivation and production of other grapes on the estate as well (most notably, for me, the Merlot and also the Cabernet Franc).
In their efforts to make world-class Cabernet Sauvignon in Paso, and especially because of winemaker Daniel Daou’s obsession with optimizing his wines’ phenolic characteristics, I noted three decisions in the wine-growing and -making process that help to determine the success of the estate overall. Two are easily relatable for the most casual of wine enthusiasts, while the third is a little more “wine geeky.” All three make me want to “OTBN” with these wines more than once.
Olive Pomace as Fertilizer
Full disclosure: I’m captivated by olive trees and, by extension, all that they produce. In Paso, on Daou Mountain and in many winegrowing areas around the world, grape vines and olive trees co-exist in ancient, friendly symbiosis. At Daou, that friendship is reinforced by their use of olive pomace (which is the pulp that is left after olives are pressed for their oil) that is clustered at the base of the vines as fertilizer. It’s an apparent, visual reminder of comprehensive attention paid to the agricultural cycle and hyper-local ecosystem.
Ultra Fine Grained Wood for Barrels
Wineries specify characteristics of their oak barrels (light or medium toast, for example) that align with the flavor profile of their wines and the winemaker’s expectations for aging. Daou takes it a step further and specifies barrels made in France from only the finest-grain wood, with the intention of imparting a more subtle, almost understated influence on the wines. These wines could be huge and intimidating if they wanted them to be. Instead, Daou opts for the friendlier, more approachable path.
The Story of the Yeast
Yeast, one of the most critical factors of the winemaking and fermentation process, exists everywhere throughout a winery’s cellar and barrel room. It’s a naturally existing substance that some more daring or adventurous winemakers allow to “do its thing,” which further underscores the nature of wine as an agricultural and variable product. Daou took a deeply methodical and scientific approach, and sent some 100 distinct yeast samples from throughout the winery to an Enartis lab in Italy, which distilled the findings into an ideal selection for the winery’s preferred style and goals.