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DAOU Vineyards Paso Robles Chardonnay 2015
In the golden, oak-studded hills of Paso Robles' fabled west side, not far from William Randolph Hearst's magnificent castle, there is a man with a Homeric vision. His name is Daniel Daou and he is devoting his life and every imaginable resource to creating, first and foremost, a Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals the very best in the world.
Gracefully perched atop a stunning promontory at 2,200 feet, the DAOU Spanish Colonial style winery is embraced by a tangible serenity. Hawks wheel and bank while the all-day sun caresses close planted rows of lush, emerald green vines. The 100 percent calcareous soil makes no sound as it passes out nourishment and only a gentle breeze flows up through the Templeton Gap from the Pacific. The quiet is bewitching; you want to lay down roots here, just as the four-year-old vines have done. But the sense of peace belies the serious industry at work on this 100 acre estate. No effort is spared to create the luscious varietals and blends that flow from this limited production winery. This kind of synergy happens rarely: superlative climate and terroir, super intensive vineyard culture, and cutting edge viticultural practice. You're more likely to find it in Bordeaux than Central California. Coupled with the infectious passion and gracious, family style hospitality of the Daou brothers, Georges and Daniel, the result is pure magic. The kind of magic that comes in a bottle.
Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a source of supple, powerful, fruit-driven wines wines. But with eleven smaller sub-AVAs, there is actually quite a bit of diversity to be found in this inland portion of California’s Central Coast.
Just east over the Santa Lucia Mountains from the chilly Pacific Ocean, lie the coolest in the region: Adelaida, Templeton Gap and (Paso Robles) Willow Creek Districts, as well as York Mountain AVA and Santa Margarita Ranch. These all experience more ocean fog, wind and precipitation compared to the rest of the Paso sub-appellations. The San Miguel, (Paso Robles) Estrella, (Paso Robles) Geneso, (Paso Robles) Highlands, El Pomar and Creston Districts, along with San Juan Creek, are the hotter, more western appellations of the greater Paso Robles AVA.
This is mostly red wine country, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel standing out as the star performers. Other popular varieties include Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Rhône blends, both red and white. There is a fairly uniform tendency here towards wines that are unapologetically bold and opulently fruit-driven, albeit with a surprising amount of acidity thanks to the region’s chilly nighttime temperatures.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.