A Jewel in the Rough
DAOU mountain's unique location is ideal for growing premium quality grapes.
When world renowned enologist Andre Tchelistcheff discovered what would later become DAOU Mountain, high in the west hills of Paso Robles, he described the land as “a jewel of ecological elements” as he found it to be the perfect soil and climate for growing world class grapes. In 1964, Dr. Stanley Hoffman purchased a 1,200 acre ranch and, with the assistance of Tchelistcheff, planted the first vines. This founded Hoffman Mountain Ranch Winery, the first modern commercial winery in Paso Robles. Dr. Hoffman’s Cabernet Sauvignon earned high accolades in the United States and across the globe, helping to establish Paso Robles as a premier grape growing region.
In 2012, Georges and Daniel purchased the original Hoffman Mountain Ranch Property and immediately began restoring the original red-wood winery to preserve a vital part of Paso Robles history. They have continued Tchelistcheff and Hoffman’s vision and now have close to 100 acres under vine, placing their focus firmly on Bordeaux varietals.
Cultivation: Making the Wine in the Vineyard
High density plantings on limestone soils
DAOU Mountain’s special characteristics make it one of the most unique vineyard locations in California. The Santa Lucia Mountain range in the Paso Robles AVA is highly regarded for its unique vine cultivation qualities. Here, the combination of southeast and southwest orientation, 2,200 foot elevation, steep slopes (ranging from 15% to 45%), cooler microclimate, marine influence from the renowned Templeton Gap and ideal calcareous soils create the perfect conditions to grow exceptionally high quality fruit. For most of the summer, DAOU Mountain’s vineyards stand above the frequent morning fog line, allowing them all-day access to the nourishing sunshine.
But winemakers need more than a perfect microclimate to create great wines. The vines must also be painstakingly managed throughout their existence, and it is here that DAOU Mountain differs from most other vineyards in California.
- Clones: The clones selected and grown for DAOU are very rare in California. For example, DAOU is certainly the only vineyard in Paso to plant the original To Kalon clone 31, known to yield some of the smallest crops and highest quality berries in the wine world. Other clones planted on DAOU Mountain include Clones 4, 169, 191, 337, 338, 685, 15, 412. All these clones are qualitative clones that are used to make ultra fine Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Density: Up to 2,480 vines are planted per acre. In some places the spacing is 8 x 4 feet, but the majority is planted at 6.5 x 3 feet, yielding 2,234 vines per acre. This is among the highest-density planting in California.
- Cordons: Growing vines on 18 inch cordons instead of the standard 32 inches makes for a more difficult harvest and cultivation, but the increased canopy – twice the normal size – allows increased photosynthesis. Imagine, all that energy going into only twelve clusters.
- Pruning: The vines are pruned to allow for a smaller number of clusters per vine, as compared to the average. A large percentage of fruit is dropped in the vineyards as a way to balance the vines. In some years, fruit is dopped 5 times during the growing seasons to balance the vines.
- “Blood Pressure”: Leaves are routinely flushed with nitrogen to ascertain vigor and moisture content so that deficit irrigation can take place only when the vine is in danger of shutting down. In some years, the vines are dry farmed.
Post-Harvest: Helping the Wine into the Bottle
Once Daniel has virtually made the wine in his vineyards there are several more crucial steps he can take to ensure that the DAOU wines will meet his own very exacting expectations. As with the cultivation, some of these steps might be considered drastic. Not to Daniel. He believes that the Adelaida hills can produce age worthy Cabernet that will rival any in California. Virtually the only other wines produced in this painstaking fashion are first-growth Bordeaux.
- Picking: All the grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted at DAOU. It takes about one hour to hand-sort one ton of grapes. The standard yield is about 165 gallons per ton – at DAOU the yield per ton is 80 to 100 gallons.
- Warm Maceration: Unlike most wineries, when the wine goes dry (i.e. there is no more sugar), Daniel is not finished making the wine. Instead, he now begins to create the profile and identity of the wine. To do so, difficult steps are taken to macerate the wine on the skins for up to three weeks in order to break down the tannins and create an age-worthy wine with the structure and elegance of first-growth French wines. No pressed wine, which could contain astringent flavors and harsher tannins, is ever blended into the DAOU labeled wines.
- Aging: All the estate wines are aged in one hundred percent new French oak barrels, selected by the best cooperages in France. Reserve wines are aged in up to seventy percent new French oak while the Paso Robles Collection is aged in twenty-five to fifty percent new French oak barrels.