Editor’s Note: This article that originally ran in the September/October issue of Vintner Magazine is part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the American wine community from across the United States. Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from winery owners, vintners, marketing managers, sales directors, QCQA staff and others to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.
The wine produced by DAOU Family Estates grows on DAOU Mountain, which rises 2,200 feet in elevation in the hills of the Adelaida District. The mountain is situated on the west side of the Paso Robles AVA and with its steep mountain slopes of up to 56%, it rises dramatically above the Coastal Range. The mountain is cooled by the Pacific Ocean, which is 14 miles away, and breezes that flow over the Templeton Gap.
Georges J. Daou is the co-proprietor of DAOU Family Estates, which was founded by he and his brother, Daniel Daou, in 2007 to develop the potential of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties in the region. Daniel creates the wine, and Georges creates the experience.
“The raw jewels of this mountain have been here for thousands of years—the physics of the slopes, the chemistry of the soil, the wild beauty,” Georges Daou said. “But it will take great imagination to unlock the full truth of this terroir. This is the quest we are wholly engaged in, and that we want to share with our patrons.”
VINTNER: Why did you enter the wine industry, and what makes you love being a part of it and stay in it?
DAOU: We had a massive emotional letdown when we lost three people in our family — our mother, father, and sister — in one year. We were searching for Life 2.0. We had always dreamed of living in the countryside as it reminded us of our heritage and childhood. We loved wine. My father loved wine, and it was always part of our family and home life.
When we began to research the wine industry, we learned that it is very segmented and that the great wines were expensive and out of reach for many. Our idea was to try to make unbelievable wines that were accessible — wines that a true wine connoisseur would taste and go “Wow!”
It was a real challenge at first. People knew Napa and Bordeaux, while Paso Robles remained relatively unknown. We decided to go with our gut and invest in a terroir that would allow us to make wines that rivaled the best in the world.
We took a big gamble. I always joke that it takes 10 months to make a baby and nine years to make great wine. After nine years, we determined we were on to something. People loved the wines. The taste profile, the value it provides at all price points. We knew we were on the right path. It was like a constellation of stars aligning as I had never seen before.
VINTNER: What do you feel have been new challenges in your position that have helped push you and make you better at your job?
DAOU: Wine is truly an art form. What has made us better in our job is not the winning position in the marketplace but the love we receive from our community. On one side of the coin, it makes us feel humbled, but on the other side, it adds additional responsibility to take care of those who joined us from the beginning.
VINTNER: How has the definition of growth for your company evolved, and how have you adjusted to be successful in that new definition?
DAOU: I realized quickly that our growth and momentum would require more than just my brother and me. There was a massive demand for what we do, who we are, how we think, and how consumer-focused we are. The growth was challenging, and we grew to a point where my brother and I needed to find remarkable people from different facets of life to join the journey and take us to the next level. We quickly became a “people business” in the wine industry, placing our people in the center of all we do and creating a very talented team of talented people with a similar passion for joining the journey.
VINTNER: What strategic growth opportunity do you feel is still “out there” for your brand, and how are you working on capitalizing on it this year?
DAOU: Our growth opportunity is to be even more in tune with the consumer, remain relevant to a dramatic change in the market, and continue to act with integrity and passion. Not only creating the right products, but putting them in the right places.
VINTNER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the wine industry, what would it be?
DAOU: To be authentic and have faith in your product. If you are in this business for the money, it will fail. If you are in this business because you love it, you will find your place in the sun. Keep focused on your consumer and your passion.