Mayote is a highly coveted wine at DAOU as one of their flagship bottles. It holds great significance as it was named after Georges and Daniel’s mother, Marie. Being the smallest of the children, Marie’s siblings nicknamed her Mayote after the small French island (Mayotte) in the Indian Ocean, and the nickname stuck throughout her life. On a previous blog post, I dove deep into the history of Soul of a Lion, which pays homage to the man “who made it all possible,” Georges and Daniel’s father, Joseph. Those familiar with DAOU know how much the Daou brothers value, honor and respect their family and heritage, which is why today we pay tribute to the matriarch of the family, Marie. We will explore who she was as a wife and mother, and the beautiful wine that embodies this extraordinary woman. I am grateful to have experienced a vertical tasting of every vintage Daniel has made of Mayote. I will take you through each year, starting with the inaugural vintage of 2010 through 2019, where the blend takes on a new face. This vertical is especially personal to me as Mayote has always been my favorite wine at DAOU. To say I was honored to partake in this experience is an understatement. Daniel, thank you for this amazing opportunity and making the vertical come to life.
The Heart Behind Mayote
Marie was born on the Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe in the French Antilles in 1929. Her family owned department stores, which was where Marie and her four older brothers worked. Marie had an elegance about her, and although she was known for being independent and strong willed, she always put family first. Being that Marie’s mother was from France, she loved traveling there with cousins and friends, especially to Paris. At the age of 27, and without an inkling of what was in store for her, Marie made her first trip to Beirut. Ultimately, it turned out to be a trip of a lifetime, as this is where she met Joseph, the love of her life.
In January 1956, Marie met Joseph by chance at a Beirut airport. Marie was with some mutual friends and Joseph had just dropped off his newly married brother and sister-in-law at the airport. The group spent the day at the beach and it was kismet for Joseph and Marie. They immediately fell in love. Their romance was whirlwind and within weeks, they married on February 11. Not long after they married, they started a family. Sadly, they lost their first child at a young age due to health complications, but Marie persevered and they had four more beautiful children: Marie Jo, Michelle, Georges and Daniel.
On May 3, 1973, unimaginable tragedy struck the Daou family. As Marie and Joseph prepared breakfast for the family while the children played on the balcony, a missile plummeted into their home. Shrapnel tore through the house causing Michelle’s hand to be shredded, and Georges and Daniel to be severely injured. Georges, 12, was in a coma for 48 hours and spent two months in the hospital recovering. Daniel, 8, was struck in the face by shrapnel, resulting in permanent paralysis to part of his face. This near-death experience brought Georges and Daniel very close. The time spent in the hospital gave the Daou family a renewed perspective on how precious life and family are. In 1975 when the war started back up again, Joseph and Marie made the life-altering decision to leave their home and way of life in Lebanon and start anew in France, where Marie still had her citizenship. They wanted their family to live in a place that could provide a future and potential for everyone to thrive. Taking only what they could carry, the family slipped out of the country and headed to France. Throughout the troublesome war years in Lebanon, and during the struggles encountered with establishing a new life in France, Marie’s strength truly shined. She was known for having grace within chaos. It was her composure, calming nature and willingness to persevere that made her children always feel safe in her presence. During these transitioning times, Joseph sold property in Lebanon each year as a way to provide the means to support his family. Together, Joseph and Marie were a strong front for their children, and nothing could stop them in their fight for their family’s survival. Marie’s strength, determination and resilience was carried forward by her children as they finished high school in Paris, and continued when Georges and Daniel pursued college abroad in San Diego. Marie and Joseph’s unwavering belief in and support of family was evident when they helped finance the launch of Georges and Daniel’s first company, DAOU Systems, with their last $50,000 of savings. Their family-first conviction paid off and eventually led the brothers to DAOU Mountain in 2007.
2009 and 2010 were bittersweet years. In 2009, Daniel was making his first wine under the DAOU label, this being his Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Concurrently, illness besieged the family: Joseph, Marie and Michelle were all very sick. During this time, Georges helped his mother, father and sister go to DAOU Mountain to see the new chapter that was unfolding in Georges and Daniel’s life. Sadly, four months after this visit, Michelle lost her battle with breast cancer, and not long thereafter, Joseph and Marie passed away. The Daou brothers experienced tremendous loss within a short time span of 13 months. Daniel, however, uses wine as a means to carry on his parents’ and sister’s memory and works with steadfast determination to ensure these wines are nothing short of the best to honor his family. As such, there’s a sentimental correlation to the day each new vintage of Soul of a Lion and Mayote are released. DAOU always releases these flagship wines on February 11 in honor of Joseph and Marie’s wedding anniversary, and rings the iconic DAOU bell as a symbol and celebration of their parent’s love, strength and legacy.
In 2013, when Hoffman Mountain Ranch had its official re-opening, Georges and Daniel invited Dr. and Mrs. Hoffman to visit the building. It was on this same day that Robert Parker released his scores for the inaugural vintage of Soul of a Lion and Mayote. Soul of a Lion received 96 points and Mayote received 94. At the time, this was the highest score a Cabernet Sauvignon had seen in Paso. Coincidentally, on that same day, Dr. Hofmann was 96 years old and Mrs. Hofmann was 94. To the Daou brothers, these numbers were no coincidence. They were a sign from their parents who were looking down on them from above, indicating they were on the right path and to keep forging ahead, just as they had done so many years ago when fleeing Lebanon.
And now, for my evening with Mayote. Ten wine glasses were lined up, dated with each vintage, and poured using my Coravin. All of the wines were a rich, ruby red hue. Each vintage was aged in 100% new French oak for 22 months. There was no loss of color between the 2010 and 2018 vintages, as evidenced in the photo comparing these vintages. This also hold true for the 2019 vintage. The color consistency throughout the years is a true testament to Daniel's winemaking style. The mouthfeel was rich and full, with layers of complexity like chalky minerality, a balance of fruits, and tannin structure. I’m excited I have the ability to age these wines further and try them again in the years to come.
One item to note regarding Mayote: In 2019, the composition of the blend for Mayote drastically changed. Prior to 2019, Mayote was comprised of the varietals in a traditional Lebanese wine blend – Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Daniel adding in a little Petit Verdot, all of which came off the Estate. However, after the 2018 vintage, Daniel removed the less than two acres of Syrah vines on the Estate and replaced them with Cabernet Franc. After studying this land for the past 11 years, Daniel learned this parcel was the most limestone heavy and that, in actuality, Cabernet Franc would be best suited here to do the land the most justice. Consequently, from 2019 forward, Mayote will remain a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot from the Estate. I opted to include the 2019 vintage in this vertical to share what the future holds for Mayote, and I must say it’s looking beautiful.
- 53% Syrah, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot
- Soft, chewy tannins with still the structure and means to lay down for at least another decade. Black plum skins with dried black cherries and blackberries. Soft chalky minerality with a hint of black pepper. Very light sediment. Absolutely amazing, large mouthfeel with a full body and lingering finish.
- The winter showed average rainfall. Conditions in spring were excellent for bud break, with larger than expected cluster counts and weights. Summer showed moderate temperatures with very short spikes of days over 100 degrees. There were a few rain events during harvest which stretched the timing of crush. Overall, the vintage showed higher than average yield with excellent quality.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 94 points
- 44% Syrah, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot
- Soft tannins, but not quite as soft as the 2010. Beautiful structure on the mouthfeel, with riper notes of black cherry standing out. Black plum and boysenberry, with hints of blackberry and cinnamon on the finish. More fruit forward than 2010 and not much chalkiness, except lingering on the finish. Full body, but not quite as pronounced as 2010, making it a softer style.
- 2011 is known for being a vintage of historical proportions. Winter gave the Mountain slightly less than average rainfall. Spring was not the kindest either, with a devasting frost in April that caused a loss in the total crop. Thankfully, the Mountain later benefitted from warm temperatures and moderate winds that followed three different rain events during harvest. Daniel viewed the frost in April as a way of Mother Nature lowering the yields for him, yet ensuring quality as the growing season ended up being balanced with warm days and cool evenings. These conditions caused the fruit to come in intense, yet balanced with good acids, thick skins and dark color. All of these characteristics combined makes this vintage perfect for long aging potential.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 93 points
- 45% Syrah, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot
- More sour black cherry initially with this wine, with chalkiness standing out as well. Blackberry, blueberry and black plum linger into the finish with a balanced mouthfeel of tannins being present, but not overly grippy. There was also a unique spiciness with this wine lending notes of clove and other baking spices.
- Memorable for having a large and healthy crop, 2012 consisted of fruit to be dropped four times throughout the growing season to concentrate the flavors of the berries. The first heat wave in August caused the sugars to progress quickly, which resulted in the first watering of the year. By August 24, the temperatures had moderated which slowed sugar development and allowed the tannins to develop. The vintage produced wines that were powerful with concentrated color and ample structure, making these bottles great candidates to lay down and age.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 92 points
- 45% Syrah, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot
- Chalkiest wine so far, very pronounced on the forefront of the mouthfeel with anise and black cherry preserves. Tannins are more prominent, but feel finely grit in structure, making it very pleasant. Very mild herbaceous notes on the nose and lingering on the finish.
- 2013 was one of the driest years on record which caused early bud break, small clusters and small berries. In May, an unexpected storm brought some relief to the soil, providing welcome hydration before the warmer summer months. Thankfully, temperatures during the growing season were ideal with August being in the 70s and low 80s. These idyllic temperatures allowed for plenty of hang time for the grapes to fully mature on the vine. The vintage was deemed a blockbuster and considered a “classic” by Paso wineries.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 93 points
- 56% Syrah, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot
- Velvety, almost creamy tannins and more fruit forward than 2013. Black cherry, blackberry and soft, chalky minerality that carried long into the finish. Very elegant and well-balanced wine on the nose and palate.
- 2014 brought forth one of the driest vintages recorded at DAOU, resulting in early bud break, véraison and harvest. The lack of water also caused the clusters and berries to be small. Spring brought forth cooler than normal temperatures, and come July, the Mountain had seen only two days reaching 100 degrees. In August there was a light drizzle which provided the vines a little moisture to keep them going and allowed deficit irrigation to be practiced despite the drought. Overall, August was cooler than normal which allowed for adequate hang time, thereby facilitating great tannin structure to the wines. With harvest starting earlier than normal, this enabled most of the Mountain to be harvested before several heat waves hit in September. Daniel said this was the “vintage of his career.”
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 97 points
- 42% Syrah, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot
- More black pepper and herbal qualities on the nose. Richer mouthfeel, comparable to 2012, making it feel heavy yet pleasant. Highlighted more chalky black cherry with a hint of cacao and vanilla extract lingering into the finish. Least fruit forward so far.
- The fourth year of drought continued in 2015 and followed up with warm weather in March and April, with bud break starting in early March. Unfortunately, very cold temperatures in May enveloped the Mountain along with strong winds, resulting in severe shatter and 50% less than normal yields. Early June brought some heat, which allowed the smaller crop to ripen beautifully and on time for September. Because of the shatter, flowers were stunted in their growth which caused variable fruit in the clusters, meaning there was a combination of under-ripe, ripe and over-ripe fruit. Consequently, every berry must be inspected in order to ensure quality since under-ripe and over-ripe fruit do not average out to tasting like ripe fruit, and instead taste of off flavors. Daniel chose to invest in the first Pellenc Optical Sorter in Paso Robles. The sorter uses an optical eye to detect inconsistencies in ripeness and quality that the human eye can’t easily detect. By individually sorting each berry, this process ensures that all of the fruit is optimally ripe.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 93 points
- 46% Syrah, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot
- Very soft tannins, perhaps one of the softest of the vintages sampled so far. Notes of black cherry, blackberry and licorice, with just a touch of chalky minerality. Quite a contrast from the 2015 vintage where the fruit flavors and aromatics took more of the backseat in the sensory experience.
- With a dry El Niño winter, bud break began in early March, with warmer than average temperatures to follow. The onset of véraison came quickly and earlier than usual due to a very warm June and July. There were a few intense fires throughout the region, and thankfully none of DAOU’s grapes were affected. About one week prior to harvest in August, a very cold weather front set in causing the sugars to stop accumulating, which aided in extended hang time for the fruit. That being said, the 2016 vintage is deemed a “perfect” vintage with some of the darkest and most-concentrated wines yet.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 97 points
- 51% Syrah, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot
- Softer nose like 2016, but more structure in tannins and chalky minerality. Maraschino black cherries with plum and baking spices, such as cloves, with a gentle toast of oak on the nose. The wine evolved with every sip, making it fun to uncover new attributes.
- 2017 ended a five-year drought for Paso with one of the wettest winters in recent memory. Rain on DAOU Mountain that winter totaled close to 35 inches. The vines were energized by all this moisture, which brought about one of the best crops yet. Weather patterns remained steady from spring to mid-summer, then a heat wave struck the third week in August during harvest. This was an inopportune time for this to happen, compelling many other vintners to harvest the rest of their fruit, except for Daniel; he made the bold decision to allow the late-ripening varietals to hang through the heat wave. The heat had sped up véraison, but phenolic ripeness wasn’t quite there yet, which is why Daniel made the choice he did. Thankfully, his choice paid off. The heat wave was followed by a cooling trend which allowed for an extended hang time for the grapes to achieve optimal ripeness. This resulted in the latest harvest to date, concluding the third week in October. What this long hang time provided was the deepest color and concentration seen thus far from the Estate, with silky tannins that are beautifully integrated.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 96 points
- 46% Syrah, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot
- Pronounced nose with cinnamon spice and black fruits that carried into the palate. Chalky minerality was present with approachable tannins that were fine grained in structure. Ripe black cherry, plum and a hint of boysenberry followed through the palate and into the lingering finish, with a trace of blueberry preserves.
- For the second year in a row, DAOU had one of their longest growing seasons with 2018. There was good rainfall in February and March causing bud break to occur on the later side of April. The newly energized vines from all the water provided one the best crops yet. The weather remained steady up until June, when a six-week-long heat wave took hold. Thankfully, this was prior to véraison so the grapes were not affected. A cooling trend followed for the rest of the season, allowing for another year of extended hang time and harvest concluding, yet again, into the third week in October. Due to the cooler overall vintage, these wines will be marked with elegance.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 95-97 points
- 49% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, 17% Petit Verdot
- Pleasant nose and mouthfeel with the same layers of complexity as 2017 and 2018, even with the different composition. Chalky minerality with fine grained tannins on the forefront, making this wine approachable and alluring. Herbaceous notes met rich black cherry and black currant with hints of violet.
- 2019 was marked as possibly the greatest vintage DAOU Mountain has ever experienced. Heavy rains—totaling close to 40 inches—during the vine’s dormant season made for a healthy cover crop that replenished the soil’s micronutrient levels. The weather throughout the growing season was ideal, with temperatures mostly in the 80s and 90s, and not a single day reaching 100 degrees on the Mountain. Overall, it was the coolest vintage Paso had experienced since 1973. For the third year in a row, harvest ran into the third week in October, with the grapes arriving in exquisite condition with no damage, sunburn or shriveling. This collector’s vintage is marked with great acidity, moderate alcohol and promise of longevity.
- Robert Parker Wine Advocate: 95+ points
And with that, the 10-year Mayote tasting flight has concluded. What an incredible experience! So, which was my favorite? With this tasting it was impossible to pick just one as each had such power yet elegance, and layers of depth. The spirit of Marie was beautifully captured. For me, the standout vintages were 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2018 in comparing the Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. I will say, as the lone wolf currently with Cabernet Franc/Merlot, 2019 is already showing beautifully and makes me excited for what’s to come with Mayote. I anticipate 2020 to be another homerun vintage and look forward to trying it soon with the release on February 11, 2023, when once again the DAOU bell will ring and we will raise a glass to honor Joseph and Marie.