In 2007, Lebanese brothers Georges and Daniel Daou founded DAOU Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles on the California coast, making their American dream come true. In just 16 years, the company became the leading luxury wine brand in the United States and formed a community around a mastery of savoir-faire that has been hailed by critics time and time again. The most recent accolade came last July, when the vineyard’s tasting room was voted “Best tasting room” by the USA Today.
At the end of October, Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) acquired DAOU Vineyards for the princely sum of $1 billion.
However, “we’re keeping the keys to the vineyard,” Georges Daou told L’Orient-Le Jour.
“The sale concerns around 80 percent of the company’s shares and we’re keeping the rest,” he added. In detail, TWE will pay $900 million in upfront payments, plus another $100 million if certain performance targets are met.
While this purchase opens the door to the premium wine market in the United States for the Australian producer, the sale of DAOU Vineyards and Winery does not mean the Daou brothers are leaving Paso Robles.
The Daou brothers arrived in San Diego a few years after their family, who ran a joinery and furniture business at the time, fled Lebanon in 1975 in the early days of the war. They now own shares worth $157 million, making them the company’s largest shareholders.
Towards a global brand
“When I was very young, I sensed my parents’ intransigence in the face of life, which was passed on to them from the family and professional hardships they had endured. But they taught me to dream, and so I always believed, with relentless optimism, that the sun could shine on our lives. There was a need to change their minds,” said Georges Daou, who along with his family survived a bomb that fell on the front steps of their home in Beirut.
The sale of DAOU Vineyards is the result of a long-term approach, in line with the Daou family’s entrepreneurial spirit. “While we did have the option of going public on our own, the opportunity to grow DAOU outside the United States and turn it into a global brand could only be seized with the help of Treasury Wine Estates. On our own, it would have taken us between 20 and 30 years,” Georges Daou said.
In light of this new partnership, the company’s future looks bright, with the promise of wider geographical coverage. “We need routes to markets that TWE are experts in, in other words, strong and solid links with distributors all over the world,” said the elder Daou. The aim is to grow the DAOU community.
Following the announcement of the acquisition, TWE’s Managing Director, Tim Ford, told the press he sees DAOU Vineyards to be as successful and long-lasting as Penfolds, one of the group’s benchmark wine brands, which has been established internationally for 180 years. “It’s a privilege to know that our brand will live on for so long. For our family, and especially our parents, it’s a great legacy,” said the Lebanese entrepreneur.
‘I’ve missed’ Lebanon'
“When we started out, I immediately realized that for wine consumers, the important thing is not to find a cheap bottle, but to dream. I’m not talking about the dream of owning an object, but of a state of mind that you want in your everyday life,” Georges said. Around their bottles, the Daou brothers imagined an experience, a brand and a lifestyle that keeps the sun shining.
“People believe in the raison d'être of this winery, and if DAOU is successful, it’s because they were moved (by the experience),” said Georges Daou.
Emotions are omnipresent in the world of Georges and Daniel Daou, who have used them to craft a universe and an entrepreneurial architecture. “We have created a place of excellence and formed a culture with our employees.”
Georges Daou sees the future in Italy, with “a vineyard project in Tuscany,” and above all in Lebanon, where he intends to “return more often to find certain friends and an atmosphere that I need.” He admitted almost half a century after leaving, “I’ve missed the country.”
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.