On any given fall day or night, they answer the call without fail. They are dedicated, talented and joyful during the long hours of the harvest season. They are the vineyard and winery workers of DAOU, and every one of our wines passes through their hands.
As we wrap up the 2022 harvest at DAOU, we reflect on another amazing season and shine a light on some of the key players who made it happen.
Kati Ayers, Laboratory Manager at DAOU has been with the team since early 2020. She studied biochemistry and worked 2 wine harvests prior to finding her place at DAOU.
Kati oversees the lab work for our Estate and Reserve wines, protecting the quality of our most celebrated brands through chemistry and scientific rigor.
Kati describes her typical harvest day as “Busy!”, starting bright and early to get the lab ready for the fermentation samples that need to be tested by her team. “We collect, record and report all of this data before repeating the process in the afternoon,” she explains. They will then analyze grape samples from the vineyard, this data allows the winemaker (Daniel Daou) and the vineyard team to monitor and plan harvest across all our blocks.
Kati states that “Working with him (Daniel Daou) through harvest is like participating in an in-depth classroom experience, where you learn about the wine at all levels. “I really enjoy the sense of camaraderie that can develop as we all work toward the same goal, even if it feels a bit frantic in the process,” she concludes.
“It is inevitable that your path will cross with the wine industry while living in Paso Robles,” DAOU Cellar Lead, Valeria Pallais candidly informs us. “I moved here in 2015 and immediately started working at wineries. It was love at first sight. I gratefully enjoy working in every single step of the winemaking process."
Valeria is now in her fourth year at DAOU, and was promoted from Cellar Technician to Cellar Lead during the 2022 harvest. Valeria performs a range of hands-on winemaking duties during the harvest season, including racking, filtration and yeast inoculation.
Since landing at DAOU, she feels she has found her home away from home. “DAOU offered me a stable opportunity and a comfortable working environment,” she says.
Valeria’s husband is a combat veteran and civilian employee for the Department of Defense, with whom she shares a son in college and a 10-year-old daughter. “If I see delicious food while watching a movie, I do research and prepare it at home,” she says about her favorite hobby-cooking. “I love spending time with my family either at home or outside at the beach or a park.”
Mikee, graduated from Cal Poly with a major in Chemistry. She started at DAOU right after college as an assistant lab manager five years ago. Today she is DAOU’s Estate Winery Operations Manager, and oversees our Estate and Reserve winemaking activities, including the lab and barrel teams.
Mikee’s typical harvest day begins at 6 a.m., when she catches up on the work that was completed by the evening team, and the pending work orders placed the previous night. She manages the morning fermentation pumpovers, checks on the incoming fruit and assesses tank space and readiness. This continues into the afternoon, concluding with her own work orders to maintain the brisk pace of work during harvest. She thoughtfully shares that “Harvest has made me appreciate the amount of work, effort and thought that goes into making wine. There’s a lot more to it than you might think.”
Her favorite part about harvest? “It’s the product we get to create and to share with others for a long time to come.”
Mikee, a Paso Robles native, grew up around agriculture but also found her passion as an avid soccer player.
Chuy has been with DAOU since the 2011 harvest, rising through the production ranks, a testament to his talent and work ethic, to his current position as Cellar lead.
A typical day for Chuy involves him overseeing the daily operations across the winery cellar, including yeast innoculations, wine racking and filtration. The fast-paced environment of harvest requires him to think quickly and effectively to troubleshoot any curve balls that come his way. “I am grateful to have been given such an opportunity, and to be able to learn and work among tremendously giving and smart people,” Chuy humbly states.
Chuy lives in Paso Robles with his wife Evelyn and their two young daughters. They are avid pet lovers with three dogs, and passionate foodies who also enjoy beach walking, hiking, and camping.
He attributes his work at the winery and vineyard to the change in his perspective on wine.
“Now when I open a bottle and take the first sniff, not only do I search for the wine’s inner beauty. I start by thinking about the people who helped make it with great dedication and passion that went into producing it. To me, it’s joy, blood, sweat and tears in a bottle. A true expression of human effort.”
Madison Jackson joined DAOU in the summer of 2017. She has spent six harvests with DAOU, and is the Grower Relations Manager. Her role includes managing grape purchasing contracts, scheduling pick dates and coordinating logistics for harvest ready-grapes based on guidance from the winemaking team.
Madison studied wine and viticulture at Cal Poly where she developed the necessary skills to be successful in the industry. She was a senior when her passion for grower relations started and then began pursuing this career. DAOU was her obvious choice after meeting Daniel Daou and learning DAOU’s winemaking and viticulture practices. “I was offered the Grower Relations Manager position and haven’t looked back.”
The most exciting part of Madison’s job is collaborating with others to accomplish great things. “I enjoy working with the harvest teams and the growers to ensure optimum efficiency and quality, in order to make the best possible wines,” she explains. “There’s always a lot to accomplish in a narrow time frame, but luckily we have a great team and we partner with wonderful growers.”