Eisele Vineyard Estate was founded as Araujo Estate in 1990 by Bart and Daphne Araujo; their first vintage was an Eisele Vineyard designate Cabernet Sauvignon from 1991. While the Araujo’s were new to the valley from Southern California, their vineyard was not. The historical Eisele Vineyard had produced quality fruit for several wineries including Joseph Phelps and Robert Mondavi and was also the source for a 1971 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – one of California’s earliest vineyard designated wines. The 1971 was the only vintage that Ridge winemaker at that time, Paul Draper ever produced from the Eisele Vineyard.
The vineyard also produced wine in a round about way for one of Conn Creek’s earliest releases. Lyncrest Vineyard on Spring Mountain (now the site of Marston Vineyards) ultimately closed down in 1974 (the last year of their production) due to bankruptcy. Lyncrest Vineyard had purchased and already had wine in barrel from the Eisele Vineyard when they offered several lots of wine at an auction. Conn Creek Vineyards purchased a 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Lyncrest Vineyard from the Eisele Vineyard – and along with a 1973 Steltzner Vineyard wine, Conn Creek bottled these as their first ever releases.
The history of viticulture on the property dates back much further; the Eisele Vineyard was first planted to grapes in 1886 – at that time to Zinfandel and Riesling. Riesling has nearly vanished from this part of the valley however there are still a number of old vine head pruned Zinfandel vineyards in the Calistoga sub-appellation. These varieties are no longer are planted in the vineyard; Cabernet Sauvignon was first planted here in 1964.
The entire property is 162 acres of which 38 are planted to vine. After the Araujos purchased the property, they built a winery and tunneled caves into the nearby hillside. About half of their wine produced annually is the Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Their second Cabernet Sauvignon is called Altagracia; they also produce a Syrah, a Sauvignon Blanc and in some years a small amount of Viognier.
Bart describes the magic of this vineyard as producing estate wines that have “weight but without heaviness”. They farm organically and have been certified biodynamic since 2002.
Walking the vineyard, one can find rocks – although not nearly as many today as there used to be. The shallow soils sit over an old creek bed with rounded alluvial rocks. The vineyard is fairly flat but lies at the lower part of an impressive rocky part of the Palisade’s – a series of jagged rock outcrops that form this part of the Vaca mountain range in the northern Napa Valley. Over time water and wind and gravity has moved sediments and rock from the mountains into an alluvial fan which spreads out and encompasses not only the Eisele vineyard but the other vineyards in this small side valley.
All wines under the Araujo label are from this vineyard – today 75% of the vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot (all of which are used to form their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon) with smaller blocks of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier (the Syrah has been removed).
The Araujo Ownership
Bart is a native of San Francisco who attended the University of Southern California (USC) and also Harvard Business School. From his home base in Los Angeles he founded a successful home construction company. Daphne is a retired landscape architect. Upon selling their company, the Araujos began their search for vineyard property specifically in the Napa Valley.
Milt and Barbara Eisele first purchased the property in 1969 when Milt (an executive at Kaiser Corporation was nearing retirement). After they decided to sell they initially offered it to Joseph Phelps who had already made numerous vintages from the property. As it were, he was busy with his own winery and vineyards and declined the offer. The Araujos had enlisted the help of a local real estate agent, Jean Philips (founder of Screaming Eagle) and had instructed her to offer them any well-known vineyard properties as they came on the market.
After they acquired the property, the Araujos replanted much of the vineyard and in 2000 replanted the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines which were originally planted in 1964.
Change in Ownership
In 2013, the Araujos sold the winery, property and brand to the Artemis Group, (founded in 1990 by French businessman François Pinault who incidentally is married to the famed American-Mexican actress Salma Hayek). The Artemis Group also owns First Growth Château Latour in Pauillac in the Médoc region, Domaine d’Eugénie, located south of Dijon, France, Château Grillet in the Rhone region and Clos de Tart in the Burgundy region. In addition, they own Christie’s, the long running auction house with primary offices in London and New York. And 2013 was the last vintage the wines were bottled under the Araujo label.
After the purchase, they changed the name of the winery from Araujo Estate to the Eisele Vineyard (taking the namesake as their actual vineyard). And after the sale, the Araujos remained in the wine industry – having founded Wheeler Farms, home to their own Accendo Cellars as well as a production winery for select other premium brands.
Tasting notes coming soon.
This storied estate was first planted to vines in the 14th century – its iconic stone tower (La Tour de Saint-Lambert) dates from the 1620’s and replaced an earlier tower that was built here in the 1300s. Château Latour focuses on three wines – their primary offering, the Grand vin, a second label, Les Forts de Latour, and a third wine called Le Pauillac de Château Latour.
The soils surrounding the chateau are remarkably rocky (river washed and rounded cobble). The varieties grown here include a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The chateau on site dates from 1864. Located in Pauillac, Château Latour (closed to the public) is only a short distance from at times, the large buses and tour groups that stop and admire the nearby stunning property of Château Pichon Baron.
Total production of all the Eisele Estate wines is usually around 2,000 cases. For more information and to join the Eisele Vineyard waiting list to get on the mailing list visit: www.eiselevineyard.com
Note: this review requires a significant update – we have toured the winery and Eisele Vineyard – but need a revisit to complete this review.
Château Latour, Pauillac