Eisele Vineyard Estate was founded in 1990 by Bart and Daphne Araujo. While the Araujo’s were new to the valley from Southern California, their vineyard was not. The historical Eisele vineyard had been producing quality fruit for a number of wineries including Joseph Phelps and Conn Creek and in fact was the source for a 1971 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – one of California’s earliest vineyard designated wines.
The Eisele Vineyard was first planted to grapes in the 1880’s – at that time it was Zinfandel and Riesling. Riesling has nearly vanished from this part of the valley while 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.
Walking the vineyard, one can find rocks – although not nearly as many today as there used to be. 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).
Bart is a native of San Francisco and after college moved to Los Angeles and founded a successful home construction company. Upon selling their company, the Araujo’s began their search for vineyard property specifically in Napa. The Eisele Vineyard was for sale by its owners and namesake, Milt and Barbara Eisele – and was offered to Joseph Phelps who had already made a number of 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.
The entire property is 162 acres of which 38 are planted to vine. After the Araujos purchased the property, they built a winery was built and tunneled caves into the nearby hillside.
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 for a number of years.
About half of their wine produced annually is the Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Their second Cabernet is called Altagracia and they also produce a Syrah, a Sauvignon blanc and in some years a small amount of Viognier.
In 2013, the winery, property and brand was sold 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.
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.
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.
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