My Conversation with Antoine–The Future of Araujo


Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyards

Last week I met with Antoine Donnedieu de Vabres, CFO and acting general manager of Araujo, under its new ownership by Bordeaux’s Chateau Latour. The acquisition—for an undisclosed amount rumored to be around $80 million—took place last June. But Araujo has been a largely silent place since then. Indeed, when I visited, I didn’t expect to do much more than simply meet Antoine. The two hour conversation and tasting that ensued surprised even me.

I will write a longer piece on Latour’s Araujo for the inaugural issue of SOMM JOURNAL this June. But, here are a few small excerpts of my conversation with Antoine.

KM: Many consider Araujo the equivalent of a Napa Valley First Growth. What are Chateau Latour’s plans for the estate?

AD: This estate is a place to which we can relate. Araujo wines have always been wines of balance and finesse. We are not going to change that. There is no revolution happening. The Eisele Vineyard in particular was in perfect condition when we bought it.

KM: There have been surprisingly few French acquisitions or start-ups in the Napa Valley. For Chateau Latour, why now?

AD: Napa Valley is at an interesting point in its evolution. There is a lot of history here, but the valley is simultaneously building its future. At the same time, this is a moment in Chateau Latour’s life when it is not afraid to expand its horizons, and to take an adventure apart from Pauillac and apart from France.

At the end of the conversation, we tasted four Araujo wines including the 2012 Eisele Sauvignon Blanc, and the not-yet-released 2011 Eisele Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are my notes:

ARAUJO Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Napa Valley, CA) $100
Simply gorgeous. Napa Valley’s answer to Haut Brion Blanc. Absolutely no green flavor whatsoever, but rather an explosion of minerals, salt, brine, and something akin to dried flowers. More round and less taut than many past vintages…which only serves to make it feel more hedonistic. This is one of the SBs (along with Rudd, Vineyard 29, Arietta, Quintessa and others) forging a new, top-class direction for SB in Napa Valley.

ARAUJO Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Napa Valley, CA) $ to be determined; the 2010 Eisele was $450
A great cabernet has the power to consume you… it seems like it’s drinking you rather than the other way around. Every atom of this wine screams purity, intensity and aliveness. For me, however, the best part of all was the fact that (what I call) the wine’s “center of gravity” was way back. The wine made you wait and wait and wait—almost as if you were drinking it in slow motion—before the luscious finish finally began to arrive

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