Araujo Masterclass with Bart & Daphne Araujo (20110505)

One of the masterclasses in 2011 world gourmet summit. In fact, I didn’t enroll for this…. My best buddy did… but due to some personal issue, he can’t attend hence, I got my birthday present! Thanks buddy!

Dr. NK Yong is the host for this masterclass together with Ms. Lisa-Perotti Brown, Mr. & Mrs. Araujo. Set-up for the masterclass was pretty simple, no brochure or any introductory note provided. However, the hosts made it a serious masterclass with loads of info for the wine making, vineyard, growing season and personal thought between Californian Cab and their French counterpart: Bordeaux.

Philosophy of Araujo: Elegance is difficult while power is easy, they want balance of all. Weight without heaviness.  I would say their wines showed us that they have achieved their goal. Unlike some of the cab based wines that show superb ripe fruits, lack of acidity and freshness, over the top, Araujo’s wines are ripe, sweet but display great freshness and transparency. Stylish, soulful, classy and loads of personality. Most importantly, I can see the evolution of the wines, thanks to Mr. Bart very wise choice to select 2set of wines (Cabernet & Syrah) that are 10yrs different (2005 & 1995 for Cab, 2003 & 1993 for Syrah) in aged.

I must say Araujo produces world class wines and one of my best experiences for Californian wines. p/s: All wine growing information is extracted from

Flight 1: Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Araujo Estate Altagracia Red Table Wine – USA, California, Napa Valley

-> Cost 1/3 of the price of Araujo and named after Bart’s grandmother name. Altagracia is blended from certain special lots (fruits from Eisele vineyard young vines which not quite mature in fruits flavours and not so high on tannin) that declassified from Araujo flagship Cabernet and vinified in the same manner as Eisele Vineyard Cabernet.

-> This wine label as red table wine means that this doesn’t need to be at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. This is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, sometime Merlot.

Wine growing Information: 

  • The 2008 growing season was year of extremes, beginning with intense storms that brought rain and high winds, but the precipitation soon waned and for the second year in a row, less than 60 percent of normal rainfall was received.  The spring season was one of the driest on record. The dry soils prompted grapevines to push out early, just as frigid, dry air in early spring created conditions for the deepest and longest frost period in three decades, against which our wind machines proved ineffective.
  • The Cabernet grapes were not spared by the frosts, which caused a loss of over 20 percent of the normal crop.  The vines produced a small canopy in response to the lack of soil moisture, while enduring an early heat spike at bloom.  A cooler summer ensued, allowing the naturally resilient vines to focus on ripening their small crop in the mild temperatures. After the early start to the growing season, the Eisele Vineyard harvest began slightly earlier than normal, with the first block of Cabernet harvested on September 11th and the final grapes picked on October 1st.
  • The fruit was sorted, de-stemmed and cold-soaked, undergoing native yeast fermentations and long macerations in small stainless steel tanks. The wine was aged in 100 percent new French oak barrels for 23 months and bottled in September 2010.
  • This vintage was the first that we were able to source fruit from two other stellar Napa Valley vineyards; some of the resulting wine was used in the Altagracia, and based on the outcome, we will likely continue to produce Altagracia with the addition of some of our friends excellent fruit.

Tasting Note:

  • Alcohol :: 14.2%
  • Eisele Vineyard: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot
  • Napa Valleu: 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot
  • Bright dark ruby core with purplish hue. Eucalyptus and green herb dominated the aromatic profile along with smoke mint, brown sugar and pure sweet cassis. The sweet cassis flavour also reflect on the palate, though sweet but bright, with layer of charcoal, sweet plum and smoke element that glide through the very rich palate but not heavy, with very silky tannin, velvet, good grip with fruits and integration of oak, already drinking very well now yet definitely no problem for aging. Juicy, bitter sweet cocoa finish that is spicy with alcohol heat notes that distract a bit. Bart commented that the tannin is silky and soft, almost un-noticeable when tasted but chemically measure proved that this is a wine with really high tannin. Buy – Maybe – Yes.

2005 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley

Wine growing Information: 

  • The remarkable 2005 growing season began with one of the wettest springs on record, with soaking rains that continued well into June. Full soil moisture capacity in the vineyard encouraged long leafy shoots, and clear weather at bloom allowed an excellent fruit set, all of which kept our crews busy thinning clusters, leaves and shoots to provide ideal exposure for the remaining grapes. A spectacular summer ensued, with warm, sunny days and cool nights, and even through September, the weather continued mild with no severe heat spikes, ripening the perfectly formed clusters slowly and completely.
  • This beautiful season allowed extensive hang time until the end of September, producing grapes with delicious flavors and lower sugars with no dehydration. The generous harvest began on September 27th with the young Petit Verdot, and ended on October 13th with the last Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit was hand-picked under lights during the cool hours of the night, hand sorted, fermented and macerated in small tanks, and then aged in new French oak barrels for 26 months. The wine was bottled in November, 2007.
  • 2005 is a vintage with heat but never too hot, wonderful long hang time and ideal harvest period, well ripe tannin with effortless finish that just goes on and on. The valley is very near the coast thus having lots of fog during summer. Jun – Aug – Sep is very boring: fog came in at night, stay until 10am and temperature slowly warm up to 85F, everyday, truly boring but absolutely magical for the grapes. Occasionally having heat spike once or twice which the temperature can rise up to 100F.

Tasting Notes:

  • Alcohol :: 14.8%
  • 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot
  • Darker ruby core with lightly brown hue (storage?). Tight on the nose with highly expressive of eucalyptus essence aromas, vanilla, smoke cigarette that is slightly pungent and with some swirling, sweet dark fruits emerge. Super rich and concentrated on the rounded, polished palate with layer of fruits that is so pure and dense but never come across heavy thanks to the fresh acidity that formed the firm backbone and show great freshness and focus, elegance which move on to the complex, detail finish that’s linger slowly with spices and eucalyptus dryness. The great thing here is the tannin / oak / acid / fruits all well integrated and formed a really lovely, harmonious atmosphere to enjoy even at this young age! It could be a great wine with good sense of finesse and class but, the little touch of alcohol heat pukes out at the very end causing a down grade, perhaps half a notch. That’s being said, if this issue can be solved with additional bottle age, this will be brilliant. Buy – Maybe – Yes.

1995 Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley

Quoted from Daphne: 

  • A lots of Californian wine like to made big impression upfront, ie, hit you hardly at entry. Araujo, wanted to do it more restraint, tight at first but the wine slowly open up and keep changing which made dining exp a lot more fun.
  • I loveBordeaux, I love Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Calon Segur but we can’t madeBordeaux, as growing condition is different. Araujo only use 100% new French oak made by Cooper.

Wine Growing information:

  • The 1995 growing season began with major winter flooding in January and March followed by a cool, frost free, but still wet spring, bringing later than usual flowering. Both rain and a freak hailstorm in June resulted in a light fruit set and small clusters. A warmer than usual summer allowed the grapes to hang on the vines for an extended period. The grapes benefited from this extra hang time, yielding a crop that was richly concentrated, intense and beautifully balanced.
  • We began harvesting our young vines on September 25 and finished with the older vines on October 24, about 3 weeks later than usual. The lots were fermented separately in stainless steel tanks, then aged 22 months in 75 percent new French oak barrels. The wine was bottled in August, 1997.
Tasting Note:
  • Alcohol :: 13.5%
  • 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Medium ruby core with more brownish hue. Even more expressive on the nose with almost caramelize fruits underneath along with tobacco, smoke cigarette, eucalyptus, sweet cassis, plum and honey that almost like a late harvest dessert wine. Similar to the 2005, this too offer superb balance, purity of fruits, harmonious and elegance with good mid palate depth, remarkable long on the finish with fresh mineral that linger with more power built at the end that made the finish even longer and compelling. While there is touch of alcohol present too but this is acceptable compare to the slightly higher presence from the 2005. Almost seamless, despite the overall balance and depth, the figure of the 1995 is streamline with a tad more finesse compare to the more opulent, powerful 2005. Buy – Yes.
Flight 2: Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Araujo Estate Sauvignon Blanc Eisele Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley

Wine growing Information: 

  • The 2010 growing season began late, with cool spring temperatures delaying budbreak in the vineyard. Cool, showery weather persisted through May and then finally more normal temperatures returned in June for good weather at bloom and fruit set. Despite a heat spike in late August, the cooler overall temperatures for the growing season allowed the Sauvignon grapes to maintain a beautiful acidity, ensuring crisp and lively flavors, while warm weather in September helped bring the fruit to full maturity.
  • The leisurely harvest was about one week later than average, beginning with Sauvignon Musque on September 2nd and finishing with Sauvignon Blanc on September 17th. The clusters were hand-picked in prime condition in the cool morning hours, then whole-cluster pressed and fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel drums and new French oak. The wine was barrel-aged sur lie for six months with weekly batonnage, and bottled in March, 2011. The grapes were certified ‘Organic’ by California Certified Organic Farmers and ‘Biodynamic’ by Demeter.

Tasting Note:

  • Alcohol :: 14.3%
  • 64% Sauvignon Musque, 36% Sauvignon Blanc
  • Wow, this is amazingly good for a new world Sauvignon Blanc, the best so far? Bright gold in color that boost wonderful aromas of tropical fruits, guava, eucalyptus leaves, mineral and touch of pineapple and sweet liquid mineral, what a complex yet refreshing nose! Unlike some of the crisp Sauvignon Blanc that seem quite lean, this is creamy yet clean on the very rich mango, sweet passion fruits coated palate with good depth and complexity. Silky, velvety mouth feel with good long finish that’s pure, and fresh. Juicy but not being sweet with pink guava aftertaste. Buy – Yes.

Flight 3: Syrah!

2003 Araujo Estate Syrah Eisele Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley

Wine growing Information: 

  • Following a warm winter with above average rainfall, the start of the 2003 growing season was delayed by a cool spring and an unusually wet April that reduced the fruit set and cluster size. A benign summer ensued, with classic conditions of cool, foggy mornings followed by long summer days of temperatures mostly in the 80’s, allowing flavors to develop well in advance of sugars. Some long-awaited heat arrived in mid-September, bringing the small crop of already flavorful grapes to full phenolic ripeness.
  • Harvest began on September 17th, and continued until September 27th. The grapes were picked and delivered to the winery during the cool pre-dawn hours. The fruit was sorted by hand, de-stemmed, and cold-soaked, and underwent native yeast fermentations and extended macerations in small open-top fermenters. The wine was aged in 50 percent new French oak barrels for 21 months and bottled in July, 2005.

Tasting Note:

  • Alcohol :: 14.9%
  • 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier.
  • This is even sweeter entry than the Cabernet and also more powerful. I very much like the underlying layer of succulent dark fruits that is pure and not heavy, in fact, fresh to buffer the power of this wine, which is very much approachable and enjoyable with complex flavours of roasted herb, mineral and fruits. Refine and polished texture. The cashmere like tannin is well-integrated and added better weight and depth to the wine. While this is powerful, it doesn’t sacrifice the sense of elegance and finesse, and the long, effortless finish just goes on and on, quite dry with roasted coffee bean. This is absolutely delicious with substances to boost, I like. Buy – Yes.

1993 Araujo Estate Syrah Eisele Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley

  • Fresh, good acidity with rounded mouth feel. The sweetness has mellow down, with very fresh and pure sweet dark fruits coated palate leads to the very long, grippy finish. Very good. I noticed when aged, this Syrah showed even better sense of elegance with polished texture and seamless harmony but lack of the mid palate concentration and overall depth and complexity. That being said, I prefer the 2003 version, would the 2003 version evolve into something like this 1993? Well, I would love to know. Buy – Maybe.
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