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History

In wine, there is nothing so immutable as the land. Vintages offer variation, as do winemakers and proprietors. Mother Nature is capricious, always wanting the last word. But the land is a constant, its geology and composition immovable. At the heart of every great wine is a piece of land like no other.

First planted to vines in the 1880s, Eisele Vineyard sits in the northeast Napa Valley, just east of Calistoga at the base of the Palisades Mountain range. Farmed organically since 1998 and biodynamically since 2000, the site has been principally dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon for the last fifty years. Beginning with the inaugural release bearing the Eisele name in 1971, this iconic vineyard has received consistent recognition for possessing one of the great terroirs of Napa Valley. The wines invariably express the exceptional depth, elegance and longevity which are hallmarks of the Eisele Vineyard.

 

Our vision is nothing less than to re-embrace the long history of Eisele Vineyard while realizing the full potential of this remarkable estate. Preserving and expanding upon the vineyard’s distinguished legacy in Napa Valley — and among the great winegrowing estates of the world — is both an honor and our aspiration. Through intellectual rigor, humility, and with the utmost respect for the land, our aim is to make wines that speak of the Eisele Vineyard in the most authentic way possible.

 

The history of the 162-acre Estate reaches back to a time before grapes began to dominate the Napa Valley, and mirrors the events that shaped this extraordinary grape growing region.

The earliest stewards of what is now the Eisele Vineyard were the Wappo, native gardeners and land conservationists who until the early 1800s maintained a delicate balance among wildlife, vegetation, and human occupation.

By 1841 the Eisele lands had become part of the 18,000-acre Mexican land grant, Rancho Carne Humana, awarded to Edward Turner Bale by his uncle-in-law, General Mariano G. Vallejo. Bale continued to graze cattle and horses on the land; he also cultivated grapes and grew vast quantities of wheat, building a large gristmill that is said to be one of the first meeting places of the Anglo settlers who staged the Bear Flag Revolt.

In the early 1880s Jackson G. Randall, one of Napa Valley’s pioneer viticulturists, and his neighbor Charles Nathan Pickett, one of the Valley’s largest wine producers, were the first to plant grapes on what is now Eisele Vineyard. Pickett and his family retained this vineyard land until the Second World War.

From the 1880s to the late 1960s the lands remained under continuous grape cultivation, surviving successive owners as well as the financial catastrophes of phylloxera, Prohibition and the Great Depression. During these years the Napa Valley wine industry languished but vines persisted.

 

During their twenty-three years of stewardship of the Eisele Vineyard, the Araujos were committed to maintaining links with Napa Valley’s rural history while building on the Eisele’s accomplishments. Taking an exceptional piece of land for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, the Araujos created an authentic winegrowing estate. They replanted the vines, introduced organic farming and became among the first Napa Valley vintners to embrace the principles of biodynamic farming. They re-designed the estate grounds and safeguarded a diverse eco-system to ensure the health of the land.

The Araujos also constructed the first winery on the property, including temperature-controlled caves, tastefully

integrating the architecture with the natural and historic landscape. And they produced outstanding wines, exquisite Cabernet Sauvignons that secured a world-class reputation for the Eisele Vineyard and created a touchstone for Napa Valley.

In 1990 the Araujos also identified a small number of Syrah vines within a Cabernet block dating from 1978 grafts, and from these vines they developed a dedicated Syrah program. Additionally, they brought Sauvignon Blanc to an east-facing slope of the Eisele Vineyard. The Araujo’s contribution to this property – its beauty and vitality, its wines and its stature – cannot be overstated. Their work will speak through this place as long as vines are in the ground.

 

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Vineyards

Since 1971, some of California's most age worthy and intensely flavored Cabernet Sauvignons have been made from grapes grown at the Eisele Vineyard, located on an alluvial fan near the northern end of the Napa Valley, just east of Calistoga. Protected by the Palisades Mountains to the north and cooled by westerly breezes from the Chalk Hill Gap, this 38-acre vineyard is planted on well-drained cobbly soils that produce a low yielding crop of exceptionally concentrated fruit.

 

The wines produced in this remarkable place have a rare combination of forthright character with precisely defined flavors and fine textures, deep concentration without any sense of heaviness, and the capacity to develop profound complexity with age. The Eisele Vineyard was originally planted in the 1880s to Zinfandel and Riesling, and has been under vine continuously since then. The first Cabernet was planted in 1964.

The term terroir describes the unique environment of a vineyard, from its soils, slopes, and aspects to its climate, microclimates, and weather patterns. A memorable wine can nearly always be traced to the terroir of its vineyard. It is a wine that expresses an unmistakable sense of place.

 

The Eisele Vineyard is affected by two water courses – Simmons Creek, which bisects the estate, and a small perpendicular tributary flowing from the east. These waterways have spread an alluvial fan of volcanic cobbly soils from the surrounding Palisades Mountains, deposited by intense storms during the wet winters.

Between the creek bed and the foothills lie gentle slopes formed from soils that gradually settled through weathering and gravity. In summer, when there is scant rain in California and creeks are dry, groundwater is available only at great depth. This extraordinary soil configuration allows deep roots to seek moisture in the stony subsoil. Combined with the cooling Northwestern winds coming through Chalk Hill Gap, it allows the vineyard to fare seamlessly under climatic pressure and offer considerable consistency in quality. Vines growing in these dry, rocky soils produce very small berries of thick-skinned, intensely flavored grapes.

 

The Eisele Vineyard has been farmed organically since 1998, and biodynamically since 2000. We do this for two reasons: our belief that these practices result in better wine, and our commitment to caring for this pristine vineyard in the most thoughtful and conscientious way that we can.

Organic farming feeds the soil, enriching the diversity and vitality of microorganisms and thereby improving the health of the vines and complexity of grape flavor. We forego the use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides at Eisele Vineyard. Instead, we rely on practices such as composting to increase the activity of microorganisms in the soil and planting cover crops that control erosion and provide habitat and food for beneficial insects as well as green manure for the vines. As a result, our soils and vines – as well as our orchards, vegetable and flower gardens – are naturally healthy and more resistant to disease and climate stress.

We also embrace the biodynamic approach to agriculture, a set of principles first described by Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Biodynamics prescribes using the rhythms of nature – the sun, moon, planets and stars – to guide the timing of farming practices as a means of ensuring the health, vigor and vitality of the crop being grown. The balance and harmony afforded by biodynamics enable the vines to fully express their innate qualities and likewise, enhance the wines’ ability to reflect the unique character that emanates from this vineyard.

In addition to operating according to organic and biodynamic principles, we are ever mindful of our imprint on the environment around us. Our efforts to help restore the Napa River's native riparian corridor are ensuring healthy streams and riverbeds for future generations. Our adoption of water and energy conservation, pollution prevention and waste reduction practices have led to our certification in the Napa Green Land and Napa Green Winery programs as well as Fish Friendly Farming.

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Winemaking

At Eisele Vineyard winemaking takes a back seat to terroir, and respect for the fruit is essential. There is no signature, no dogma or style of wine we are trying to achieve. We believe in the utmost attention to detail at every stage of winemaking, applying intellectual rigor, curiosity, and a willingness to challenge ourselves at each step.

In the vineyard, we do everything within our power to produce the finest fruit each growing season. In the cellar,

our winemaking is precise and stripped of pretension, our approach purposeful, uncompromising, natural, and honest. We respect what each vintage gives us, and the authenticity of the story that each growing season tells.

Wines from the Eisele Vineyard consistently carry the stamp of depth and balance that has characterized wines from this place since 1971. They will speak with purity and intention, in the clear voice of their singular terroir.

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