It's hard to imagine how a winery with a name as difficult to pronounce as Araujo could produce a cult wine. Ask someone in the Araujo family how to pronounce their name and the answer is, 'it depends', and a list of country-specific pronunciations follows. In the Napa Valley, California, in the United States, Araujo is pronounced 'uh-rah-hoh', which should be a fairly comfortable fit for Cantonese speakers.
Araujo is tucked away in the northeastern hills of Napa Valley. If you've visited the area but didn't spot the property, that's no surprise: most of it is underground. Determined to minimise their impact on the beautiful scenery, Bart and Daphne Araujo burrowed into a hill, placing all winemaking operations out of sight. As Jaime Araujo put it in a recent visit to Hong Kong: 'Grapes go into the mountain and emerge as a bottle of wine.'
Their commitment to the region is not only aesthetic. All winery operations are fully powered by solar energy and the vineyards are biodynamic - an extreme form of organic care that involves chickens, bees and two cows, Romeo and Juliet (an expectant mother).
Their Eisele (eyes-uh-lee) Vineyard is along the lines of a Bordeaux-classed growth, the fruit passing through the hands of Napa nobility such as Paul Draper (of Ridge) and Joseph Phelps.
Araujo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard 2007, Napa Valley (pictured)
Elegant restraint with coiled power. Layered dried cherries, cigar box and black currants, yet surprisingly light-footed with its bright acidity, fresh palate and blanket of fine, velvety tannins. An aristocratic and distinguished wine. Give it a try, Bordeaux lovers!
Available for HK$1,790 at Altaya Wines (tel: 2523 1945)
Araujo Estate Sauvignon Blanc Eisele Vineyard 2009
One of the finest Napa Valley sauvignon blancs I've tasted. Fans of barrel-fermented white bordeaux will appreciate the round, full, yet agile body of this wine. Rather than use sauvignon's traditional Bordeaux blending partner, semillon, the winemakers blended a scintilla of viognier (4 to 6 per cent) into the wine. The risk was that it could result in a fat, blowsy, tinned-apricot effect, but, here, the result is subtle, adding gentle weight and quiet fruit accents. Fresh and lively with integrated acidity. An elegant wine with excellent length.
Available for HK$295 at Altaya
Araujo Estate Altagracia 2008
This is the Eisele Vineyard's second wine, but its pedigree shines through. Fine red fruits, cranberry, black raspberry, tangy red currants and sweet oak spice. Sandy-textured and dry. Very good length.
Available for HK$572 at Altaya
Araujo Estate Syrah Eisele Vineyard 2007
Blackberry fruit with apricot scents. Perfumed and pretty. Lush, but not overpowering, classy and genteel.
Available for HK$660 at Altaya
Debra Meiburg is a master of wine