The name “Araujo” is quite famous in Napa Valley, as Bart and Daphne Araujo ran their namesake winery for 24 years, crafting a string of some of the most highly rated Napa Cabs from the legendary Eisele Vineyard. But with an offer “that came out of the blue” from the Artemis Group to purchase Araujo Estate in 2013, they decided the timing was right to move onto another “project.”
Fast forward to 2020 with a brand new winery at Wheeler Farms, a private custom-crush facility located in St. Helena, where the Araujo’s, along with daughter Jaime, have created two new compelling winery projects – Accendo Cellars and Trois Noix. Today they both have five vintages to their credit, and the wines are showing clear and delicious differences in style and personality.
Arriving at Wheeler Farms to Taste Accendo and Trois Noix Wines
We scheduled an appointment to taste wines from both Accendo Cellars and Trois Noix at 10:30 on a Friday morning as part of our series on safe COVID visits to Napa/Sonoma tasting rooms. After punching in the gate code I received with the email confirmation, I drove into a beautiful garden with flowering shrubs, vegetable boxes and leafy green trees. Rising up behind it all was an impressive two-story brown barn-like structure, which I learned was a state-of-the-art winery. Off to the left was an old historic house that was part of the original Wheeler Farms established in the 1800’s.
Even before I parked my car, two people wearing COVID masks approached to welcome me. One turned out to be the charming, Jaime Araujo, founder of Trois Noix and partner with her parents in establishing Accendo Cellars, and the other was Brand Ambassador, Mathew, who held a tray with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne. A very nice welcome indeed!
A Mini-Tour of the Estate
A few minutes later my friend Charlie arrived, and with his glass of welcome Champagne in hand, Jaime invited us to peak into the winery. Due to COVID safety regulations, visitors are not allowed to enter a winery, but we could stand at the door and gaze at the equipment. It was mind-boggling – and I have seen many wineries around the world. I told Jaime that this looked like a “Cathedral to Winemaking.” It had specially designed stainless-steel tanks, each with their own pump. There was a huge Bucher press, and an optical sorter – all “toys” that any winemaker would dream to have. Indeed, the winemaking facility attracts a number of highly talented winemakers.
Next Jaime pointed out the organic gardens and described how the fresh produce was incorporated into the food/wine tasting experiences offered at the estate. We walked towards the vineyards surrounding the property, and Jamie explained that they were primarily cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc vines, and that most of the grapes went into the Wheeler Farms wine brand. Currently there are six wineries operating at Wheeler Farms, including Accendo Cellars and Trois Noix.
Wheeler Farms Winemaking Facility
A Tasting of Trois Noix Wines with Founder, Jaime Araujo
After the mini-tour, Jaime led us to a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. Laid out on an elegant table under an awning were two place-settings with six wine glasses and a tempting charcuterie platter with local cheeses, estate-made crackers and fresh peach and basil from the garden. We were enchanted at the delightful setting and welcoming hospitality.
Keeping her mask on during the tasting, Jaime described how she started Trois Noix, with her brother. The name means “Three Nuts” in French, and is in honor of their three kids. After working abroad for nearly 20 years, including as a professional actress in London, three years with LVMH in Paris, and CEO/Founder of Terravina, a wine marketing/strategy firm in France, Jaime was finally lured back home to Napa Valley when her parents asked her to help them launch their new winery, Accendo.
“I was very excited to help them,” she says, “but decided I also wanted my own wine project, especially when I realized there was so much good wine available in Napa Valley. Therefore, I established Trois Noix, which is based on an opportunist approach to winemaking.” She explains that, “together with friends in the community, we sleuth out compelling wines and grapes that might overwise go neglected.”
Once she identifies some high-quality Napa grapes and/or wine, Jaime works with top winemakers to craft wines that are approachable, but also with the structure to last. This makes tasting Trois Noix wines a very exciting adventure, because each year turns up new treasures. Indeed, we were very impressed with the three Trois Noix wines that Jaime shared with us:
- 2018 Trois Noix Sauvignon Blanc – aromatic nose of jasmine and gooseberry with explosive grapefruit on palate combined with minerality and mouth-watering acidity. Very lively and refreshing. Made in a combination of neutral oak and stainless steel with battonage. 92 points, $40
- 2018 Trois Noix Chardonnay – classic Napa chardonnay with ripe apple, pear, generous toasty oak and lemon-zest acidity. Delicious and approachable. From Oak Knoll AVA. 90 points, $50
- 2016 Trois Noix Cabernet Sauvignon – a Napa Cab with lots of personality, this wine wakes up the palate with black cherry, chocolate, pepper and tobacco. Enlivening! 92 points, $100
A Tasting of Accendo Cellars Wines
Accendo Cellars is the new passion child of Bart and Daphne Araujo. After spending over two decades crafting masterpiece wines from the Napa “Grand Cru” vineyard of Eisele, this time they decided to focus on the “art of the blend,” according to Jaime Araujo. “Now, for Accendo, we source grapes from five to six of the top “Grand Cru” vineyard sites in Napa Valley, and create a masterful blend. Not only are we sourcing from specific vineyards – all organic or biodynamically farmed – but we are selecting the best blocks within those great vineyards. Think ‘Burgundy in Napa Valley.’”
They have also assembled an all-star team to help craft their wines, with Steve Matthiasson as viticulturist and Jeff Dawson as biodynamic consultant. They were also able to convince their former winemaking team at Eisele vineyards to assist, including Nigel Kinsman, Francoise Peschon and consulting winemaker, Michel Rolland.
Accendo Wines. Photo Credit: Accendo Cellars
We tasted three Accendo Cellars wines after tasting the three Trois Noix wines, and there was a clear difference in the expression and style of the two wineries:
- 2018 Accendo Cellars Sauvignon Blanc – made with all three Bordeaux grapes – Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musque and Semillon – this wine is the type I’ve been seeking in Napa Valley for a long time. It is so exciting to find such a delicious well-balanced “Bordeaux Blanc” with enticing floral notes of honeysuckle and exotic pineapple and green apple on the palate, with a hint of minerality. Fermented in new and used French oak barrels, concrete eggs and stainless-steel drums, with some sur lie aging. Elegant, balanced and long. 93 points; $65
- 2015 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – nose of black cherry, earth and cassis, this is a big powerful Napa Cab made in the last year of the drought, and showing massive structured tannins, in the style of St. Estephe. On the palate dark cocoa, cedar, and cranberry. Aged 21 months in French oak, and will continue to evolve in the bottle for many years. 96 points, $360
- 2016 Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – perfumed nose of violets and blackberries, this is a magnificent wine with incredible balance, harmony and length. The palate shows complex spice, cassis, leather and black liquorish with fine-grained velvety tannins. It has both elegance, freshness and strength, and is Napa Valley cab at its best. Wow! 99 points, $360
Accendo wines are limited in production and sold primarily on allocation, though they are available in some fine wine shops.