Francois Pinault buys Araujo Estate #billionaire #napa


The famed Eisele vineyard of Napa Valley has a new owner: Francois Pinault, number 74 on the Forbes billionaires list. Pinault’s Artemis Group, which owns Chateau Latour among other wine properties, has agreed to purchase Araujo Estate Wines from Bart and Daphne Araujo. The price for the 162 acres, including the 38-acre Eisele vineyard, was not disclosed in this statement.

“Araujo Estate and its jewel, the unique Eisele Vineyard, have been producing consistently one of the very best wines of Napa Valley,” Frédéric Engerer, CEO of Chateau Latour, said in the statement.

Pinault put his deep pockets to use recently. He made wine headlines by removing Chateau Latour from en primeur system and selling the wines only when “ready to drink.” The current grand vin offering this spring was the 1995 vintage. It will be interested to see what perhaps the first billionaire in Napa will do with the Araujo Estate.

The Eisele Vineyard had zinfandel and riesling grapes as far back as 1886. But the northern Napa vineyard gained renown for cabernet sauvignon planted in 1960s under the ownership of Milt and Barbara Eisele. The Eiseles sold the grapes to Paul Draper at Ridge, Joseph Phelps, and Conn Creek who all made vineyard-designate; the Ridge 1971 Eisele was a notable early standout. Bill Phelps told me that his dad, Joseph, lamentably took a pass not once, but twice on acquiring the vineyard. The Araujos purchased the property in 1990. They converted it to biodynamics in 2001.

In a 2010 profile, Jon Bonné described the uniqueness of the geology of the vineyard: “Many Napa vineyards enjoy the mineral richness of sediments washed down from the hills, but what makes Eisele unique is its location at a confluence of two watersheds high above: the Palisades and Saddleback, which send a mineral bounty flowing down toward the Napa River, creating soil that’s a deep, intensely rocky agglomeration of rough cobbles and coarse sand.”

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7 Responses to “Francois Pinault buys Araujo Estate #billionaire #napa”

  1. In June 2008 at the top of the U.S and World Markets, it was announced that Michel Reybier, current owner of Cos d’Estournel, purchased Napa winery Chateau Montelena. By November 2008, however, this agreement was cancelled, the termination of the transaction by Chateau Montelena stated to be due to that Reybier Investments had been “unable to meet its obligations. Now at the current top of the U.S. Stock Markets, Pinault’s Artemis Group far richer than Reybier, make this acquisition of Araujo. This deal will close, but the timing is exquisite. The wine is already nearly $300.00 a bottle. Will it also be sold only when ready like Latour?

  2. Hi Jack – Thanks for the observations. While there are similarities (French firm buying a US winery), there are also differences, namely, the deal is closed and whatever the transaction price was, it was chump change for Pinault. Let’s hope the world doesn’t fall off an economic cliff either.

    It will be interesting to see what Pinault/Artemis does with Araujo. But, as with the Maycamas purchase a couple of months ago, I think it’s unlikely to go off the rails.

  3. I didn’t say that the deal wouldn’t go through Tyler, this is of course a Billionaire buyer. My observation is that they bought at the very top of the US Market like Pratts before them.. The market is poised to recoil (major bumps) by August 7th. The timing is the same not the outcome.

  4. What I find interesting here are the new distribution channels that this deal potentially opens for the Artemis group.

  5. Jack – Thanks for sharing the insights from your crystal ball! Let’s hope things don’t fall apart in macroeconomics in the near-term.

    Philippe – what are you thinking? Latour via Skurnik (I think that’s Araujo’s NYC distributor)? Or Artemis sets up direct imports to the US–but they could do without buying a US winery.

  6. […] Araujo Estate has been purchased by Artémis Group, the owners of Château Latour. Tyler Colman has more. […]

  7. Would the Araujo Estate purchase have ever happened if Warren Winiarski’s 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (California) Cabernet hadn’t topped its red Bordeaux competitors in the Judgment of Paris?

    Thank you Steven Spurrier, for your prescience and discerning good taste in organizing this comparison tasting.


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