Bart and Daphne Araujo
Bart and Daphne Araujo are the owners of Napa Valley’s Accendo Cellars which they began in 2013 after selling—for an undisclosed sum—their highly esteemed Araujo Estate and the iconic Eisele Vineyard to the Artemis Group, owners of Bordeaux’s Château Latour. A San Francisco native, Bart Araujo attended USC and then Harvard Business School, before returning to California and founding a successful construction business in Santa Barbara. Daphne Araujo spent her high school years in Hawaii and later became a landscape architect. The Araujo’s new wine brand—Accendo Cellars—is part of a modern winemaking facility and hospitality center that they built in Napa Valley called Wheeler Farms.
Learn more about Bart and Daphne by reading the interview below:
Karen MacNeil: You’ve spoken a lot about how lucky you both were to have wine mentors who were so passionate about wine and who generously shared their knowledge and their wine with you. What is it about wine that touches us all so deeply and seems to bring out the best in us?
Bart and Daphne Araujo: Our mentors instilled in us a respect for the land and the people who farm it, and a sense of responsibility to represent the Napa Valley at the highest levels of grape growing, winemaking, and community involvement. Through farming, we have learned that our wine community is intimately connected with one another by Mother Nature, and that we cannot succeed alone. Wine is an emotional experience whether farming, making, or sharing it.
KM: You mentioned that Accendo involves your children—Jaime and Greg. What is it like to partner with your children? And how did you encourage them when they were children to learn about wine?
BA: Working together has been very powerful and provided unexpected rewards. We thought that working with Jaime and Greg would be mostly about transferring our knowledge to them, but we have learned so much from them, especially the values, perspectives, and passion of a younger generation. Jaime brings a lot of experience in wine from her work as an international wine brand consultant prior to joining Accendo. Greg is a real people person who has lived all over the world and engages readily and comfortably with our diverse group of followers. Together, they add a special energy to in-person events and help forge strong and lasting relationships with our customers. When travel restrictions are lifted, Jaime and Greg are eager to visit clients again, but in the meantime, they have been quite active online.
DA: When they were still teenagers, we traveled to Burgundy and then Paris together, where they began their appreciation of fine wine and fine dining—which turned out to be an unexpectedly expensive proposition for us! Both later lived and worked in Europe, where good food and wine became integral parts of their daily lives. Beginning in the ‘90s, summers were spent in residence at the Eisele Vineyard, furthering their appreciation of vineyard terroir, the emerging Napa Valley culinary scene, and the great wines of California. Wine has been a formative experience for all of us and continues to live on as we share wine and food together regularly during our family gatherings and travels.
KM: I understand your family was set to chair Auction Napa Valley in 2020 and then in 2021 before the Napa Valley Vintners cancelled both events due to the global pandemic. The Napa Valley Vintners Association has now decided to revamp the auction format and has invited the Napa vintner community to brainstorming new ideas. Can you share with us yet, what the future might hold for wine auctions in Napa?
BA: Planning for this new event is still in the early stages. Five teams (headed by two generations of Araujos, former Auction Chairs, and food and wine luminaries) were set up in January for two months of brainstorming. Each study group includes members of the wine community, the Napa community at large, and past supporters of Auction Napa Valley. The teams’ mission is to explore options and ideas about how to sustain this treasure of Napa Valley for future generations, and how to introduce a broader and more diverse audience to the people, the community, and the wines of Napa Valley. On March 30th, the committee chairs will meet to share their findings and suggestions and begin creating a detailed plan for 2022. Regardless of how the new ‘endeavor’ takes shape, there is a shared commitment among all the participants to support Napa Valley by raising funds for the social and environmental health of our community and heightening awareness of our world-class wines.
“Wine is an emotional experience whether farming, making, or sharing it.”
KM: You live and work in the Napa Valley. What other wine region inspires you the most and why?
DA: We have friends all over the world whom we have met through the magical medium of wine, so we’re inspired by every wine region we have visited, and always come away with valuable lessons and great respect for the work done by our peers in each region. Bordeaux remains particularly special, as we grow and vinify the same varieties: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, sauvignon blanc and semillon. Starting with our great friend and mentor, Michel Rolland, and visiting so many wonderful colleagues in the Medoc and the Right Bank, we always come away humbled and inspired.
KM: What one piece of advice would you give anyone going into the wine business?
DA: Bart likes to say that the wine business is really three businesses – farming, food processing (aka winemaking), and sales/marketing. It helps to go into the business being aware of all three aspects, as it takes all three to be successful. It can also be a very unforgiving business, particularly for those who consider it a hobby or part-time occupation. On the other hand, it’s incredibly rewarding for those who make a true commitment to the endeavor and embrace the love of the land, the art of the winemaker and the lasting relationships that wine creates.
KM: What person, living or deceased, would you most love to invite to your home to share a bottle of Accendo with?
DA: I would love to be with Robert Mondavi again to share in his wisdom and infectious optimism!
BA: I would like to recreate one of Barbara Eisele’s legendary dinners, with the Mondavis, Joe Phelps, Belle & Barney Rhodes, Jack & Jamie Davies, Bill & Cathy Collins, Jack & Dolores Cakebread, and spend several hours with them over one of Barbara’s legendary meals, with bottles of Accendo along with iconic library wines from their cellars, overlaid with the collective wisdom of decades of their Napa Valley lives. Priceless!!
KM: Can each of you tell us something about you that would surprise most people to learn. Daphne? Bart?
DA: My favorite grape is Grenache!
BA: I am a fifth-generation Californian. Ancestors on my father’s side arrived here before statehood.