Robert Craig Winery - Napa Valley

The Best Of Napa Valley: Robert Craig Winery Spotlight

High atop the slopes of Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley, a story unfolds–one that intertwines the vision of rugged beauty and untamed terrain. Robert Craig’s journey began with an investment opportunity in vineyard development on Mount Veeder, long before it gained recognition as a nested AVA in Napa Valley. As Bob delved deeper into the realm of Mount Veeder’s vineyards, he discovered a profound sense of purpose that ignited his true calling. Robert Craig Winery was born. Amidst a landscape where wine enthusiasts sought experiences beyond the bustling of tour buses, crowded tasting rooms, and ubiquitous mega brands of the valley floor, mountain-based wine producers emerged as alternatives. Over the past two decades, this newfound interest and exposure have propelled mountain wines forward. 

Joining the team in 2004, Elton Slone brought about a remarkable transformation, propelling the winery into a new era of growth and reputation. Under his leadership, the first step was to redefine the winery’s direction in production, marketing and business structure.  Recognizing the potential rooted in the brand’s early success and the genuine affection people had for Bob and Lynn Craig, Elton implemented significant changes. He shifted the stylistic parameters from ripe and ready-to-drink to wines that embodied classic, structured, and balanced characteristics capable of showcasing the unique vineyard terroir.  Elton further streamlined the winery’s portfolio by canceling contracts for underperforming varietals such as Amador Zinfandel and Central Coast Syrah. This strategic move allowed the winery to raise prices on their Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain wines, reflecting their higher quality and production costs. Elton’s strategic efforts resulted in a significant shift in revenue with the direct-to-consumer business growing from 12% to 60% of total revenue. 

Make Reservation Now

Amenities

Barrel Tasting

Scenic Views

Picnic Area

Gift Shop

Private Tastings

Outdoor Seating

Pet Friendly

Wheel Chair Accessible

Wine Clubs

Indoor Seating

Kid Friendly

Large Group OK

Robert Craig Winery - Napa Winery
Robert Craig Winery - Tasting Experience
Robert Craig Winery - Lounge

Robert Craig’s two estate vineyards on Howell Mountian stand as captivating jewels that are close together, but have markedly different characteristics. “What truly distinguishes our vineyards is the combination of high elevation and shallow topsoils, resulting in exceptionally low yields and berries with an unmatched skin-to-juice ratio,” said Elton. “This allows us to produce wines that possess longevity and silky smoothness, while benefiting from the unique climate, where cooler temperatures and warmer evenings contribute to the ripening of tannins without excessive sugar levels.”


The mountain Cabernet Sauvignons crafted at the winery are truly distinctive, reflecting the unique qualities of their elevated terroir. The lower daytime temperatures experienced in the mountains contribute to a slower ripening process, resulting in grapes with more intensity, higher tannins, and vibrant acidity.  What truly sets mountain Cabernet Sauvignons apart is their ability to showcase the individuality of each vineyard site– rock soils coupled with the energy and nerve commonly found in high-elevation sites, create a characteristic that resonates profoundly with Elton Slone’s discerning palate as he finds valley floor wines to be ripe, heavy-handed and lacking the multi-dimensional complexity that their mountain wine counterparts offer. At Robert Craig Winery, the pursuit of balance, meticulous attention to detail, and a hands-off wine-making approach form the cornerstones of crafting exceptional mountain wines. 

Robert Craig Winery also makes a Zinfandel from the Black Sears Vineyard.  While Zinfandel may not be a wine that initially captivates Elton’s personal interest, he considers this to be one of the greatest vineyards for Zinfandel on the planet. It showcases the true essence of Howell Mountain, exhibiting the classic characteristics of the region while adding a unique layer of complexity. This wine is not about overripeness or jamminess; instead it displays a remarkable balance of flavors with a generous helping of ground white pepper spice that elegantly frames the beautiful fruit. A layered and nuanced wine, demonstrating its age-worthiness and exemplifying the remarkable quality that can be achieved with Zinfandel from this vineyard.

As the Napa Valley wine industry has evolved and grown, Robert Craig Winery has adapted to the shifting marketing trends and changing consumer preferences.  One of the key aspects that set the winery apart is its focus on acquiring unique vineyards of exceptional quality. Paired with the expertise of top-tier farming companies and an incredibly talented wine-making team, they have consistently produced some of the highest-quality wines in the region.  In an industry where mountain wines are currently in high demand, Robert Craig Winery has found itself in a fortunate niche as a ‘Mountain Wine Producers’.  However, challenges have arisen in the national market due to consolidation at both the account and distribution levels. To navigate these difficulties, they continue to focus on the direct-to-consumer arena, emphasizing messaging and control over margins.  This focus allows them to maintain accessibility for consumers who appreciate their wines. In contrast to this approach, the Napa Valley wine industry as a whole has witnessed an increase in pricing driven by the marketing and luxury branding strategies of larger institutional companies. Elton suggests that there may come a point where the pricing strategy based on competitive branding loses its appeal, particularly as younger generations of customers seek more authentic and meaningful experiences with wine.

ROBERT CRAIG WINERY WINES OVERVIEW

  • Who – Owner – Robert Craig, Elton Stone, Michael Adams, Derek Ruston and Michael Nugent
  • Winemaker – Jason Price
  • What – Napa Valley Mountian Cabernet
  • When – Open, by appointment, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM daily
  • Where – 1553 2nd Street, Napa Ca 94559
  • Reservations – Can be made online here
  • Phone Number – 1-707-252-2250

Wine Recommendations

The 2019 Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon comes on the heels of our previous “best ever” vintage, 2018. I was sharing a glass of the 2018 Affinity recently with some industry friends at our home in late January after a load of great food and plenty of iconic import wines, including first growth Bordeaux. We needed that one more bottle, and I didn’t want to open another high dollar wine at that point. After a couple of minutes in an empty water pitcher, that 2018 Affinity was leaping from the glass. Big and dark and supple, and wound. It was everything I would come to expect from a great Coombsville red, like the Favia Cerro Sur (seriously great) from Andy Erickson and Annie Favia that I cracked at the end of January, except that 2018 Affinity isn’t $225 per bottle. Our visiting friends paused after the first taste and said, “What IS this?” Exactly the reaction I would expect. They couldn’t believe that they were having Affinity. I could barely believe it. The 2019 takes things a step further in a vintage that was lower yielding than in 2018. The wine is simply one of the best cabernets to be found in the Napa Valley at any price.

Perhaps better than any other wine in our portfolio, this Merlot beautifully expresses the nature of Howell Mountain. It is estate grown and estate-bottled. Sourced primarily from our Candlestick Ridge Vineyard along the summit of Howell Mountain it also includes Merlot from Block 3 on our Winery Estate Vineyard. We add a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon from more elegant lots to soften this wine as it can be a bruiser at the outset. Our 2019 Howell Mountain Merlot was the “biggest” wine we have ever made at Robert Craig Winery.

In another year featuring inclement weather at all the wrong times in the mountains as the fruit developed- cold in April for bud break and windy and cold at flower and fruit set — we experienced a mild and prolonged growing window that lasted through harvest with only a couple of heat spikes. The yields were tiny, but the fruit was exceptional in quality. The small number of berries from our Candlestick Ridge and Winery Estate vineyards welcomed extraction, with the only worry being the massive tannin numbers showing in the lab as the color poured from fermentation. As time went on, the tannins have proven ripe, round, and lovely on the middle palate, providing the scaffolding for size and scope of the fruit in the 2019 vintage. 

I remember the heady days when we used to receive enough fruit to produce up to 500 cases of this single-vineyard Zinfandel. After Chris Jambois and Ashley Sears replanted a large portion of their vineyard to Cabernet, we get barely enough Zinfandel to drink ourselves, and distributors are singing the blues. 2019 was a tremendous vintage on Howell Mountain and this Zinfandel grown along the northern summit ridge is heady and perfumed with the classic exotic spice that makes Black Sears Vineyard unique. As this wine becomes increasingly scarce, this is your time to put a few bottles in the cellar for a later date. If you choose to enjoy this wine young, just give it a rest after shipping and then about two hours in a water pitcher or decanter prior to serving. 

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Join Wine Routes, the popular bi-weekly newsletter that educates and entertains, and we’ll send you a link to download our app so you can tour Napa like the pros.
By clicking submit, you agree to share your email address with Wine Routes and Mailchimp to receive marketing, updates, and other emails from the site owner. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt-out at any time.
%d bloggers like this: