Throwback Quality at a Throwback Price: Robert Craig Winery
In this current wine climate of increasingly rare-air cabs, it is uncommon to find award-winning stunners priced at a mere two figures. But at Robert Craig Winery, quality at a fair price has become somewhat of a hallmark. Industry aficionados Robert M. Parker and Antonio Galloni have both placed Robert Craig wine on their ‘Best Buys for Collectable Napa Valley Cabernet’ lists, an endorsement for which the folks at Robert Craig are extremely proud. “We’ve consistently kept our price in the $90’s, despite our competitors in quality charging up to three times that amount,” says Elton Slone, president and CEO at Robert Craig. “We have many longtime customers and wine club members who’ve been buying our wines for years, and we never felt like it was a just thing to do – to raise prices to match the industry. We charge what we think is fair and honest price, not driven by ego.”
What makes this edict so stunning is the superior provenance of Robert Craig Winery grapes, the majority of which come from hillside or mountain-top vineyards located at 1,600 feet or above, and of which Robert Craig owns 85%. These venerable and lauded spots produce superior grapes that fetch a pretty penny: Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mount Veeder and Diamond Mountain. Each rare. Each extraordinary.
The steep price for mountain-grown grapes is justified by the increased costs of farming the challenging and rocky terrain. “Most of the field and vine maintenance is done by hand,” says Slone. “And the cooler temps and lack of water in the mountain vineyards produce a lower yield. But, the end product is a smaller berry with high skin-to-juice ratio that produces tremendously flavored and intense wines. Everyone recognizes the flavor intensity of a mountain cab.”
One of the original mountain producers in Napa Valley, Robert Craig Winery keeps its operation small, producing only about 9,000 cases annually. Half of their wines are sold direct, and the other half can be found nationally in specialty shops. Additionally, lucky guests of several local esteemed restaurants might find a bottle on the wine list: Cole’s Chop House, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Charter Oak, and Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch are all proud to feature Robert Craig’s single vineyard selections.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone of Robert Craig, the winery’s portfolio includes limited bottlings of Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay and Rose, each of which maintains the Robert Craig philosophy of expression of site and minimal intervention. “Our wines are very classic,” says Slone. “Like an 80’s throwback. Super intense, and made for the cellar. We’ve really stuck to our guns in making fairly priced, small lot, single vineyard, property expressive wines that age for decades.”
Wine tasting appointments at the winery’s flagship Howell Mountain tasting room are hard to score, but a downtown Napa tasting room delivers the goods as well. Open 10am – 4pm every day of the year by appointment, this warm and inviting locale is a perfect spot to experience the artistry of Robert Craig’s award-winning wines.
Originally written by Fran Miller for Napa Valley Life Magazine