New Year’s Message from Elton
Dear Craig Fans,
New Year’s Day and the week that follows has become my favorite time of the year.
The constant pressure of holiday traffic, grocery store crowds, packed parking lots, heightened emotions, dinners, and events in the midst of the highest intensity time in our business for revenue and payables (grape payments, harvest labor, barrel payments etc) have taken a shine off of the “holiday season” for me over the years. Every time I sign a check for over $150K, I can feel my underwear immediately shrink to one-size-too-small.
On New Year’s Day I loaded up the pannier of my Specialized Turbo Vado SL electric assist bicycle (AKA “The DUI and Carbon Emissions Avoidance Machine”) with 30 lbs of Blanc de Blancs and Extra Brut Champagne and made the 13.5-mile journey to a long-time friends’ home in Sausalito to watch a couple of thrilling college football games while inhaling some top tier chili. On the moonlit ride home, with 30 lbs less luggage, I was able to exhale a year’s worth of stress and simply cruise the quiet bike paths and subdivision streets of Marin by the light of the bike’s capable headlight. The Sausalito houseboats rested temporarily on the mud flats as I rolled past on the bike path, and 2024 was rising as surely as the incoming tide that would soon restore the houseboat community to the usual rhythms of Richardson Bay. I felt free and alive and filled with anticipation for the new year ahead. I still feel it three days later as I type this.
Twenty years ago in early January I accepted a job offer from the Craigs to manage their business operations and then formally purchased equity in RCW the following year. Unlike the Trimbach family in Alsace, I do not have six hundred years of single-family ownership experience to draw upon, but we have progressed steadily in these three decades as a business. Building on the solid foundation that Bob and Lynn painstakingly laid, my primary focus has not wavered from the arenas of farming and winemaking. I believe that Jason, Yordanos and Carley are as good as any winemaking team in the Valley and that our farming on Howell Mountain through Pete Richmond (Silverado Farming Company) and our farming on Mount Veeder with Phil Coturri (Enterprise Vineyard Management) represents the absolute tip of the spear. Scott and KC have continued to press forward on the customer front to make a visit to our downtown Salon or Howell Mountain property, one of the warmest and most knowledgeable experiences anywhere in the Napa Valley. Progress.
This collective talent proved especially handy for the wines we are releasing this year. 2021 was a challenging but ultimately rewarding vintage for Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder. The vines were all completely freaked out from the fires in 2020, with drought in full swing until to the mercifully wet winter in 2021/2022. Add to that cold weather, wind, and rain at fruit set with some noteworthy heat spikes in September, and voilà, yields were down 55%. (55%!!) The tiny clusters produced wines of remarkable color and complexity with firm structure resulting from the high skin-to-juice ratios in all the vineyards. When I sat down with the toughest critic in the business, Antonio Galloni of Vinous Media, to taste the wines soon after bottling in October, I was concerned that they were showing tight and backward in their infancy. Once again though, these wines managed to finish among those in the highest tier of his reviews that were published in late December while remaining at a price that is on average a third of those in our score range. When those reviews arrived three days prior to Christmas I saddled up the Vado SL and headed straight for the vintage Barolo section of Poggio’s wine list at their bar. The best Christmas presents aren’t always carefully wrapped.
The Cabernet Club releases featuring the 2021 wines are simply thrilling this year, but they are in short supply thanks to the weather and to our thirsty clubbers. A waiting list remains to join the club, but hopefully we can admit some additional folks in the next six to eight months. Our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint as a business kicks into high gear with the 2021 package arriving in lighter bottles and without tin capsules that needed removal for the bottles to be recycled previously. If you’ve ever attempted to make a clean cut on a heavy tin capsule with a tiny, dull corkscrew blade while blowing over .12 BAC at a dinner party, your fingers will send me a Thank You note. I loved the strong table presence of the weighty glass that we have used for the last ten years, but after experiencing a near end to our business from climate fueled fires in 2020, it is time to help mother earth out where we can. We can grow as a business while also growing responsibly.
I just sent out a meeting invite to our entire company yesterday for us to gather, discuss the year ahead and to witness me dominate them on the pool tables and dart boards of Bilco’s while consuming Howell Mountain Cabernet and Lagunitas IPA in equal measure. When I looked at the invite field, I thought I must have left someone out. There are only seven. Carlos, Kiersten, KC, Jason, Scott, Yordanos, Carley. Along with partners Michael Adams, Derek Ruston, Maureen Nugent and Maryanne Nugent, we are humbled, amazed and grateful that you will join us for another year in celebrating wines that come from remote vineyards, high elevations and stony soils. Stay alert for the events schedule, and please come see us when you make it to the Napa Valley. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement, and our crew is sending you best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year ahead.
Love and Peace,
2021 Howell Mountain Merlot + Library Diamond Mountain Allocation
Friday, February 16
Valentine’s Day Vintner Dinner with Elton and the Gang at the Q Restaurant and Bar
Spring Membership Release:
2021 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon
2022 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay
Saturday, March 23
Howell Mountain Bud Break Celebration at Fort Mason
2023 La Fleur Craig Rosé
Saturday, May 4
Spring Release Open House at the Tasting Salon
7-Year Library Release
Saturday, June 15
Taste of Howell Mountain 2024 at Charles Krug Winery
Saturday, July 13
INVITATION ONLY: Summer Blending Seminar at the Summit and Luncheon
Sunday, July 28
Porchfest Pre-Game Open House at the Salon
Summer Sippers Offering:
2020 Côte de Craig
2022 Howell Mountain Cuvée
2021 Cabernet Franc Allocation Opens to Members
Saturday, August 10
Taste of Mount Veeder 2024 at Charles Krug Winery – 25th Anniversary
Fall Membership Release:
2021 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Howell Mountain Black Sears Vineyard Zinfandel
Saturday, September 28
Fall Festival at the Summit
Saturday, October 26
Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Harvest Celebration at CIA Copia
10 year library release
Thursday, December 5
Holiday Open House Bottle Bash at the Salon
Craigsmas Holiday Collection
*Dates subject to change
Enjoy First Access to All New Releases
Craig Cabernet Club Members get first dibs on all New Release Wines, plus special member pricing & shipping offers. Join the waitlist to learn when membership is available.