Elton’s Howell Mountain Seminar

You can’t teach talent:

I spent last Thursday doing something that I love to do most in the world (alongside drinking aged Barolo, talking about bicycles and consuming tacos) and that is walking through our vineyards and speaking about them following a tasting of the wines from each separate section. Howell Mountain was the school for the day, and we split class between our Winery Estate Vineyard and our Candlestick Ridge Vineyard. It was a windy, raw day after a morning storm, and Howell Mountain was showing off her own savage beauty in winter.

Candlestick Ridge Vineyard, Howell Mountain

Was I showing a retailer around? A distributor? Restaurateur? Cabernet Club member?

None of the above. I was responding to a repeated and insistent request from our consumer sales and hospitality crew; Jami, KC and Christian, to show them every vineyard and every wine from every vineyard that we produce. What’s the vine count? Why do we cane prune? What rootstocks and clones are used in each block and why? Who does the farming? What’s the barrel program and why? Why is it so expensive to farm mountain fruit versus valley floor? That’s a small sampling of the questions that were directed toward me during our 5 hour session of RCW 1.0.

KJ, Jami & Christian in Candlestick Vineyard

Jason pulled samples for us and helped with the winemaking technical data while Connor (our new cellar master), Jami, Christian and KC loaded up their notebooks and phone video memory banks. It occurred to me that I have had to drag some folks in the past kicking and screaming to the mountain to increase their knowledge and skill set, whereas the crew we have here at our Mountain Winery is thirsty for all of the knowledge they can possibly soak in. It makes me feel great about what we do here and the people who are doing it.

Jason & Kieth in the Craig cellar

None other than Danny Meyer himself delivered the keynote address at our annual meeting of the Napa Valley Vintners in 2018, and what he had to say about hospitality and passion in employees has never left me. Danny insisted that there is no way to train anyone to be passionate about his or her work, and there’s no way to train anyone to be passionate about providing an exceptional experience to customers. He called it an innate hospitality quotient. I agree. All of the people we have at Craig are off the charts in the hospitality quotient.

KC, Jami & Christian - your Craig Hospitality Team

I hope you get a chance to visit us on the mountain this year; not enough people do it in the winter time. It is truly beautiful, whatever the weather. If you visit the salon, our crew can give you every detail on every vineyard and every wine from those vineyards. Great hospitality in this business must include expert knowledge as its foundation, and that knowledge is won by hard work and desire; from top to bottom and from bottom to top.

Come see us on the mountain top; I guarantee that you will learn something.


Elton Slone
Robert Craig Winery