How We Got Here
A Brief History of Craig
Our founder Robert (Bob) Craig began his long and storied career in wine at The Hess Collection on Mount Veeder in the 1980s. Prior to starting his eponymous winery, Bob’s passion for Napa Valley Mountain Cabernet had him spearheading the official recognition of both the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain District AVAs.
In 1990, with the help of three friends he met at business school in Chicago 25 years earlier, Bob founded Robert Craig Winery and arranged to purchase fruit and custom crush his first commercial release of the 1992 vintage. The 1993 vintage release introduced three Cabernets that remain the core of our business today: Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder and Affinity. Now, four decades later, Bob Craig remains one of the most important figures in Mountain Cabernet development and production in the history of the Napa Valley.
The Next Chapters
Having sunk his teeth into the mountain terroir of Napa Valley, it was Howell Mountain that called Bob’s name in the night. In 1995, Bob and his partners purchased 22 acres at the summit of Howell Mountain – the vineyard property that would become our winery estate. We released that first Howell Mountain vintage to critical fanfare the following year.
Bob and his wife Lynn worked hard to deliver the Mountain Cabernet message around the country over the next decade. The Wine Spectator named Robert Craig Winery one of its “Top 50 Producers” while reviewers such as Robert Parker Jr., Stephen Tanzer and others poured on the praise for our Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder and Affinity Cabernets. During the 1990s and early 2000s the number of wineries in the Napa Valley nearly tripled, and the number of Napa Valley brands grew more than ten times. The result? A much more competitive environment for small wineries.
To oversee the next phase of the winery in a now-crowded playing field, Robert and his partners hired wine business veteran and Mountain Cabernet aficionado Elton Slone in 2004 to direct all operations at the winery. Elton retooled and refocused our farming practices, winery equipment and personnel in the first years of his stewardship to bring the wines to their highest level of concentration, complexity, age worthiness and site expression. With an increased emphasis on quality farming and winemaking, as well as carefully selected vineyard parcels for the wines, the reaction from the press has been outstanding, with stellar reviews coming from The Wine Spectator, Robert Parker Jr. and Antonio Galloni, among others.
To Affinity and Beyond
Elton and the Robert Craig Winery crew continue to honor Bob’s founding principles of producing small-lot, site-expressive wines from high elevation vineyards with shallow soils. Elton became a full partner in 2007 and, following Bob’s retirement and departure from the wine business in 2012, has continued to move the business forward with the other three founding partners (Michael Adams, Derek Ruston and Michael Nugent).
Since 2013, Robert Craig Winery has moved from 25% estate grown to 85% estate grown. Significant vineyard acquisitions on Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder and Coombsville have allowed us to maintain exceptional quality and site expression … all while keeping the price our wines from skyrocketing into the Napa Cult Cab stratosphere.
We have also added Diamond Mountain District and Spring Mountain District wines to our collection in order to represent the best mountain terroirs available in the Napa Valley, along with select bottlings from other exceptional sites like Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap.
Today, our small winery on the summit of Howell Mountain honors the past while continuing to press ahead with constant innovation in farming, winemaking and the warmth of experience that our many customers enjoy when they make the long journey to visit and taste with us.