New Year’s Greetings from Howell Mountain
|Without doubt, New Year’s Day is my favorite day of the year. No religious subtext, no family obligations, or rampant consumerism, or grocery store aggression (aisle or parking lot). Rather, it is a celebration of new beginnings and a world of possibilities. On January 1st of 2020 there is still a book to be written every day for the year, for the decade. It’s not too late to call my mother more, get in shape, learn Spanish, get a vasectomy (I know there is a crowd wondering out there), return to Paris, drink a new Barolo, and spend more quality time with Shelly.|
Most of all, my life’s passion for producing singular wines from rarefied vineyard sites gets refueled and re-stoked as each new vintage is released. After sixteen eventful years at Robert Craig Winery, and thirty-one years in wine, I’ve never been more excited to release a vintage year to our Craigers, and I’ve never been as grateful and humbled to have you as a customer of our little winery on the mountain top.
Winston Churchill had it right when he said, “If you don’t take change by the hand, it will take you by the throat.” Since my arrival at RCW in January of 2004, my focus has been on producing the best wine that the Napa Valley has to offer, at any price. A lofty statement, but one that has been rooted in action every month of every year for sixteen years: from 20% estate grown in 2004 to 90% estate grown currently, from self-farmed to Walsh Vineyard Management to Pete Richmond and Phil Coturri (the absolute best in the business) this year. The price has not been cheap in vineyard investment and in the expertise and equipment necessary to farm and make the wines, but we represent perhaps the best buy in collectible Cabernet in all the Napa Valley.
The Tesserons are releasing their first vintage of Pym Rae, Mount Veeder Cabernet in the coming months (from the vineyard we used as our Veeder source from 1993 through the 2015 vintage) at the breathtaking price of $500 per bottle. Bravo! We will see how it fares next to our Mount Veeder in the cellar, and the almighty brown bag, over the next two decades. Check back with me in the 2040 edition of “Greetings from Howell Mountain”. The 2017 vintage wines from Craig are all thrilling, complex, site expressive cellar-worthy beauties that continue to afford a bargain in the ever more expensive playground that is Napa.
Nearly as important as the quality of the wines we produce, is the quality of the experience our customers have with us whether in person, over the phone, on-line, or in your homes and favorite restaurants. To provide a great experience means you need great people. At Robert Craig Winery we have been fortunate to have had so many long-term employees who have provided the spiritual backbone for the winery. Every departure is a sadness, but it is also an opportunity to improve what we do for our customers and how we do it. In 2020 our winemaker of ten years, Stephen Tebb, has decided to tend to his family in Lake Tahoe and take a break from winemaking, so our talented Associate Winemaker of six years, Jason Price, is taking the helm with Keith Emerson continuing to consult.
The talented (and very fun) Jami Castro has been hired, in a new position for us at Craig, to head up the entirety of our consumer sales and hospitality. She is a knowledgeable whirlwind who brings a wealth of experience from another terrific winery here in the valley. Christian Mullen will be our club liaison and our Howell Mountain host, and he brings years of wine knowledge and experience from his former post at The Bounty Hunter where he had a long relationship with our winery. Lori Reed is saving some brake replacement money by working with Blackbird downtown, and Rachel is meeting me for lunch tomorrow, so I know her partial retirement is allowing time for some afternoon wine assessment. Ski instructor, house chef, and Craig ambassador K.C. Denham continues to wow our patrons in the downtown salon (new look coming soon).
With all the green shoots sprouting for us at Robert Craig Winery in 2020, the constants remain the same: the highest quality wines, reasonable pricing, talented people, and a first-rate experience at our winery and/or tasting salon. In 2020, we will honor your participation in our financial good fortune by providing additional benefits at each of our three club levels and by providing benefits for those who choose not to club but to Craigify their cellars all the same. We are in the office today “tasting” the newly released 2017 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet and the 2017 Howell Mountain Merlot while enjoying some Taco Bell “Taco Supremes” that Jami brought in, so I’m already down one resolution. The wines are supple, dark and powerful, and the tacos were put together by someone who cares, a match made in heaven.
But 2020 is the start of a long chapter, a decade long, so I still have time to cut down on “living mas”. My tickets to Paris are booked, the new bicycle is arriving today, I spoke with my mom this morning, and the pruning has started in the vineyards at a surgical level for quality that we will realize in the 2020 vintage and beyond. I know you’re all dying to hear about my progress with the rest of the list, so more to come on that front.
From all of us here at the winery, I wish you a healthy, prosperous and cabernet filled New Year. I am personally missing my friend and partner Bob at this time of year, but I still speak with Lynn frequently and she is doing well in Tucson. The spirit of the Craigs still pervades the company they founded. Thank you so much for participating with us in our Mountain Cabernet journey. Please let me know if you get our direction as I would love to share a glass in person.
So, from Carlos, Jason, Connor, Adam, Kiersten, Jami, Christian, K.C. and me, Happy New Year!
Love and Peace,