Spring 2024 Release Wines

A Note from Elton Slone |

Dear Cabernet Clubber,

It is my pleasure and honor to welcome you back as a 2024 Robert Craig Winery member. We couldn’t do this without you.

Some difficult years are thankfully fading in the rear-view mirror for us in the vineyard and atmosphere, and the Golden State is emerging from one of the most prolonged droughts in our recorded history. The cold and wet winters of 2022, 2023, and 2024 have allowed the vines to go fully dormant while getting needed nourishment from replenished aquifers. Despite all of the roof repairs from the 90 mph winds at the summit of Howell Mountain during the recent storms, I’ll take it. The sheep have not gone hungry this year as they perform the weed control on our Howell Mountain properties prior to pruning. We are pruning weeks later than many in order to extend our growing season beyond the heat spikes that have become a yearly occurrence in Northern California. Later bud break, later bloom, later harvest: more flavor development. I learned this year that a good shepherd will always use a herd with uniform age in order to prevent excess movement through the vines (causing damage to irrigation lines etc.) for instinctual protection of lambs who are eager to explore. You learn something new every week on the farm. Save this tidbit for your next cocktail party to tamp down the fires of the dreaded wine-knowledge-blowhard in attendance. 

Before these mercifully wet winters arrived, there was the 2021 growing season. 2021 was characterized by severe drought conditions following the 2020 fires, low yields (we were 55% under our already meager average), and high skin-to-juice ratios in the compact clusters. Just as Bordeaux’s most celebrated estates have made noteworthy stylistic progress in the last decade—featuring more purity of fruit and site expression and greater structure rather than ultra concentration from over-stirring and over-extraction during fermentation—we continue to move forward here in the mountains of the Napa Valley with like-minded intention. Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley need not be Megadeth, it can be Beethoven, Miles, Coltrane, Hendrix and more.

In the 2021 vintage rapt attention to detail was necessary to preserve nuance and class in some very large wines. It is my desire to press forward in our small way here in the mountains to produce wines that are thought provoking and nervy, age worthy and precise. I would hate for the Cabernets of the Napa Valley to go the way of the Dodo Bird or the use of the turn signal with every Tesla in my neighborhood—extinct.

Our 2024 Spring Release features two stellar Cabernets (of course), that have all of the much-discussed power and color of the 2021 vintage on display. Contrasting with the power, there exists suppleness, balance, and depth as well. This vintage of Affinity is the most potent that we have produced to date and might require a whip and a chair as well as a decanter should you choose to open one prior to November of this year. It continues its mission to be the great brown bag champion of the world against wines that cost three times as much.

The 2021 vintage in Joan Crowley’s vineyard on Spring Mountain was one for the books. Joan has made substantial investments in the farming and care of her 13-acre Spring Mountain vineyard over the last six years and the results are frankly breathtaking. To me, our Spring Mountain District wine has always been seated slightly below our estate wines from Amentet, Candlestick Ridge, and the Winery Estate. I can say that no longer with the 2019 followed by the 2021, 2022, and 2023 vintages. Wow. You are in for a deep glass of perfumed dream wine here.

The 2021 Howell Mountain estate Merlot, an add-on option for your shipment, is a heady, perfumed, velvet monster of a wine. There will only be a tiny amount available, so watch your inboxes or call Scott or KC to reserve a few bottles. It is an E.P.I.C. Howell Mountain red. Those who love Howell Mountain wines know that Merlot is one of the stars from these volcanic soils. 

Of course, for the warmer weather ahead, let’s not forget the high-acid, age-worthy stinger that is the 2022 vintage of Gap’s Crown Chardonnay. At just a few hundred cases produced, this wine will be gone before you know it and truth be told, our team here at the Craig can’t keep their hands off! With nearly all neutral French oak aging and a searing acid that strikes an artful balance in the suppleness of the fruit with 2022 vintage, this wine shows off all the glory of the Gap’s Crown Vineyard we’ve come to love over the years.

Speaking of nuance; you will notice a change in our packaging this year that will lead to much less disappointment when tilting the bottle for the last pour. Rather than the misleading final drop with what felt like a partially full bottle, a final glass will be your reward. The bottles we are using are significantly lighter in 2021, though still produced in the USA and still high quality. Along with the aforementioned Tesla turn indicator, our tin capsule now sleeps with the fishes in order to have a completely recyclable package. With our continued certification in Napa Green —both in the vineyard and winery—we are changing more than our weed mitigation program to make our business as carbon neutral as possible. Bottle weight accounts for the greatest portion of any wine producer’s carbon footprint in terms of production and shipping, so we have gone light before many of our peers, but we are not alone. Late pruning doesn’t begin to address the challenges we have faced with a warming climate here on the farm, so we are doing what we can to mitigate any negative impact as a business. With this lighter bottle, celebrate less carpal tunnel, and (seemingly) more wine. (Also, reduced shipping costs—bonus!) For some consumers, organic farming, green practices, and carbon awareness are a “whatever” proposition, for others, they are an essential. We  hope you find merit in choosing wines that are helpful in preserving mother nature. 

Thank you for your continued membership in 2024. The Craig train keeps rolling into the future and we have a full head of steam. These 2021 wines are out of this world. From all of us here on the mountain, we wish you sunny spring days and a prosperous year ahead filled with friends, family, and mountain wines. As always, I absolutely love your texts, calls, social media tags, and emails with your thoughts on our wines. (And I apologize in advance to any conscientious Tesla owners who maintain safe driving practices and habitually use their turn signals.)

Love and Peace,
Elton Slone

2024 Spring Releases

2021 Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon | Retail: $76

Our Affinity Cabernet in 2021 is the most serious wine we have produced under this label to date. Sourced predominantly from our Howell Mountain vineyards, our Mount Veeder property and from long-time partner Temple Family Vineyards, you’ll find dark, explosive cassis fruit, lead pencil, spice box and fresh tobacco at play on the palate and in the aroma. As always, we’ve worked to make sure that the wine has kept its smooth, broad mouthfeel despite its age-worthiness

2021 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon | Retail: $118

2021 was such a good year on Spring Mountain. The vines were less stressed than on our other mountain properties, possibly due to their long tenure of being dry farmed, and the harvest occurred late in the season with terrific flavor and color development. We are in awe of how much progress Joan’s vineyard has made in the last five years in terms of the depth of the Cabernet that it is producing.

2022 Gap’s Crown Chardonnay | Retail: $58

For North Coast growers of Chardonnay 2022 was an excellent year. We are surprised at how much NERVE the 2022 wine is showing in comparison to the more supple 2021 and 2020 vintage Chardonnays that we produced. The 2022 features orange blossom, stone fruit, and smooth stream pebble aromatics and flavors that define the vineyard year after year. The raciness and minerality play on the mid palate while still offering smooth texture and a seamless finish.

2021 Howell Mountain Merlot | Retail: $98

The 2021 vintage on Howell Mountain featured low yields and tiny clusters of deeply colored fruit. Block 4 on our Candlestick Ridge Vineyard extends steeply downward toward the east like a tongue off of the main site. There’s something about this steep, shy bearing block that produces wines with tremendous sense of site and great structural integrity.

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.