Friday, October 2, 2015

Robert Craig Affinity Napa Cab 1997

Robert Craig Affinity Napa Cab (1997) for early gratification, longevity, sophisticated drinking, yet value.

We've been fans of Robert Craig since his inaugural release back in 93-94, as witnessed by the fact he has no less than 26 mentions in these pages. We hosted Robert and Lynn Craig at several of our wine producer dinners back in the nineties and thereafter and we've attended several private tastings (below) and release or harvest parties (left) at the Craig estate high atop Howell Mountain.

Robert is a master craftsman of Napa Valley Cabernets with distinct designated label bottlings from Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Mt Veeder and Mt George, the four corners of Napa Valley. And then there is Affinity, his signature blend of Napa Cab that he calls 'three mountains and a valley' when referring to the source sites. I seem to recall our first meeting with him was at a winery up on Atlas Peak.

Robert has said that Mt Veeder is his favorite, perhaps revealing his sentimentality to his heritage that he started up there. My favorite was always Howell Mountain, however with their release of Spring Mountain Cabernet, its vied for being my favorite. 

Often such a blend is the flagship premium label for a producer, but Robert takes pride in this label holding the price point to be more affordable, well below his premium appellation specific designated labels, while at the same time crafting a wine approachable for early drinking gratification.

Tasting w/ Robert Craig at the estate
high atop Howell Mountain
So it is that its amazing and rewarding that such a wine also demonstrates stamina and grace for aging as this eighteen year old 1997 vintage release shows. We still hold a half case of this highly lauded vintage noted for its longevity. Indeed, my records show we still hold an Affinity vertical of no less than seventeen vintages going back to the inaugural release of 1993. including this '97 which we obtained up release!

Don't confuse that fact that while Robert Craig specializes in several labels of Cabernet designated as sourced from different appellations, that Affinity is a blend of different Cabernets, while Craig's Cabernets are notably Cabernet, this Affinity blend is also a Bordeaux style blend with 82% Cabernet Sauvignon mixed with 15% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.

Such is the backdrop when I pulled a bottle from the cellar to accompany Linda's pasta and Italian sausage and pepper dish. The '97 not only paired well but still shows vibrancy and resiliency at this stage of life. While it likely will not improve further with age, it seems to still stand at the apex of its drinking window and shows no sign of diminution whatsoever.

My previous tasting note back in 2012 cited 'this wine is more expressive than early in life showing lingering fruit and staying power'. According to those notes, this showed even better tonight with more balance and polish than that tasting. At this stage of life, that could be an indication of bottle variation but no so likely since the bottles share the same provenance.

 Dark purple garnet colored, medium bodied, forward bright vibrant black berry and black raspberry fruits with a layer of cedar, tones of black tea and hints of cassis and smoke on a smooth moderate lingering tannin finish.

RM 91 points.