Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Our favorite signature summer dinner, we grilled rib-eye steaks 'Pittsburgh' style, served with sweet corn, baked potatoes, and wedge salad with blue cheese, bacon and tomatoes. Our mourning and tribute to stepdad Keith continues and coupled with the remembrance of Robert Craig, I pulled from the cellar this Robert Craig Spring Mountain District Cabernet from 2005


The 2005 was the inaugural first release for the Robert Craig Spring Mountain label. It was sourced from the picturesque Joan Crowley vineyard perched at 2000 foot elevation along the summit of Spring Mountain, high above the town of St Helena in the Mayacamas Range that forms the western slope of Napa Valley. The incredible site is primarily dry-farmed, reducing vigor and crop yield resulting in small, flavor-packed berries. 

As I have written often in these pages, Robert Craig focused on, specialized in hillside and mountain fruit from leading producing regions of Napa including Mt. Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain and Diamond Mountain. Add Mt George and Atlas Peak above the town of Napa and you have the four corners of the Napa Valley. He often referred to it as four mountains and a valley in describing his portfolio of Cabernets.

While Robert Craig Winery owned the majority of their vineyard sources, they buy fruit from select vineyards on the various mountains. They worked with Napa Valley based hillside vineyards generally 1,600 feet or higher. 

Robert started his career up on Mt Veeder, initially developing the William Hill vineyard, and then later, at The Hess Collection as their General Manager. In addition, he helped develop 300 vineyard acres on Mt. Veeder for the movie star comedian Robin Williams estate. Robert Craig sourced Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from there for over two decades for the Mt Veeder designated Cabernet label until Robin's passing and the recent sale of the estate and the Pym Rae vineyard to the French Tesseron wine empire Family. Their recent first release label from that property was priced at $350. Robert often said that Mt Veeder was his favorite of his Cabernets. He was instrumental in forming sub appellations for both Mt. Veeder area and Spring Mountain.

Robert passed away a year ago in September 2019 from complications from Parkinson’s disease. 

The Robert Craig Winery is perched at an elevation of almost 2300 feet high up on Howell Mountain on the north east side of Napa Valley. It is among some of Napa’s highest vineyards. At this elevation they actually see some snow in the winter at times. The location sits above the town of Angwin and their permit at the actual winery limits them to an extremely small number of visitors, as well as only several events per year at the actual winery, hence, they maintain a tasting room in the city of Napa. 

We attended a private tasting there at the Robert Craig Howell Mountain Estate in 2008 and then we attended the Harvest Party at the estate in 2009.

My recollection is that I first tasted this Spring Mountain label upon its release during that visit in 2008. It was a comparison tasting against the Mt Veeder and Howell Mountain labels, the Spring Mountain was served from the barrel, and it was my standout favorite, being slightly sweeter than the other two. I remember the allocation for Club members was limited to three bottles. I negotiated a mixed case purchase of twelve bottles of the 05, 06 and 07 vintages, most of which I still hold to this day.  

This brings me to today. Sister Jan and bro-in-law Bill were with us for that private tasting picnic lunch at the estate (above). They will be in town this coming week from SoCal for the family funeral and wedding. And, fellow Pour Boy wine buddy Bill C and Beth were with us at the 2009 Harvest Party when we tasted these wines (below). He and Beth will also be in town next week for son Sean's wedding, so, with this backdrop, I pulled the Spring Mountain label to taste as part of this tribute and in preparation for serving for extended family and friends dinners next week. I also went and purchased the current 2016 release to fill out the collection and replace the bottle we drank.


Robert Craig writes of this label; "The Crowley vineyard is a close fit for our mountain Cabernet portfolio from the highest elevations of Napa Valley. Overlooking St. Helena from its perch at 2,000 feet, this vineyard’s rocky volcanic soil, varied hillside exposures, and moderate climate produce densely concentrated winegrapes. Joan Crowley’s low-yield, biodynamically farmed vineyard has provided us with deep, aromatic and structured wines since our first vintage with it in 2005. The mountain is cooled by afternoon breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean, creating moderate daytime temperatures and cooler nights that allow grapes to ripen slowly without pushing high alcohol and sugars. The heady, deep perfume that is a Spring Mountain District signature is always present in this cabernet that is hard to come by." 

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon varietal grapes, Robert Craig also sourced from the Crowley vineyard Bordeaux varietal Petite Verdot.

Robert Craig Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Crowley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Fellow Cellartracker RicksPicks (not me, no relation) reviewed this wine on two occasions in 2010 and then in 2011: "Very dark fruit aromas and flavors - blackberry and blueberry with some earthiness dominate. Very rich and viscous mouthfeel. Tastes like ripe mountain fruit -- if there is such a thing. Rather round and full bodied. Lacked structure, but I liked it for its depth and richness."

RicksPicks gave this 90 points each time. 

"Similar to a prior bottle - ripe and rich, dark fruits, soft, lush mouthfeel. Very plush for mountain fruit. Nice, medium, fruity finish. Not a lot of structure, but still very tasty."

 WCC's review of the 2007 - Medium garnet in color. Surprisingly, this evidenced a much brighter profile than I expected. Typically, my experience with Spring Mountain has yielded a rather brooding, mellow profile with time. This was bright and full of raspberry and cherry. Medium bodied with a medium finish highlighted by some pepper notes. A bit unconventional and unexpected but tasty none the less.

Tonight this was bright garnet colored, medium bodied, with bright sprites of ripe black berry, black currant and plum fruits with notes of tobacco leaf, tangy spice, with hints of bitter dark chocolate and smoke with moderate tannins on the lingering  finish. 

RM 90 points.