Sunday, June 16, 2024

Robert Craig Affinity Bordeaux Blend with grilled tenderloin beefsteak

Vintage aged Robert Craig Affinity Bordeaux Blend for Great QPR - ideal pairing with grilled tenderloin beefsteak and chocolate caramel sundae 

Monday night dinner - grilled filets of beef from a section carved full beef tenderloin, with baked potato and grilled asparagus. I pulled from the cellar this aged, twenty year old Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux Blend

It’s been four years and a couple weeks since we last tasted this vintage release of this label. We know this producer and label well and look to this Bordeaux Blend as ideal for pairing with grilled beefsteaks

Excerpts from that last tasting blogpost … 

Robert Craig Napa Valley Affinity Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux Blend 2004.

As I have written numerous times in these pages, we've been collecting this wine since its' inaugural vintage in 1993 and we still hold several cases spread across almost two dozen vintages. 

Crafted to provide a sophisticated Cabernet Sauvignon at a reasonable price with early gratification, Affinity defies this approach with its age worthiness, as this tasting testifies. 

This label was also understated in another way, it is actually a Bordeaux Blend and contains the other Bordeaux varietals. The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Craig vineyards and contract sources throughout Napa Valley. Robert used to refer to it as "three mountains and a Valley", referring to their vineyards and sources on Howell Mountain, Mt Veeder, Atlas Peak, Mt George, and the valley floor. According to the rear label, this 2004 Affinity release was 'sourced from the Tulocay estate in southern Napa Valley, blended with Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from exceptional vineyards in Napa Valley'. As was often the case, the specifics of blend was not specified. 

R & L with Robert Craig 
at Harvest Party
We may hold more Robert Craig wine in our cellar than any other producer. We've been fans of Robert Craig since the early nineties. We've been to many events at the winery as well as several private functions with Robert, his wife Lynn, and former hospitality and wine club ambassador, Rachel, and various members of the Craig team.   

I remember Robert Craig exclaiming his love for this label and how proud he was to hold it to an affordable pricepoint to introduce consumers to Robert Craig wines. I've written recently that in recent years, as Robert and Lynn turned over the reigns to new management, and the recent passing of Robert, this label has crept up in price significantly and is now priced where their premium labels used to be. Never-the-less, it provides good value and quality (QPR) drinking both early and yet also stands up to aging. 

Sadly, Robert passed in 2019 - we posted a Robert Craig Tribute in these pages at that time.

Tonight showed this label at its absolute best, at twenty years, showing sophistication and elegance and complexity - great QPR - quality price ratio. 

Six years ago I wrote, "This ten year old 2004 remains consistent with earlier tasting notes, deep dark purple inky color, the ripe berry fruit aromatics, full body, ripe berry fruit, accented by a undercurrent of caramel are starting to give way to a layer of anise, tobacco, leather and firm full tannins on the long fruit filled finish."  

Previously, last tasted at sixteen years of age, this release may be at the apex of its drinking window and is as good as ever.  In an earlier tasting when I wrote, "Tasted from a 375 ml split. In this smaller format, it may be starting to show its age," I attribute that to perhaps a combination of bottle variation and the smaller format which ages less gracefully.

Tonight, at twenty years of age, the important fill level and cork were pristine, testament to the provenance of our cellar for long term aging. 

This release was a blend of Bordeaux varietals - 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Wine Advocate says this is sourced from the Tulocay estate in southern Napa Valley.

This was delicious, showing exceedingly well, better than expected and than earlier tastings, ideally paired with the grilled beefsteak, still drinking at the apex of its drinking window and showing no signs whatsoever of diminution from aging. It should have a half dozen years yet in its prime drinking. 

Winemaker Notes - “Heady perfume of ripe black cherry and currant, with black tea, spice and violet notes. Bright and abundant dark fruit and black currant liqueur are intertwined with sweet spice box, licorice and violets. Opulent black cherry drives the lively, long-lived finish.’

“A rich, multi-layered Cabernet that balances power with finesse. The 2004 vintage Affinity is a Cabernet-driven Bordeaux blend that showcases the power and richness of Napa Valley hillside fruit backed by an underlying band of round, ripe tannins. Luscious fruit flavors of great depth and purity are hallmarks of Affinity along with integrated tannin structure for long-term aging.’

"When ready to blend, we assess the relative strengths and merits of every wine, tasting through barrel samples. The aroma, flavor and texture profile of each wine lot has been influenced by the distinctive soil and weather characteristics of the source vineyard, the dictates of the growing season, and our winemaking regimen. After lengthy discussion and evaluation, we prepare the trial blends. In orchestrating these blends, we not only focuses on the quality and character of each wine, but also its "affinity" with the other blending components. This process is more intuitive than scientific. The ideal balance of flavors, aromas, textures, and concentration gradually emerges to create the master blend for that vintage."

"Consistent excellence from year to year is our ultimate goal for Affinity. The wine is known for its juicy, fruit-forward aromas and flavors, elegance in balance and structure, a silky texture, and approachable tannins." -- Chad Alexander, Winemaker.

To top things off even further, Linda prepared a fabulous sundae dessert of sautéed nuts in butter, with melted chocolate and caramel over vanilla bean ice cream. It was remarkable and spectacular with the remains of the Affinity. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, firm, structured, yet ideally harmoniously balanced,  nicely integrated black fruits accented by notes of black tea, spice box, hints of creosote, licorice, graphite and oak with firm yet approachable tannins on a lingering finish. 

RM 92 points - better than earlier tastings when I gave it 90 points, increased a point from past tastings.