Robert Craig’s wines are known for pure site expression. Most Cabernet bottlings are appellation-specific: Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain. The Howell Mountain Cabernet is the defining wine of the portfolio – a rare and extraordinary wine from a superb vineyard. The winery owns and farms two vineyards on Howell Mountain. The first is the 30-year-old estate vineyard at 700 metres above sea level, rooted in red volcanic and tufa limestone soils that give the fruit a wild, spicy, brambly character. The soil here is remarkably sparse (even for Howell Mountain), and the vine must work through the rocky soil to seek moisture. The winery calls this their “blood from the stones” for a reason.
The second, expected to be a part of future releases, is the famed 26-acre Candlestick Ridge vineyard, acquired in 2015. Candlestick Ridge sits at 680 metres on pure white volcanic ash (and more tufa limestone). The site was first planted in 1950, then replanted in 1998 by Duckhorn Wine Company. It rests on a plateau overlooking the southeast face of Mount St. Helena and the whole of the Pope Valley. The lean, well-drained soils produce dense, dark, intensely-flavoured berries.
In 2014, Mother Nature pulled a trifecta: another great vintage in Napa, it easily equalled 2012 and 2013 in terms of quality. The season saw no major heat spikes and minimal threat of rain during harvest. Fruit ripened early – it was harvested at modest sugar levels and excellent acidity, with excellent colour and tannin concentration. The best of all worlds, a classic vintage.
At the winery, handling is gentle and intervention is minimal. Fruit was fermented in small lots by indigenous yeast, matured 18 months in French oak (80% new, the remainder second use), and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The finished wine showcases loads of mountain berries, black currant, and an earthy, dusty nose. The palate is hit with black cherries, blackberries, black plums, cocoa, mocha, and cream. It’s undeniably a powerhouse, a chewy wine packed with power.
“The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain comes from an elevation of nearly 2,300 feet, from a vineyard planted in red volcanic, rocky soils. Rich, full-bodied, and possibly the star of an impressive line-up of wines, this is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot. Strikingly rich, opaque purple in colour, with mulberry, boysenberry, blackberry, graphite and flowers, the wine is rich, chewy, full-bodied, multi-layered, and just a sensational example of Howell Mountain. This is 25- to 30-year wine, although there’s no harm in drinking it sooner. 2016-2046.”
95 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Dec 2016
“Aromas of roses, blackcurrants and hints of vanilla beans. Full-bodied yet tight and dense. Big and rich wine but shows intensity. Lively finish. Drink in 2019.”
94 points, JamesSuckling.com, Jan 2017
“The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain) is another superb wine from Robert Craig. Deep, inky and unctuous, the 2014 strikes a compelling middle ground of richness, intensity and structure. Inky blue/purplish fruit, menthol, spices, lavender and mint flesh out in a super-expressive Cabernet endowed with real class. The Howell Mountain Cabernet stands out for its persistence, but the huge tannins need time to soften. 2020-2034.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Dec 2016