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.
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 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec and a splash of Merlot that spent 18 months in 80% new French oak. It has a darker, mineral-driven style in its blue fruits, smoked earth, charcoal, and graphite aromatics. These give way to a full-bodied, beautifully concentrated, fresh, lively 2015 that’s going to benefit from 3-4 years of bottle age and keep for 15+.”
94 points, JebDunnuck.com, Dec 2017
“Robert Craig’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain) is surprisingly open and accessible for a young Howell Mountain wine. Medium in body, with lovely underpinnings of minerality, the 2015 has quite a bit of mineral and soil-driven nuances to play off the inky red and purplish-toned fruit. Readers who enjoy Cabernets with a good deal of aromatic nuance will want to cellar the 2015 for at least a few years. Opening a bottle before then is hardly a crime, as the wine is super expressive even in the early going. 2020-2035.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni vinous.com, Mar 2018