2005 Robert Craig Winery Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet

Mission Codename: The Power and the Glory

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: In 2009, The Wine Spies featured Robert Craig’s stupendous 2006 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Operatives loved the wine, buying up cases in record numbers. Send Agent Red back to the winery to procure their 2005 Mt. Veeder Cab, a wine reported to be even better than the successive vintage.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Robert Craig Winery

Wine Subject: 2005 Mt. Veeder – Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Robert Craig

Backgrounder:

Mt. Veeder, located on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas range has a climate that is cooler than the valley floor below. This climate and the more difficult (less fertile) volcanic mountain soil influence the flavors of the wines from this region. Most known for both Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder is known for producing grapes of exceptional character and intensity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and rich dark garnet, with a darker heart of black plum. On swirling, the edges of the wine show off ruby hues. When the wine settles, thin legs emerge high on the glass before making their way downward.

Smell – Lush and broad, with aromatic black cherry, blackberry, cassis and crushed dried red flowers. These mingle easily with soft spice, smoky cherry, cedar and anise.

Feel – Ultra-plush, this wine glides across the front palate and reveals a medium-body, beginning at the mid-palate and spreading outward. Full, ripe tannins and a hint of minerality give the wine a luxurious feel that invites repeated sipping.

Taste – Leading with big dark cherry, blackberry and cassis, and revealing soft sweetwoods, smoky blueberry, violets, subtle black tea, cigar box and soft spice.

Finish – Profound and long, with dark fruit – particularly black cherry. This wine goes on and on, eventually ending with cassis and soft spice with tender dark minerals.

Conclusion – The 2005 Mt. Veeder Napa Valley Cabernet is a tremendous wine that I liked even better than the 2006. Chalk this up to the added year of bottle age, or the fact that 2005 was a 95-point year (over 2006’s 92). Either way, this wine delivers a bolder and more delicious experience than its little brother, the 2006. This is the sort of wine that is difficult to put down, once you start sipping it. Long on flavor and big aromatics, this is a bold wine that does not overpower the senses. Rather, the wine holds it all together, in a package that is balanced and delicious in its presentation. A very food-friendly wine, we paired our review bottle with garlic-rubbed grilled steaks and fresh greenbeans. The combination was delicious. This wine gets our heartiest recommendation.

Mission Report:

What follows is our original interview with winemaker, Keith Emerson, in which he mentions another fabulous Robert Craig wine than the better one we are showcasing today:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Keith Emerson

DATE OF BIRTH: 3/22/76

PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, Mass.

WINE EDUCATION: Enology & Viticulture / Fermentation Science B.S., UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Director of Winemaking – Vineyard 29, Consulting Winemaker – Robert Craig Winery, Winemaker – Knighton Family Vineyards, Leaf + Twig Vineyard, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Bartholomew
Park Winery, Owner / Winemaker – Emerson Brown Wines, Owner / Winemaker – Emerson Wines (all current)

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Gentle, meticulous handling and attention to detail every step of the way. Small lot, hands on winemaking, utilizing gravity as much as possible and showcasing the fruit from each specific site.

SIGNATURE VARIETALS: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Establishment of Emerson Brown Wines in 2005 (tremendously successful, boutique Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc), hand crafted in Vineyard 29’s state of the art facility

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Establishment of Emerson Wines in 2009. Single-vineyard (Shea Vineyard) Oregon Pinot Noir, hand crafted in Vineyard 29’s state of the art facility

WINEMAKER QUOTE: If you work harder than the next guy and pay attention to detail every step of the way, good things will happen!


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Keith Emerson. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Robert Craig Winery “Affinity” Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

KEITH: Thanks for having me

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

KEITH: I grew up in the restaurant and bar business back east. I’ve always said that I fell in love with wine through food.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

KEITH: Honestly, on the job experience has been even more beneficial than my studies at UC Davis (though I learned a lot there as well, of course).

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

KEITH: Gentle, meticulous handling and attention to detail every step of the way. Small lot, hands on winemaking, utilizing gravity as much as possible and showcasing the fruit from each specific site.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

KEITH: I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from several world class winemakers including Philippe Melka, Andy Erickson, Celia Welch, Zelma Long, Allan Johnson (NZ), and others.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

KEITH: 12 years

RED: Who do you make wine for?

KEITH: The wine drinker!

RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?

KEITH: The amazing geological activities that have occurred here over time. So many microclimates and soil types in such a small valley!

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

KEITH: Lots of hard work, ridiculous hours, don’t ever plan on vacationing in September or October for the rest of your life!

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

KEITH: Online interviews (kidding)! Post-harvest vineyard meetings, post-harvest wine lot evaluation tastings, barreling down 2009 reds, ordering bottling supplies for upcoming bottling season, winterizing the winery, etc.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

KEITH: 2006 was my first vintage working with Robert Craig Winery and thus my first opportunity to influence the wines. The 2006 Affinity is a harmonious blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with a few additional Bordeaux blenders, from select valley and hillside vineyards.

Aroma: Concentrated berry and black cherry fruit at the forefront, underlaiin with sweet cassis and touches of violets, lavender and spicy oak. Flavors: A beautifully polished core of black fruit on the mid-palate, interwoven with black olive, red currant, espresso and a hint of maple. Finish: Lush and generous, focusing on more dense fruit, enlivened with crisp acidity and silky, fine-grained tannins.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

KEITH: Rack of lamb

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

KEITH: Huge Boston Celtics, Red Sox, New England Patriots fan

RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

KEITH: Difficult to say though I always love a clean, refreshing Vhinos Verde from Portugal.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

KEITH: With an open mind and an appreciation for exciting, unique, well-made wines

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

KEITH: Tough question… maybe DRC La Tache

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

KEITH: Thanks very much!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Robert Craig Winery in the Howell Mountain region of Napa can be seen in this satellite photo.

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