ROBERT CRAIG WINERY ESTATE VINEYARD, HOWELL MOUNTAIN
APPELLATION: HOWELL MOUNTAIN
Situated at 2,300’ of elevation along the summit of Howell Mountain, our estate vineyard enjoys temperatures in the summertime that are on average more than 10 degrees cooler than on the valley floor below. This temperature difference helps provide a longer, more even ripening time for these high elevation grapes which maintain their acidity and structure without intervention. Planted in 1998 on 110R rootstock which fares well in stony soils, our estate vineyard is showing the vine maturity in the finished wines. The red volcanic and tufa soils give this Cabernet a wild, bramble berry character, coupled with touches of warm stones and spice. Of all of the vineyards we own and manage, the variation in soils and microclimates within this small property make it the most challenging to farm. The yields are on average a meager 1.8 tons to the acre, but the fruit possesses a rare power and expression of site. Soils are especially shallow, even for Howell Mountain, and the vines must work through the rocky soils to seek moisture. Since 2009 we have been converting the site to cane pruned so that each vine can have an individual plan for the amount of crop it will need to ripen. We call this wine our “blood from the stones” for a reason. Along with the 9 acres of cabernet sauvignon on the property, we also grow small amounts of the intensely colored and flavored varieties, Merlot and Petit Verdot. These are used primarily for blending, though we do produce a small amount of this Merlot each year, an homage to the Right Bank, for our best customers to enjoy.
CANDLESTICK RIDGE ESTATE VINEYARD, HOWELL MOUNTAIN
Situated on the north end of the Howell Mountain summit cap at 2,250’ of elevation, this 26 acre vineyard, first planted in 1950, rests on a plateau overlooking the southeast face of Mount St Helena and the whole of Pope Valley. Replanted by Duckhorn Winery in 1998 to primarily Bordeaux varieties on varying rootstocks, the Candlestick Vineyard produces wines that are dense, dark and explosive with flavor. The pure white volcanic ash and Tufa soils are poor and well drained leading to low yields and intensely flavored berries. We acquired this vineyard in January of 2015, and it will have a profound and lasting effect on our Howell Mountain wine program. As with our Winery Estate Vineyard, we will gradually convert this vineyard to a cane-pruned site in order to exert more control over the farming on a vine by vine basis. The Candlestick Ridge Vineyard is not only one of the greatest vineyard sites on Howell Mountain, it is truly singular in the world.
WALL ROAD ESTATE VINEYARD, MOUNT VEEDER
Perched at 1,700’ of elevation along Wall Road on the north end of the Mount Veeder AVA, this 6.5 acre vineyard is destined for greatness. After 22 vintages of purchasing fruit on a handshake contract with the late actor Robin Williams from the neighboring Pym Rae vineyard, it was a joy to receive a first harvest from our own immaculate young vineyard in 2016. Our Wall Road vineyard was planted and managed by the same man who farmed the neighboring Pym Rae vineyard for Robin for more than two decades, and it is no surprise that the resulting wines are so similar. The sandy, gravel based soils of shale with a sandstone topsoil produce wines that are black in color with very low PH values and naturally high acids. A perfect combination for longevity. The beauty of this warmer, fog-free northern section of Mount Veeder is that the wines are free of any unwanted vegetal or rustic characteristics that can affect cooler climate sites to the south. We wish the Chateau Pontet Canet folks, the Tesseron family, ‘‘Bon Chance!” with Robin’s former estate and Pym Rae vineyard next door while we look to continue our legacy of Mount Veeder Cabernet greatness that Bob Craig kicked off more than 30 years ago.
LA LONDE "AFFINITY" ESTATE VINEYARD, NAPA VALLEY
Just south of Stag’s Leap, nestled in the Mt. George Foothills on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, our La Londe estate vineyard has produced exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon for our portfolio since Bob Craig purchased the property back in 1993. As a hillside, cane-pruned site that bears just 2.8 tons per acre, La Londe vineyard costs nearly twice as much to farm as a similar sized property on the valley floor. The 30-year-old vines allow a rare display of the volcanic, stony soils in the finished wines. Grapes are typically small, deeply red flavored, and undeniably racy with a big backbone of acidity
CROWLEY VINEYARD, SPRING MOUNTAIN
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.
PYM RAE VINEYARD, MOUNT VEEDER
Bob Craig consulted on the development of the late Robin Williams’ 17-acre Pym Rae vineyard in 1990 and, since then, we have received the majority of the fruit from this terrific property. The vineyard is one of the highest in the AVA, topping out at over 1800’ in elevation with a distinctive blue shale subsoil and shallow, sandstone topsoil. The vines are mature which translates the soils and minerals straight into the finished wines. The sparse yields of less than 2.4 tons an acre make for dense wines that are expressive of the vineyard site. Our final vintage from this lovely vineyard will be the 2015 vintage and we will miss it. We harvested our first crop from our own vineyard in October of 2016 which neighbors the Pym Rae site.
GAP’S CROWN VINEYARD, SONOMA COAST
Gap’s Crown Vineyard is owned by wine mogul (and all around good guy) Bill Price. Situated on the southern end of Sonoma Mountain on the west side, the 138-acre hillside vineyard has extremely stony soils and low yields. Known as “The Petaluma Gap,” this area is a fog and breeze pocket that is unique in the Sonoma Coast. Cool temperatures, low pH values and high natural acidity produce wines of truly stunning vibrancy. As a Cabernet Sauvignon house, we found ourselves in need of a pairing for our local Tomales Bay Oysters. Most American Chardonnays simply don’t contain the acid structure to pair well. With Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Stephen is able to make a lean, racy, mineral laden, cellar worthy wine that will reward pairings formerly given up to white Burgundy. The vineyard is a special site, and we only produce a little.
BLACK SEARS VINEYARD, HOWELL MOUNTAIN
Black Sears has “King of the Mountain” bragging rights on Howell Mountain - topping out at 2400 feet, making it officially the highest vineyard on the mountain. The vineyard is located just past the gate of our Howell Mountain estate. And we now surround it – literally – having purchased the vineyard just on the other side of it as well. For 25 years, winemakers have clamored for the Zinfandel grown here: both biodynamic and organic, the site is dry farmed and the vines pruned in the old world style with no trellising. Zinfandel thrives in the mountain’s well-drained, rocky volcanic soils and moderate climate. Without doubt, the Black Sears Vineyard is the finest zinfandel vineyard in the world, and we are lucky to get a little fruit each year to make something special and rare.