wine maker interview

Robert Craig Winery | Phoenix tasting

This past January I attended a Robert Craig Winery wine tasting held at Garage Wine & Tap in Phoenix, Arizona.  Mr Robert (Bob) Craig was on hand to talk with guests and answer their questions and show case the brand new release of his flagship wine the 2010 Affinity.

a picture of robert craig and weekly wine journal writer Tim Hilcove

Robert Craig & me

If you don’t know Robert Craig, then lets start with a little background:

Robert Craig is responsible for the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain American Viticultural Areas (A.V.A’s)  He is a Napa pioneer, and started out putting together real estate deals in Napa in the late 1960’s early 70’s. During this time he came across an offer he couldn’t refuse for some potential vineyard land which he later sold to Donald Hess and then stayed on as vineyard manager during the 1980’s.  In 1992 Robert Craig started his own winery and in 2002 he built a state of the art winery and started a small vineyard on  some prime land on the top of Howell Mountain situated right between Black Sears Vineyard and Outpost.  An interesting factoid about Bob is that he was in the Coast Guard in the 1950’s and was stationed off the very southern panhandle of Alaska just a few hours from where I grew up as a kid.   A while back I wrote a 5 part series on Affordable California Cult Wines, Robert Craig was one of them.  Check out that post HERE.

image of Robert Craig wine label

2009 Affinity

SO!  How was the wine you are probably asking.  Very, very good.  I started out with the only white wine made by Robert Craig, the 2010 Durel vineyard Chardonnay.  This is a very nicely balanced Chardonnay, not too much oak, in-fact very little, and not overly buttery.  This is a much more Euro style Chard than a California butter and oak pile-driver.  I mingled with the guests and tried to gauge their “affinity” for the chard and even though most people were there for the reds, they actually were pleasantly surprised by this wine.  I’ve had it before and new to expect good things, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Next up was the ’09 Affinity followed by the brand new 2010 Affinity.

2009 Zinfandel

2009 Zinfandel

Both are stellar, and very approachable right now.  Only minimal decanting might be required and certainly no extra again, although like most fine wines these will improve with age.  I was eager to get into the mountain fruit and so I moved over to an additional tasting station near the back of the restaurant that was serving Robert Craig’s 2009 Black Sears Vineyard Howell mountain Zinfandel, and the ’08 and ’09 Howell Mountain Cabernets.  Robert Parker gave the ’09 Howell mountain cab 96 points.  Most Napa Valley Cabernets scoring 96+ points are in the $300 range. Compare that to Robert Craig’s price tag of $80 and you can easily see why I put him in the Affordable California Cult Wines series.

garage wine and tap interior

Inside the Garage

Near the end of the evening I sat on a bar stool next to Bob and a gentleman approached him and asked a very good question: “How do you make these wines so approachable at such a young age, especially the mountain fruit?”

Bob answered, it’s all about vineyard management.  Picking the fruit at the right time and to a large extent only picking the fruit.  Picking by hand, meticulously sorting out stems and substandard fruit, and also harvesting at the right time.

Currently the 2009 Affinity is at select Costco’s or you can order it online at RobertCraigWine.com

Visit Garage Wine & Tap, it’s a nice venue for tasting wine and its built inside of an old garage in central Phoenix

Interview with wine negociant Cameron Hughes

If you’ve ever bought wine at Costco, you’ve most surely come across Cameron Hughes Wine Lot Series.  Cameron has built a formidable brand out of rescuing high end “orphans” and repurposing them for the value driven consumer who appreciates high quality wine.

Cameron was recently in Scottsdale, Arizona for a wine dinner at Tommy V’s Urban Grille, with tickets being sold exclusively through select Costco’s.  I managed to sit down with Cameron for a few minutes and asked him about his business model, production levels and future plans, as well has his prognostication for what wine region may be “hot” in 2013.

Cameron Hughes Wine website

Photos from the wine dinner on the Weekly Wine Journal Facebook Page

Arizona wine maker Darin Evans

Arizona wine maker Darin Evans

arizona wine

Darin Evans

Darin was pouring his award winning wines at the 2012 Arizona Wine Grower’s Association “Festival on the Farm at South Mountain” on November 17th.  I presumed because Darin is relatively young that he was new to the wine business, but as you’ll find out in this interview, I was wrong!

Arizona Winery Burning Tree Cellars | Interview

Another interview in a series of interviews I did with Arizona wine makers at the Festival on the Farm. Corey and Mitch, co-owners of Burning Tree Cellars, spoke with me for a few minutes about their wines

Maynard James Keenan | wine maker interview

I had a chance to sit down with Arizona wine maker Maynard James Keenan at this year’s Arizona Wine Grower’s Association “Festival on the Farm”. Mr Keenan is the owner of Arizona Stronghold Vineyards, Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus cellars.

Arizona Stronghold website
Caduceus cellars website
Arizona Wine Grower’s Association website

Video interview with Arizona wine maker Tim White

I got a chance to sit down with Arizona wine maker Tim White at this years Festival on the Farm.  Tim is the director of wine making at Arizona Stronghold Vineyards.  Arizona Stronghold took home multiple awards from this year’s Arizona Wine Grower’s Association competition including:

Arizona Grower’s Cup, Gold for red.  And a clean sweep in the white category, winning Gold, Silver and Bronze!

Video interview:

Arizona Stronghold website

Arizona Winemaker wins big in National Competition

Eric Glomski

Eric Glomski, Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold Cellars

The Jefferson Cup wine competition held this past November was a major achievement in Arizona Wine. The Jefferson Cup is an invitation only wine competition held in Kansas City. The wines were judged by some of the industries most well known Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine from across the country, 13 in all. There are no Gold or Silver medals awarded.
Over 630 wines from all of America’s wine regions were selected to compete with just under 300 being awarded “Medals of American Merit”
52 wines won “Medals of American Excellence” and only 22 wines won Jefferson Cups.

In an Amazing feat for Arizona wine and for any winemaker, Eric Glomski (winemaker for Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold) took home 3 Medals of Merit, 2 Medals of Excellence and 2 out of only 22 Jefferson Cups awarded.

Here is an interview with Eric Glomski just after the awards were announced:

A List of Eric Glomski’s award winning wines:

Page Springs Cellars:

El Serrano 2010, Red Blend, Cochise County | Jefferson Cup

Mourvedre Colibri Vineyards 2010, Cochise County|Jefferson Cup

La Serrana 2010, White Blend, Cochise County | Medal of Excellence

Landscape Page Springs Estate Vineyard 2010, Red Blend, Yavapai County ………Medal of Excellence

Petite Sirah “Page Springs Estate Vineyard” 2010 Yavapai County | Medal of Merit

Pinot Noir “Bonita Springs”, 2010, Graham County | Medal of Merit

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala” 2009, Cochise County, Arizona | Medal of Merit

For a complete list of Jefferson Cup Competition award winners click HERE

2 Quick Video Interviews | Cellar Dwellers | Callaghan Vineyards

Flip cam interviews from the 3rd annual Arizona Wine Growers Association Festival on the Farm

Cellar Dwellers:

Callaghan Vineyards:

 

For more pictures visit facebook.com/weeklywinejournal

Scott McWilliam shares some of his new wines

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Scott McWilliam, 6th generation Australian wine maker for McWilliam’s wines.  A quick primer on McWilliam’s: Founded in 1877,  McWilliam’s is Australia’s most awarded winery.  They won 40 trophies and 889 medals in 2009 alone! Scott has been making wine since age 14 and has spent time in Bordeaux.

We tasted several wines in this sitting including Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and a special Bordeaux blend called “Jack’s Blend”

A quick video introducing  Jack’s Blend:

A quick video introducing McWilliam’s Cabernet:

an even quicker video introducing McWilliam’s Riesling:

McWilliam’s WEBSITE