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

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