50 years ago, on June 15th, 1963 a young couple with an Affinity for each other were married in Sierra Madre, California.
They had met by chance in the spring of 1960 while riding their bikes on a street in Woodside, near Palo Alto, California. He noticed her minding her own business, riding her bike, and at the next stop light he rode up next to her and said hi. She said hi back. They chatted for a moment and then the light changed and they continued on. To the next red light, where they talked a bit more. After a few more intersections he finally got the nerve to ask her to go for a coffee. There’s nothing like a refreshing cup of coffee after a bike ride! She agreed and that is how an Affinity, a deep affinity which has spanned 53 years, began.
She was attending Stanford studying communications and journalism. He was fresh out of a 4 year tour with the Coast Guard. His last year was spent on Annette island near Ketchikan, Alaska. After they married, they first moved to San Francisco where he began studying economics at San Francisco State University. By this time she had graduated from Stanford and was working for an advertising agency.
After he earned his BA in economics, they decided to move to Chicago so he could obtain his Masters at the University of Chicago Business School. He attended school all year round to avoid having to spend any more winters in Chicago, and by 1966 he had his MBA and they moved back to the San Francisco area once again.
In San Fransisco, she worked in public relations and eventually started her own PR firm in 1972. During this time he worked in marketing, real estate and asset management. One of the things they had enjoyed since before they were first married was visiting Napa Valley. They shared an Affinity for exploring the wine world and joined the San Francisco Vintner’s club. This is where they learned about fine wines and were exposed to Napa Valley “mountain wines” for the first time. They became intrigued with making mountain Cabernet Sauvignons.
Trying to find a way to become involved in Napa Valley, he began putting together investment groups to purchase vineyards in the 1970’s. At the time there were only about 7 or 8 wineries in the valley, quite different from the Napa Valley of today. Eventually a prime vineyard site became available on Mount Veeder. The land turned out to have a wine history dating back to 1874. He and a colleague organized an investment group to buy the site, with the vision of reviving it. In 1978 he successfully sold the property to Donald Hess of Switzerland and stayed on to help develop and manage the project. Eventually they renovated the old Christian Brothers Mont La Salle winery to process the fruit from the vineyard and start The Hess Collection winery. He then became general manager of the Hess Collection Winery.
During the early years on Mount Veeder, he would commute from San Francisco, but in 1980, their dream of of living in Napa Valley was finally realized when they moved into the then-quiet, small town of Napa with their six year old son, Bryan. During this time she continued to work as a PR consultant
In 1990, thanks to his efforts, the Mount Veeder Appellation received its own A.V.A. status and he went on to consult on Spring Mountain’s A.V.A. application. By 1990 the opportunity to start his own winery with friends from his Chicago MBA class presented itself and he left The Hess Collection. He aquired mountain vineyard sources and began making high-elevation Cabernet Sauvignons in 1992. 10 years later, in 2002, they built a state of the art winery and vineyard at the summit of Howell Mountain.
Who am I talking about? Robert “Bob” & Lynn Craig! I first met Bob at a wine event in Phoenix a few years ago, and then I met both of them in Napa in 2011. On June 14th, 2013 I was in Napa and visited them at their busy tasting room. While tasting some of the new releases I asked them many questions about the past. Robert Craig’s flagship Cabernet Sauvignon is named “Affinity” in case you didn’t know. This wine is one of the most affordable highly rated Cabernets that Napa Valley has to offer.
In our conversation I learned that they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary the next day, and while tasting “Affinity” and talking with them I realized their amazing affinity for each other.
Special thanks to Lynn Craig for providing all the photos and for proof reading!
Robert Craig Wine Website
Previous Weekly Wine Journal Articles on Robert Craig:
Affordable California Cult Wines – Part 5 – Robert Craig
How one Napa Valley producer has found success by focusing on Quality…