Robert Craig: a name I’ve heard, but a wine I’d never tasted. Their claim to fame: hardy Napa Cabs. Which, for the delicate of palate, can be a tough sell. Napa is known for its chewy, tannic, teeth-staining red wines. Well, to my timid tasters, I say to you — you have a friend in Robert Craig.

About the Wine: Robert Craig 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 1% Malbec harvested from the Pym Rae vineyard in Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder AVA.

Mount Veeder, known as the “mountain by the bay,” is a part of the Mayacamas range and is the only Napa Valley hillside appellation that adjoins the Carneros region — known for its cool-climate due to proximity to the San Pablo Bay. The Pym Rae vineyard is one of the highest (just over 1,800 feet in elevation) in the AVA. I mention this because this cooler climate can be a bit of a challenge for warm weather loving grapes like Cabernet. But due to its elevation (not to mention the high temperatures of 2014), the vineyard saw very little fog and the grapes were able to stay temperate, maturing on time with balanced flavor and acidity.

  • Fun Fact: The 19 acre Pym Rae vineyard was previously owned by the late Robin Williams.

The grapes were fermented in French oak (80% new; 20% seasoned) for 18 months

Unfiltered; unfined

15.25% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork and there is an immediate aroma of meaty smokiness — like those slow-smoked meats roasted overnight in underground pits of fire — indeed, there is a background aroma of midnight soil.

In the glass, the Robert Craig 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon is thick like a vampire’s blood. This thickness, this darkness, takes up 90-95% of the oval when looking through a tilted glass. But toward the perimeter, there is just the lightest pinkish hue of fresh blood, young blood.

The initial aromas are reminiscent of water at midnight — like the muddy, grassy earth of the forest floor that’s been trampled on by many feet throughout history. Swirl and sniff again. Thorny bush-berries, dry, brambly tree leaves are thrown into the mix. Move your nose to the top of the glass and hints of savory, dried herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary are revealed.

Taste. The first thing that will strike you is the constant background of smoke. The initial palate is quite voluptuous, bringing to mind those dark bush-berries (blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries), but then you’ll realize they’re still tight and tiny. Moreover, those tight, tiny berries have been dropped on the forest floor; they’re lost in the dirt and earth — and that’s where the palate takes you. The mid-palate brings just a bit more tannin chew, but never anything to detract from the overall flavors or mouthfeel. The finish is all about that smokiness — here it hits with even more intensely and brings the taste to a lingering, smoldering finish.

Food Pairing: I paired the Robert Craig 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon with a char-grilled filet mignon with a blueberry and spinach salad, topped with blue cheese and walnuts, tossed in a fig vinaigrette. Was this the perfect pairing? Heck yes. As the wine opens up throughout the evening, you’ll find that those berry flavors come forward a bit more, but that smokiness holds its own — and a grilled meat is the best way to enjoy that component in the wine. Meanwhile, the creaminess of the cheese as well as the juice in the berries rounded out the overall mouthfeel to the wine.

I would drink this again and pair it exactly the same way. Full stop.

More Info: This was my first taste of Robert Craig wine. I’m so glad I finally had a chance to try it — and I can’t wait to taste more. A Cabernet with this intensity that’s fully ready to drink now is hard to come by in my book. I received the Robert Craig 2014 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon as a gift for review. (Cheers Dave and Elton!). Retail: $90 For more information about Robert Craig and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Robert Craig website.

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