Robert Craig, Napa Valley mountain Cabernet Sauvignon pioneer, passed away in Tucson, Arizona on Sept. 15 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 81.
He founded Robert Craig Winery with three friends in 1990, with the first vintage release being the 1992. Bob’s focus was on Cabernet Sauvignons from the mountain ranges encircling Napa Valley, with special emphasis on Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain.
He spearheaded foundation of the Spring Mountain District AVA and the Mount Veeder AVA during his tenure as general manager of The Hess Collection winery in the 1980’s. The Robert Craig Winery and Vineyards overlooking Napa Valley on Howell Mountain are his lasting mountain wine legacy.
Robert Ernest Craig was born in Bisbee, Arizona in 1938 and grew up in Dickinson, Texas before a stint in the Coast Guard brought him to San Francisco in 1960, where he married Lynn Patterson in 1963. A self-made man, Bob put himself through University of California at San Francisco and the University of Chicago business school, before starting a career in real estate investment.
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During the 1960’s, Lynn and Bob frequently visited Napa Valley when there were fewer than 30 wineries and a couple of hotels. What began as a picnic destination culminated in a lifetime calling for Bob and Lynn.
Bob first partnered with William Hill on Mount Veeder vineyard development in the late 70’s and found his passion; mountain grape farming. A 10-year career with The Hess Collection Winery followed and his love for mountain Cabernets intensified.
Always the entrepreneur, Bob convinced Univ. of Chicago classmates Derek Ruston and Michael Nugent and mutual friend Michael Adams to join him in launching their own brand, the eponymous Robert Craig Winery in 1990. Elton Slone joined the partnership in 2006, and he continues to guide the winery and business for the remaining partners.
Until his retirement in 2012, Bob collected a treasure trove of relationships and friendships in the Napa Valley. He was passionate about Native American rights, art and languages as well as University of Arizona basketball and football. The only time you could catch Bob swearing was if someone was dawdling on the Silverado Trail or the striped shirts at UofA games blew a call.
He was the first to arrive at any birthday celebration and the last one to help finish cleaning up. Bob was a great mentor, grape farmer, joke teller, friend, father and husband. Most of all Bob was a gentleman, and that is a rare talent.
Bob is survived by his wife of 56 years, Lynn, their son Bryan Craig (Camille).
There will be a celebration of Bob’s life in Napa in early November. Donations in his honor are suggested to Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery in Tucson -https://www.pwr4life.org/gift/