When you train racehorses, you’re undoubtedly used to taking chances. That’s why Bill and Roswitha Craig, who worked with racehorses in Baltimore, didn’t think twice before buying a 65-acre property in Solvang and planting some vines. Their gamble paid off, and six years later, in July 2005, the Craigs opened the doors to their winery: Shoestring.
Although they still have a few horses, their focus now is wine. Currently producing 3,000 cases, they have a small but steadily growing clientele. And it’s obvious why. Their wines, all less than $25, are terrific. Roswitha recalls that they were told early on to “make wines that you like, because if they don’t sell, you’ll be drinking them for a long time.”
It’s unlikely the Craigs will have that problem. The ubiquitous Norm Yost (of Flying Goat Cellars) is making their wines and he excels with the Shoestring portfolio. They would like to produce more, but, “one barrel at a time,” said Bill. Hence the name.
The Highlights Shoestring 2002 Sangiovese ($22) is blended with a small amount of merlot, resulting in a fruit-forward wine full of deep berry and plum with a background of pepper, vanilla, and oak.
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) has been aged in French oak for 24 months. This is not a heavy cab, nor an anemic one, but it’s just right, very well-balanced, and brimming with blackberry, raspberry, and spice.
2003 Syrah ($24) is probably Shoestring’s most compelling wine. They have blended in 2 percent malbec and what has emerged (after 24 months in the barrel) is luscious blueberry, plum, and blackberry with a hint of white pepper. This syrah is beautifully balanced, neither over-oaked nor flat. It is uncharacteristic of this valley and it’s a clear winner.