“Close to Immortality in a glass” was how the Wine Advocate’s critic Robert Parker characterised the critically acclaimed 1994 vintage of the Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine. 1994 is one of five vintages (the others being 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2007) that have been awarded 100 points by Parker. Not bad for a wine that only made its debut with the 1990 vintage! (Wine Advocate #114, December 1997)
The success of Napa’s Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine over the past twenty years, while remarkable, is perhaps not unexpected given the pedigree of the team behind its exquisitely 19th century inspired ‘engraved’ label.
Bill Harlan was determined to make a ‘first growth’ Bordeaux blend style wine in California. After touring the top wine growing areas in Europe, he realised that most of the world’s best wineries were located on hillsides.
In 1983 he purchased 230 acres of hilly woodlands just west of the famed Heitz Cellar’s Martha’s Vineyard. Thirty six acres of vineyards were planted on the steep hillsides, where the infertile, well drained soils with good sun exposure provided ideal conditions for perfectly ripening the Bordeaux blend varieties of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc.
Working with winemaker Bob Levy and drawing on the talents of superstar Bordeaux consultant Michel Rolland, Harlan left nothing to chance to create a wine that truly captures the essence of its terroir. Everything in both the vineyard and the winery is done with an eye on perfection. The beautifully contoured, hand tendered vineyards are meticulously kept, tiny bins are used for hand picking so the grapes can be hand-sorted, and like at Château Haut-Bailly and Château Pape Clément in Bordeaux, the wine is moved by gravity, rather than pumps, through all the different steps of winemaking.
Jancis Robinson has described the Harlan Estate Proprietary Red as “one of the ten best wines of the twentieth century.” According to Lettie Teague, the Wall Street Journal’s wine critic, it is a wine that “manages to be both remarkably dense (almost to the point of opaqueness) and unquestionably elegant,.. [Read More]