2023 marks the twenty seventh anniversary of Thorman Hunt representing Harlan Estate in the UK market and the release of what could be called Harlan Estate’s first commercial offering – the 1992 vintage. This vintage, together with smaller quantities of 1990 and 1991 were released to market in 1996, which is when we first visited the property.
Even at that early stage, it was evident that, whilst the quality of the wines was already at an extremely high level, Bill Harlan’s lofty ambition to create a “First Growth in California” was still in its infancy. However, two years later, with the release of the legendary 1994 vintage, it became clear that his dream was becoming a reality. Not long after, Robert Parker declared “Harlan Estate might be the single most profound red wine made not just in California, but in the world”. So, what has led to Harlan Estate being widely considered as one of the world’s greatest wines? Firstly, its unique and exceptionally great terroir and, equally importantly, the vision and ambition of the man himself, Bill Harlan, and the gifted, long-standing team that he has assembled and retained throughout his vinous journey.
Bill Harlan identified and began acquiring what would become Harlan Estate in 1984. The property comprised some 240 acres of woodland and scrubland, situated above the famed Oakville benchlands, in the western hills of the Mayacamas mountains. Since 1985, some 40 acres of contiguous vineyards have been planted, at between 325 and 550 feet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are two very distinct soil types; the hills to the east being of volcanic origen and the slopes to the west sedimentary. What is similar is the paucity of top soil (often only a couple of inches to a foot in depth) and the 360 degree exposition of the forty separate blocks. The vines struggle to establish themselves as the roots delve deep into the bedrock.
Viticulture has always been as sustainable and ecologically sound as possible and ideal yields are balanced at around 2-2.5 tons per acre (32-40 hl/ha). Grapes are severely sorted berry-by-berry and fermented in very small lots in wooden fermenters, the wine is pressed-off into 100% new French barriques and aged for 24 months prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered.
|V , VF||Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot|
|Harlan Estate||V , VF||Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Petit Verdot|