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BWW 2021 - Best New Winery of the World have been selected – Promontory!

BWW – Best Wine of the World Competition is the largest wine competition in the world, whether measured by the number of wines, the number of consumers involved or the judges taking part.

The BWW 2021competition was held in the world's largest wine information service - tastingbook.com. 20,4675 wines received in total over 3 million votes from 190,000 wine professionals and wine lovers from 115 countries during the three months voting period.

After the voting period, only 100 most voted wines in six different categories remained in the Finals, organized in December 2020. The six main categories included red wine, white wine, rose wine, sparkling wine, fortified wine, and champagne. Under each category, the best wines were also awarded according to price level and country categories. 

In the Finals the wines were evaluated and ranked two different times as blind by the jury of Tastingbook.com Professionals (selected Judges from over 11 000 Pros: Wine writes, bloggers, MW's. Wine dealers etc.)

The Title above all categories - The Best Wine of the World 2021 - was awarded to the wine that won the highest scores in the Finals. 


In BWW Competition 2021, the Best New Winery of the World -title was awarded to the Promontory, Napa Valley, USA, and

The Best Winemaker of the World tittle went to Cory Empting (Harlan Estate / Bond / Promontory)

"To be recognized and singled out by so many for doing something we love is extremely gratifying. For the acclaim to encompass all three of our separate winegrowing endeavors—Harlan Estate, BOND and Promontory—is, frankly, unbelievable! 

But maybe your readers have provided a key to understanding this honor in naming our director of winegrowing Cory Empting as Best Winemaker of the World. Cory and his fabulous team (to whom he would be the first to give the credit) are the common thread in seeking to elaborate the purest expressions of the distinctive character of each of our diverse vineyard sites. His intuitive, thoughtful approach and strong leadership reflect a deep respect for tradition as well as an openness to innovation. 

We hope to continue exploring the art of man and nature for many years to come, seeking to elevate the human spirit through the medium and mystery of wine. Thank you for your encouragement."

Don Weaver / Director, Harlan Estate


Other Winners of the main categories are:

Best White Wine of the World: Winner: Penfolds Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 2018 (Australia)

Best Champagne of the World: Winner: Rare Champagne 2008 (Champagne, France)

Best Red Wine of the World: Winner Winner: Château Mouton Rothschild 2018 (Bordeaux, France)

Best Sparkling Wine of the World: Winner: Fontanafredda Contessa Rosa Alta Langa Rosé 2014 (Piedmont, Italy)

Best Rosé Wine of the World: Winner: Ixsir Grande Réserve Rosé 2018 (Mount Bekaa, Lebanon) 

Best Sweet Wine of the World: Winner: Robert Weil Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 2018 (Rheingau, Germany) 

Best Port Wine of the World: Winner: Niepoort Vintage Port 2017 (Douro, Portugal)

Best Cabernet Sauvignon Wine of the World: Bond St Eden 2015 (Napa Valley, USA)

Best Merlot Wine of the World: Masseto 2015 (Tuscany, Italy)

Best Pinot Noir Wine of the World: Armand Rousseau Chambertin 2014 (Burgundy, France)

Best Champagne House of the World: Winner: Champagne Piper-Heidsieck (France)

Best New Winery of the World: Winner: Promontory (Napa Valley, USA)

Other 250 winners can be found at www.tastingbook.com


The story behind Napa's new blockbuster winery: Promontory

Once upon a time, Bill Harlan raced motorcycles, docked a schooner on seven continents and played professional poker. Now, he buys unwieldy swaths of Napa Valley wilderness.

Same sensation of thrill seeking, perhaps; different resource set.

Harlan rests in a singular sort of Napa Valley regency. With his fortune first built on the real estate firm Pacific Union, Harlan’s crown is now studded with the jewels of Harlan Estate and Bond wineries, and Meadowood resort with its three-star Michelin restaurant. At 76, he is about to officially unveil his latest — and presumably, last — wine estate, Promontory.

Developing Promontory, as both a vineyard property and a wine brand, might from the outside look like a thrill seeker’s gamble. In the foothills of Mount Veeder, straddling Oakville and Yountville’s borderlands, the vineyard doesn’t fall within the boundaries of any AVA. Two seismic fault lines bisect it. Averaging a 40 percent slope, it’s nearly too precipitous for cultivation. Scarcely 10 percent of the 840-acre territory is plantable.


This unique geography, and its quality of feral grandeur, has prompted many wine pundits to already declare Promontory Harlan’s crowning achievement: It “has set the wine world abuzz with anticipation,” wrote Karen MacNeil in 2014. It reimagines “the classic Napa Cabs of the ’70s,” by Jay McInerney’s estimation. Bill Harlan himself has told several writers that the wine from the Promontory vineyard will fill in Napa’s “missing shade of red” — a provocatively immodest goal.

But Promontory also represents the Harlan family’s attempt to be more accessible — a relative term, granted, when you’re in Napa, and when you’re a Harlan.

So unlike Harlan Estate, famously shuttered to the public, the Promontory winery will be open for tastings. Promontory will actually have wine for sale at the winery, unlike Harlan Estate and Bond, which sell wine only through their allocated mailing lists. And whereas Harlan Estate’s current release sells for $850 a bottle, Promontory’s is $450.

Allowing customers to visit your winery hardly sounds like a radical innovation. But Harlan Estate, considered one of Napa’s “cult Cabernets,” first gained fame in the nineties not only for its wine quality — its ripe, generous, concentrated wines helped define a new era of wine style — but also for its astronomical prices, for the wines’ scarcity and for the estate’s all-around secrecy. It wasn’t just that you couldn’t visit the winery. Even if you had the money, you couldn’t buy the wines.

Promontory’s tasting appointments, in limited supply, cost $200 a person. But they’re also instituting a modified, discounted group session, likely $50, on Saturdays at 8 a.m. That discount is a nod, they say, to Bill Harlan’s own frugal college student days in the 1960s, when he enjoyed tastings at Napa wineries, then all free. It also seems designed to discourage the rowdier, louder tourist crowds that tend to arrive at wineries much later in the day.

“While in today’s era the free program isn’t quite feasible, we wanted to be able to engage younger folks at an earlier stage of their wine development,” Will Harlan, Bill’s son, says. “If they’re genuinely curious ... and willing to wake up a bit early, we feel it would be really important to be able to offer an experience at a price that’s attainable.”


Will Harlan, Bill Harlan's son, at Promontory Estate winery in Napa.  Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle

Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle

Will Harlan, Bill Harlan's son, at Promontory Estate winery in Napa. 


Bill Harlan likes to talk about having a “200-year plan” for his businesses. Phase one is securing a successor. That’s how 29-year-old Will has come to play such a large role in Promontory, and Cory Empting — the 36-year-old winemaker for Harlan Estate and Bond under longtime director of winegrowing Bob Levy — to assume the new winery’s director position.

Promontory has been in the making Will’s entire life; the 200-year plan doesn’t move quickly. Bill Harlan had had his eye on the Promontory property since he’d hiked there in 1984, while he was planting Harlan Estate nearby. It wasn’t until 2008 that he was able to begin buying the land, which he acquired in three parcels.

Only someone with Harlan-level resources, perhaps, could endeavor to harness Promontory’s ferocity. Though just a quarter-mile south as the crow flies from Harlan Estate, in the Oakville hillsides, and a scant mile from the French Laundry, it feels a world away from both. “These aren’t the soft rolling hills of Harlan Estate,” Empting says. Instead, Promontory — whose two seismic fault lines give it three distinct soil series, including a highly heterogeneous metamorphic pocket — is jagged, steep, rocky. Empting believes the wines reflect this landscape. “They scream purity and wildness,” he says.

OK, but not too wild. When the Harlans first bought the property, it needed a lot of work: Cut-down trees had been dumped negligently; erosion was rampant; the roads were getting washed out. The soil, formerly treated with harsh herbicides and acidulated fertilizers, was infirm.

Empting’s prescription: “do-nothing farming,” the agrarian philosophy prescribed by Masanobu Fukuoka in his treatise “The One-Straw Revolution.” (Sometimes called “natural farming,” it shares many goals with biodynamic agriculture, but deviates from it in practices and spiritual principles.) Promontory’s soil variation and tendency toward compaction, Empting says, demanded a novel approach. And though Harlan Estate and the Bond properties are farmed organically, the do-nothing imperatives — no tilling, no soil ripping, no weeding — have inspired changes there, too. (The company does not pursue sustainability certifications.)

The view from Promontory Estate, nestled in the hillsides of Oakville Grade. Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle

Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle The view from Promontory Estate, nestled in the hillsides of Oakville Grade.


The first year the Harlans had Promontory, 2008, they made wine from the vineyard but weren’t satisfied with it. They will never sell it. Ever since, vineyard manager Mary Maher has been chipping away piecemeal at restoring Promontory, replanting underperforming vines block by block. “I’m gonna be in my 70s before our replanting program comes to completion,” the younger Harlan says.

The only remnants of infrastructure on the 840 acres are an abandoned creekside cabin and the ruins of a vestigial Prohibition-era bootlegging still. In order to keep Promontory wild, the Harlans decided not to build a winery there, which would have required complicated permits, not to mention paved roads.

Instead, Harlan purchased an existing winery on Oakville Grade, 300 yards north of Harlan Estate. The building has had several lives before — as Vichon, in the early eighties, later as the Cal-Ital project La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi, most recently as Diamond Oaks — and as such, was grandfathered into some now-unheard-of use permits. For instance, they can serve full meals there and hold nighttime events, activities permitted to few Napa wineries anymore. (The culinary program, likely to involve Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow and a hearty, family-style midday meal, won’t debut until next year.)

“We have a certain freedom,” Will Harlan says.

The wineries’ proximity may look to some like the equivalent of buying a vacation house on the same block as your home. Indeed, the physical winery looks much like its Harlan Estate counterpart; both were designed by Howard Backen, Napa Valley’s architect to the stars. But Promontory is Howard Backen Contemporary: “almost industrial,” in Will Harlan’s words, incorporating more concrete, steel and glass than the other, which is dominated by stone and redwood. Construction, begun in 2012finished in May.

In this kingdom of bottomless resources, the winery has been outfitted with equipment designed to complement the Promontory vineyard’s rustic wildness — though calling anything the Harlans do “rustic” would be a stretch for most people. The hallmark of the apparatus: After the standard nine to twelve months of aging in French oak barrels, the Promontory Cabernets are blended and put into Stockinger Austrian oak casks.

Concrete and oak fermentation tanks at Promontory Estate. Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle

Photo: John Storey, Special To The Chronicle   Concrete and oak fermentation tanks at Promontory Estate.


Austrian oak? “It’s a big departure,” Empting concedes. “But what was working at Harlan and Bond” — all sweet, toasty French wood — “wasn’t working here.” Bill Harlan wasn’t immediately on board with the idea, especially since they initially had to import the casks from the cooperage themselves, but Empting prevailed.

Similar to the Austrian and German vessels that Inglenook used in the old days, the casks help realize the retrograde personality of the Promontory wines. Though still rich and driven by fruit, these wines are a little quieter, wearing a little bit less of the opulent polish of the Harlan Estate powerhouses.

That shift is simply a reflection of the vineyard’s personality, Empting insists. But it’s hard not to read into it, too, a sign of the times — a concession to the terms of restraint that have crept into the California Cabernet conversation over the last decade. That conversation has often targeted benchmarks of hedonism that came of age in the nineties and early aughts, like Harlan Estate.

Empting himself engages in that conversation: “There’s a sweetness to Napa fruit already. And to reinforce that doesn’t seem intuitive.”


Likewise, the decision to open Promontory to the public feels like an acknowledgment that luxury branding is now better served in transparency than in secrecy. Harlan Estate, lavish secluded wine palace never intended for public eyes, thrived on mystery, but building a wine business — or any business — in 2017 demands face-to-face connection. “We know how important it is to have direct relationships with people,” Will Harlan says.

Empting agrees: “It seemed like it was worth fostering those relationships, and not being so exclusive.” He pauses. “I say this, but I was probably the biggest advocate at first for not having visitors.”

It doesn’t take a cynic to see the irony in calling a $200 tasting appointment “accessible.” And then again, accessibility by that standard is not what the Harlans are going for. It’s rather the posture of openness — a controlled transparency.

That the Promontory vineyard can produce an original wine, not merely a copy of Harlan Estate, testifies to the character of Napa Valley land — that two vineyards separated by a mere quarter-mile, even when handled by the same people, can turn out meaningfully different wines.

But with the Harlans it’s never just about a patch of dirt. It’s about establishing institutions. Is Promontory the institution meaningfully different from Harlan Estate?

Will a $200 tasting appointment help the wines reach a new audience? Will the wineries, in the end, appear as twins, steel and concrete notwithstanding? In the nineties, Harlan Estate defined the era, introducing a new wine style, stoking a new level of demand for Napa Valley wines. Will Promontory sound that same, comfortable horn?

Or will it have something new to say?


If you go

Visits to Promontory will begin with a glass of Dom Pérignon Champagne — likely one of their experimentally aged cuvees, P2 and P3 — since, after all, Promontory produces only red wine. Each party will have its own individual host, who will use a map to orient guests to the Promontory vineyard. (They won’t visit the vineyard.) A tour of the winery follows, culminating in a cask sample tasting — a young wine not yet bottled — while standing among the Stockinger oak casks. Finally, they’ll retire to a private room, where the host will guide guests through tastings of a few different vintages, including the upcoming release and a library selection. Wine may be purchased. (Longtime mailing-list customers of Promontory, Harlan Estate and Bond may expect an enhanced itinerary.)

To request an appointment, email visit@promontory.wine or call (707) 963-2206. Appointments offered 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, $200 per person.





In an unmarked territory, hidden beyond the upper reaches of Oakville’s southwestern borderlands, Promontory looms remote, raw, and replete with uncharted potential. Steeped in history yet largely overlooked in the twentieth century, the scale of this undiscovered territory evokes the impression of a small national park. These lands encompass an entire watershed, and embody all the hallmarks of an unparalleled winegrowing estate - diversity of soil, elevation, exposition, and climate – all within a single and dramatic expanse.

Building a dream of this scale requires a commitment much greater than that of one individual or even one lifetime. It is a pursuit that requires the experience and wisdom of the founding generation, the preparedness and conviction of the current generation, with consideration for the promise of the next.

Promontory extends our pioneering spirit of discovering something that can reveal, just possibly, a glimpse of the sublime.



With this new winery and its nearby vineyards, Harlan insists his grand plan for the Napa Valley will finally be complete—though his team is not quite sure. "Bill is never happier than when he's building something; he's a developer by birth," says Harlan Estate director Don Weaver. "Promontory was a surprise for the rest of us. I thought it was time to just burnish the gem, when all of a sudden I hear him say, 'Well, there's this piece of land just south of us…' "


Inside information

Harlan registered the name Promontory in 2006 with these 840 acres in mind, but the land did not become available until 2008. Although some vineyards had been cultivated by a previous owner, Harlan and his team—which includes Bob Levy, director of winegrowing and partner; Mary Maher, vineyard manager; Cory Empting, winemaker; and Micah Flynn, ranch manager—immediately began clearing and replanting its steep, rugged slopes to his exacting standards. Currently, the Promontory estate contains 70 acres of vineyards with another 30 acres planned. Five additional acres of vines surround the winery, now under construction, on a hill above Oakville Grade. This Howard Backen–designed complex has magnificent vistas of the valley and something that neither Harlan Estate nor Bond offers: a hospitality center. “It’s a window to the world,” says Harlan. “Still by appointment, but it will give us closer communication with our patrons. With Harlan and Bond, that was a different era. Nowadays, members of the younger generation want to discover things on their own. They want to be close to the source.”

When Promontory released its first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon–based red wine—2009. the future was very much on Bill Harlan’s mind. His son, Will, and daughter, Amanda, have both entered the family business, and Promontory will be their legacy as much as it is their father’s. “Harlan was conceived on a first-growth model, while Bond is more of a Burgundy model with Bordeaux varietals,” he says. “Here, we’re breaking away from the past. We’re applying everything we’ve learned in the last 35 years. It’s about the next generation; it’s about the 21st century; and it’s about California really coming into its own.”


Winemaking since 2006

  • Bill Harlan

    “I originally came across the [Promontory] land 25 years ago and thought it was fantastic,”


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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Promontory  has updated producer and wine information

3m 15d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  22 wines 

Heitz Martha's Vineyard 1974. Still a big, powerful wine that sums up the richness of this perfect Napa vintage. It is densely fruity, spicy with an enormous black plum and minty fruit character to go with the acidity. It's concentrated while still showing such wonderfully pure fruit. This is a monumental, eternal wine!

5m 17d ago

 Promontory  has updated producer and wine information

6m 24d ago

 Promontory  has updated producer and wine information

11m 12d ago

 Promontory  has updated producer and wine information

1y 4m ago

 Promontory  has news

BWW 2021 - Best New Winery of the World have been selected – Promontory! BWW – Best W  more ...

1y 7m ago

 Juha Lihtonen / The Best Scandinavian Sommelier 2003, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  185 wines 

BWW2021 competition finals were filled with superb lineup of the world's greatest wines and superb finds from various price categories. The finals that were run in various blind tasting sessions, revealed many surprises. Most commonly, the fact that all the wines were so enjoyable already at this young stage, although many of them will deliver so much more after ageing of 10-15 years. Congratulations for all the winners!

1y 8m ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  27 wines 

Petrus 2015 / The aromas to this are a reference for Pomerol with truffles, black olives, black licorice and dark fruit. Even brown sugar. Full-bodied, layered and multi-dimensional. Chocolate underlines the character above. The perfect tannin texture, length and balance make you think you're dreaming. All about harmony and beauty. Love to taste it now but needs at least five or six years. 100p

1y 8m ago

 Antonio Galloni, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  29 wines 

Bryant Family 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, tasted from a working base blend, is just magnificent. Seldom - maybe never - I have seen a young Bryant Cabernet that is this well put-together at this stage. The integrity of the fruit, acid and structure is outstanding. Sweet red and purplish fruit, sweet floral notes and spice are all beautifully lifted. The 2018 is flat-out stunning. That's all there is to it.

1y 9m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Editor of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  61 wines 

The third long and rewarding BWW2020 -tasting day is now behind. Here is my personal list over 90 points wines! Thank you again for all the other tasters - tasting 146 young fine wines from all over the world is always a hard work day - but because they are "the Best Wines of the World - it makes so much easier and more fun. 

1y 9m ago

 Donald Gibson, Wine Importer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  8 wines 

Bond Vecina 2006 / 97 points /Beautifully crafted red. Gorgeous plum, berry and smoky oak character. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long, long, ripe fruit finish. A real happiness to taste.

3y 9m ago

 Hannu Kytölä, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Promontory . In a tasting of  13 wines 

Tasting the latest vintages 2013-2016  at Gargiulo Vineyards

3y 10m ago

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