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Bob Levy, winemaker at Harlan Estate: “2008 was a very unusual vintage; it was a vintage of extremes, with the end result being that the “average” of the extremes worked out to be close to ‘normal’. We had temperatures well below average all spring. In fact, we had frost very late in the year in some locations. The summer also remained very cold, except for the days with extremely high temperatures. We had some concerns about full maturity in the grapes as the summer was nearing its end. However, we did enjoy a long period of ripening throughout September and into October without rain, so ultimately we had a harvest with very good ripeness and very soft, supple and full bodied tannins. There really are no growing conditions that I have experienced that are the same as 2008. During the beginning of the growing season we were concerned that we were going to have a repeat of 1998, however it turned out quite different. While the growing season was different to 1999, the character and texture of the wines are similar–the wines have good fruit ripeness, they are powerful and show a good concentration, and their tannic structure is rich and very supple. This wine has a much greater potential for long term ageing than the 1998 vintage.”
With the founding of Harlan Estate in 1984, we embarked upon our mission of creating a “first growth” of California. The estate’s early vineyard development began with just six acres. Today our planting is essentially complete, with nearly forty acres under vine to the classic varietals: cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (20%), cabernet franc (8%), and petit verdot (2%). Invariably, the finished wine is predominately cabernet sauvignon, which we blend with varying amounts of the other three varietals as we seek to express faithfully the unique and distinctive character of the site.
Modest quantities of wine were produced in 1987, 1988, and 1989 from grapes that represented the second, third, and fourth leaf of our estate vineyard. In each of those years a small number of barrels were produced in the hope of gaining a prescient glimpse into what the character of the land—never before cultivated—might have to offer. The wines were blended, bottled, and labeled with a special designation. Though charming in their own way, these first wines fell short of our standards and aspirations, so were never released. They continue to serve as humble reminders of where we began the journey.
Lower-than-average rainfall in the winter followed by a dry spring.
Budbreak on April 1,followed by a cold spell.(Our steep hillside sites were spared the spring frost damage that many others in the valley experienced)
A moderate summer, followed by a cool September
with just 7 days over 90°. Harvest began on September 2 and finished on September 29. Average yield: 1.5 tons per acre.
The individual lots of the 2008 vintage are consistently impressive and opulent. Currently aging in new French oak barrels in the second-year cellar, they will undoubtedly provide a wealth of very high-quality components for blending trials next spring.