x
  • Country ranking ?

    74
  • Producer ranking ?

    14
  • Decanting time

    3h
  • When to drink

    from 2025
  • Food Pairing

    Game

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The Story

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.

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Wine Information

“There was a clear dividing line between what we could use and what we couldn’t,” Director Don Weaver commented about Harlan Estate’s 2017 harvest. “The way the community came together was the defining moment for us. In terms of selection, we erred on the highest quality side. The good news is that we had a lot to choose from!” Indeed, Harlan Estate’s no-compromise stance has held them in good stead in 2017. Qualitatively, assuming this barrel sample is an accurate reflection of the final wine (and I have no reason to believe it isn’t), these guys didn’t miss a beat. This said, the 2017 The Maiden is still a work in progress and so wasn’t shown to me at this time.

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

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Written Notes

Love the sage and mint undertones with currants and berries. Some lead pencil. Iodine. Medium to full body and very fine tannins. Lovely freshness. It’s a refined and gorgeous Harlan. Savory. Beautiful finish. Drinkable now, but better in 2022.

  • 97p

A contender for the wine of the vintage, the wine shows off its blackberry, dark cherry and blue fruit profile effortlessly. Lush, silky, opulent and fresh, the layers of fruit, chocolate, espresso, smoke, 5 spice, licorice and savory characteristics keep on going from start to finish. For Harlan Estate, this will drink well relatively early.

  • 97p

Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2017 Harlan Estate needs a little coaxing to reveal captivating iron ore, red currant jelly, cloves and crushed rocks scents with a core of warm cassis, Black Forest cake and boysenberries plus a waft of pencil lead. Medium to full-bodied, it has a firm, grainy texture with a lively backbone and loads of earthy layers, long and mineral laced. This should be one of the longer-lived wines coming out of the 2017 vintage.

"2018 had a certain sense of ease to it," Bill Harlan said as we tasted the barrel sample of the next iteration of this iconic label. "The pace was wonderful." "Mother nature was allowing us an extended runway," winemaker Cory Empting agreed. "We just started picking and couldn’t stop." As a reminder, Harlan Estate is bottled later than most other Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. While a lot of the Napa 2018s were bottled in and around July 2020, Harlan will not be bottled until late February or early March 2021. This 2018 is looking incredibly youthful and indeed reticent, as are many 2018s, but it bears all the grace and sophistication of a wine nearing completion, promising to be an elegant, perfumed and perhaps even "perfect" expression of this very special piece of Napa turf.

  • 97p

The 2017 Harlan Estate is bright, focused and also a bit wiry, as so many wines are in this vintage. Lifted aromatics and mid-weight structure give the 2017 a decidedly racy feel that is accentuated by the reddish leaning fruit. Mint, crushed flowers and spice add further dimensions of high-toned vibrancy.

  • 96p
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Information

Origin

Oakville, Napa Valley

Highlights

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