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Harlan Estate



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Harlan Estate

When Bill Harlan first began his search for land in the Napa Valley he started a chain of events that were to lead to the creation of a true California ‘First Growth’. Today, Harlan Estate is the winery so many aspire to; a true icon in the valley. A man naturally instilled with the pioneering spirit, it is perhaps unsurprising that Bill Harlan sought out a part of the valley previously deemed unacceptable for vine growing. In the almost 40 years since its inception, Harlan Estate has gone on to position itself at the very pinnacle of American wine, all the while leading a charge into the Mayacama foothills hills, dozens of wineries following in the path laid down by one man’s pursuit of a dream.

The estate was officially founded in 1984, with the clear vision to build and establish one of the finest wine-growing estates in America, using virgin hillside land to create something separate from the past. A purchase was made of some pristine forest above the famed Oakville Benchlands, directly above Martha’s Vineyard. At the time, this represented completely unexplored potential – an uncharted wilderness. But in Harlan’s eyes, this was the most exciting part of the valley, where the natural chaos of the forest spills down to the manicured valley below and the activities of nature are at their most evident and untamed. This previously unexplored transition zone turned out to be a melting pot of soils, climate and elevations that duly gave rise to an estate wine of enormous natural complexity, power and elegance.

The entirely hillside vineyards sit on both volcanic and sedimentary bedrock; a combination of terraced vineyards and closely spaced vines, on spare soils over fractured rock, with vertical trellising and shoot positioning, and a full 360º exposition. Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for the majority of plantings, with the remainder made up of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot; each variety planted to a wide range of aspects and soil types – each combination adding another layer to the complexity found in every bottle of Harlan Estate. The fact that this landscape is so contoured means an ‘eyes on’ crew is required to adapt the pruning and trellising of every single vine to best suit its particular orientation. Farming practices are thus entirely manual, and every decision from the first training to the final picking is taken with a specific place in mind.

Today Harlan is a wine-growing estate consisting of 97 hectares, 17 of which are planted to vines. From the release of their first vintage in 1990, Harlan has set about trying to capture the very ‘mood’ of the land they farm. Through meticulous farming of infinitely varied, contoured vineyards, their aim is to provide each vine with the perfect conditions for growth. In doing so they look to harvest grapes that bear the very fingerprint of the land they farm.

To enter the estate, through private, unmarked gates, and drive up the hill to the winery office, is to enter a world where technology and tradition fuse seamlessly together. The stone buildings that perch above the Western Vineyards have every appearance of lasting for 200 years; the hypnotic, densely planted, contoured vineyards snaking away below the winery spring from the very shape of the land itself. The natural and manmade worlds melt into one another, just as in the winery, where age old techniques meld with the precision that new age technology allows.

Winemaking involves a vast number of tiny lot vinifications – each designed to draw out the very best character from the specific lot it contains. Meticulous sorting and de-stemming precede gentle, temperature-controlled whole-berry fermentations in both stainless steel and small oak uprights. Malolactic fermentation is carried out in barrel, followed by between 20-28 months ageing in a combination of new and seasoned French oak barrels of medium toast. The combination of a state-of-the-art winemaking facility and an underground, chapel-like but micro-climactically adjustable cellar embodies this meeting of tradition and technology offering up an excellent representation of the very ethos of the estate itself.

We are delighted to have been appointed official partners to Harlan Estate in the UK. Given their scarcity, the wines are on allocation. Please contact your account manager, or email finewine@justerinis.com to learn more.