Harlan Estate

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Harlan Estate
Location Oakville, California, USA
Appellation Oakville AVA
Founded 1984
Key people Bill Harlan, owner and founder
Robert Levy, winemaker
Will Harlan, heir apparent
Cases/yr 2700-2800
Known for Harlan Estate
The Maiden
Tasting by appointment
Website www.harlanestate.com
Harlan Estate 1997 vintage

Harlan Estate is a California wine estate producing Bordeaux style blends. The estate is located on the west hills of Oakville, California within the Oakville AVA, in the Napa Valley AVA zone.

Harlan Estate has been described as "the ultimate cult winery",[1] with its limited availability, prices and status akin to those of Screaming Eagle. In addition to the estate wine, there is produced a second wine named The Maiden.


In 1984, H. William Harlan, a real estate developer and Napa Valley resort owner,[2][3] purchased a 230-acre (93 ha) property, a forested area, with steep hillsides, multiple elevations and exposures, west of Martha's Vineyard in Oakville, and proceeded to clear 30 acres (12 ha) for viticulture,[4] with Harlan's expressed ambition to "create a first growth wine".[5]

The first Harlan Estate wine label, a design inspired by a 19th-century engraving which was overseen by retired U.S. Treasury engraver Herb Fichter, was 10 years in the making, from when Bill Harlan first started his search for an engraver to the release of the 1990 vintage in 1996.[5] On its qualities, Harlan has stated, "It was a label designed for a bottle that would sit on a table in candlelight, not on a store shelf."[5]

Described by Jancis Robinson as "one of the ten best wines of the twentieth century",[5] and consistent acclaim from Wine Spectator,[6] and Robert Parker, including four scores of 100 "parker points",[3] have further contributed to the wine's high prices and long waiting lists. Released at $245 per bottle, the price soon rises on the speculative market,[2] and the cost may range from $450 to $2,000.[3][7] A 10-vintage vertical selection of magnum bottles sold at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction for $700,000.[5]

The winemaker Robert Levy, has worked with Harlan since 1983 when Harlan took part in founding the Merryvale Winery,[2][4][5] and since 1989 the estate has retained Michel Rolland as consultant enologist.[1][3][8] Construction of the current winery was completed in 2002.[2]


The estate extends 240 acres (97 ha), of which approximately 15% of the land, 38 acres (15 ha) is cultivated with the grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.[8][9]

Most vintages from 1990 through 1997 have been Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux blends, but since the 1998 vintage, the estate wine has been 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.[4]

A maximum 2,000 cases are annually produced of Harlan estate,[3] with approximately 700-800 cases made of The Maiden.[8]


Beginning production in 1997, Harlan founded the Bond Estates,[2] in collaboration with winemaker Robert Levy and vineyard manager Mary Maher, with the intent to identify and produce wine from "grand crus" of Napa Valley.[10] Erroneously described as second wines of Harlan Estate, the Bond winery is located on the western hills of Oakville.[10]

From small separate plots there is produced terroir-specific Cabernet Sauvignon wines, named Melbury from East of St. Helena, St. Eden from Northeast of Oakville, Vecina from Southwest of Oakville, Pluribus from west of St. Helena and the blended second wine Matriarch, each wine with the limited production of approximately 700 cases.[2][10]

The Napa Valley Reserve[edit]

Situated on an eighty-acre (32-hectare) property in St. Helena, California, with close ties to luxury resort Meadowood (which Harlan established in 1979),[2][11] the Napa Valley Reserve is a members-only winery and vineyard project founded in 2004[12] and described as "the nation's first wine country club",[13] and as "the wine world's most elite fantasy camp".[11]

Participants pay a $140,000 initiation fee and monthly dues of $80, commit to a minimum of 150 bottles, and may create up to 900 bottles for $45,000.[14] With a client base that includes actors, sports stars, and affluent professional workers, the establishment is an invitation-only club.[15]


  1. ^ a b Kamp, David & Lynch, David, Vanity Fair (November 2005). "The Wine Snob's Dictionary". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Brook, Stephen, Decanter.com (February 16, 2007). "Bill Harlan - Decanter Interview". 
  3. ^ a b c d e Parker, Robert M. Jr, BusinessWeek (September 10, 2007). "A Perfectionist Fulfills His Dream". 
  4. ^ a b c Laube, James, Wine Spectator (April 30, 2000). "Harlan Estate". 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Teague, Lettie, Food & Wine (March 2001). "California's Cult-Cabernet Visionary". 
  6. ^ Suckling, James, Wine Spectator (August 31, 2006). "I Have Joined the Cult". 
  7. ^ Heimoff, Steve, steveheimoff.com (November 24, 2008). "Upsetting applecarts: Blind tasting as a revolutionary act". 
  8. ^ a b c Napa Valley Wine Library Association. "Fall Field Seminar". 
  9. ^ Appellationamerica.com. "Harlan Estate". 
  10. ^ a b c Eklund, Kurt-Inge (2008). "Harlans Imperium". Mat & Vänner Vin (Helsingborg: Mat & Vänner Förlag AB) (2): 48–54. ISSN 2000-0200.  (Swedish)
  11. ^ a b Grischke, Mark, Forbes.com (November 29, 2005). 12 Gifts of Christmas
  12. ^ Shevory, Kristina, BusinessWeek (July 10, 2006). "Château Your Name Here". 
  13. ^ Leigh Brown, Patricia, The New York Times (October 21, 2005). "Growing in Napa: Club, and Camp, for Wine Lovers". 
  14. ^ Woollard, Deidre, Luxist.com (October 23, 2005). Napa Valley Reserve
  15. ^ Elsworth, Catherine, The Daily Telegraph (November 3, 2005). "£80,000 to join and you pick your own grapes in the wine lovers' country club". 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°24′54″N 122°24′30″W / 38.41500°N 122.40833°W / 38.41500; -122.40833