Harlan Estate is one of the Napa Valley’s most prestigious wine estates. It is one of a handful of cult Cabernet producers, whose wines are some of the most expensive and collectable in the region.
Harlan Estate was founded by H. William (Bill) Harlan. Inspired by Robert Mondavi’s work reviving Napa as a serious wine region, Harlan was determined to establish an estate whose wines could compete with the finest in the world. In the early 1980s, Harlan visited the great estates of Europe, noting a particularly transformative trip with Robert Mondavi in 1980, which helped him understand what was required to make great wine.
He started looking for the perfect piece of land in Napa in 1972, but the search took over a decade, only purchasing his first 40 acres in 1984. The estate lies on the western hillside of the Oakville AVA, in the central region of the Napa Valley. Harlan took a substantial risk in buying uncultivated land at a higher altitude than the already established vineyards situated on the valley floor. Harlan was buying virgin land that had never been planted to vines.
Over the next 10 years Harlan continued to purchase more land around the property. In 1985 they planted the first 2.4 hectares of vines and by 1999 had 13.2 hectares under vine, with further expansion in 2002 and 2004. Today a total 16 hectares are planted within 97 hectares of wooded hillsides, ranging in altitude from 68 to 374 metres above sea-level.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant variety, representing 70% of the vineyard plantings. With Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc (8%) and Petit Verdot (2%) making up the rest.
The property produced wine as early as 1987 but the first commercial vintage under Harlan Estate was 1990, released in 1996. Harlan introduced another cuvée, The Maiden (often considered a “second wine” of the estate), with the 1995 vintage.
Bill Harlan has gone on to found two other Napa estates, Promontory (first vintage 2009) and Bond (first vintage 1997).