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Harlan Estate California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

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Harlan Estate, California Cabernet Sauvignon wine producer profile, wine tasting notes, a history of the property, plus information on their wine making techniques and their soils, along with wine reviews and links.

Harlan Estate has over the years become a mythical California Cabernet. Only Screaming Eagle is held is higher esteem. How did this happen and how are some of the wines showing today?

Like many of the famous names making wine in Napa, Bill Harlan owes a debt of gratitude to Robert Mondavi. It was a trip to Bordeaux and Burgundy with Mondavi that inspired Bill Harlan to create his vision of a First Growth California winery. It took only a few years before Bill Harlan created Harlan Estate in 1984. Prior to starting Harlan Estate, Harlan led a colorful life. He flew planes, gambled professionally as a Poker player and eventually settled on a career in real estate buying and selling properties and converting apartments to condominiums. With his experience in real estate, he knew a value when a saw one. It was a run down country club that Bill Harlan turned into the number one hotel and resort in the Napa Valley, Meadowood. Shortly after, he began purchasing, undeveloped land from the Stelling family, which soon became Harlan Estate. The wine of Harlan Estate were several years in the making. The early vintages were not commercially released. To learn more about the wine business, Harlan created Merryvale, with the help of winemaker, Bill Levy, who is still with the Harlan team today.

Harlan estate vineyards1 300x220 Harlan Estate California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

The 36 acre vineyards of Harlan Estate are located on some of the better elevations and soils in the Oakville appellation. From the vineyards, you get great views of the Napa Valley. One of the keys to the terroir of Harlan Estate is the elevation. This ranges from a low of 225 feet to an impressive 1225 feet above sea level. Harlan Estate vineyards are in truth, just one piece of a bigger estate. In total, the property of Harlan Estate includes more than 240 acres of land! Everything is not planted. A lot of the surface area is relegated to the picturesque hills, valleys and amazing views from various overlooks.

According to Bill Harlan, his goal was to produce a Bordeaux First Growth equivalent in California. He’s achieved that in spades with Harlan Estate based on the quality, price and status his wine has in the marketplace. All that, and they sell futures too!

>Harlan Estate dates back almost three decades. The project first took hold in 1984. That year, Harlan began planting the vines for what would later become Harlan Estate. They started with only 6 acres, which of course expanded with time. The vineyard plantings consist of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. That varietal combination would be at home in Bordeaux in any First Growth property located in the Meodc. The winery at Harlan was built in 2002.

Harlan Head shot1 300x229 Harlan Estate California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

All great wines share a common thread, they are produced in the vineyard. At Harlan Estate, that starts with a policy of severe selection in the vines and in the cellars. To insure the elegant textures, freshness and complexity Harlan Estate is known for, they completely desteem the grapes. The fruit is whole berry fermented and they avoid pumping over. Harlan Estate wines are fermented in small, open top vats. Malolactic fermentation takes place in 100% new French oak. The wine remains in barrel for 24-36 months, depending on the vintage. With time, the oak fades as it becomes integrated into the wine.

The first commercial vintage of Harlan Estate was released in 1990. Prior years were made for friends and family. The team at Harlan Estate has remained relatively consistent over the years. The team starts with Don Weaver, estate director, Bill Levy, wine growing director, Mary Maher, vineyard manager, winemaker, Cory Empting and Michel Rolland, who is their consultant. Don Weaver is the long time director of Harlan Estate.

Don Weaver Harlan 300x267 Harlan Estate California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

The average annual production of Harlan estate varies from vintage to vintage. It ranges from a low of 1,200 cases to slightly over 2,000 cases. Harlan Estate also produced a second wine. The Maiden made its debut in 1995. While some consumers consider the Maiden a second wine, that is not case, according to Harlan. The Maiden is always a completely different blend than you find in Harlan Estate, making it its own unique wine. The average annual production of the Maiden is close to 900 cases per vintage.

Harlan Estate is expensive. The wine is sold direct to customers on Harlan’s mailing list. The current release costs over $500 per bottle. Is it worth it? That depends on your income level and desire to drink one of the best wines made from California Cabernet Sauvignon. From a quality point of view, you’re going to have a hard time finding a better expression of California Cabernet.

What do the wines of Harlan Estate taste like?

Harlan Estate produces a unique expression of California Cabernet Sauvignon. With a powerful perfume, the wines are rich, deep, concentrated and intense. Yet there is a sense of elegance and purity of fruit that meshes perfectly with all the power. When it’s young, in very ripe vintages, the wine can seem over the top, but with time, those sensations mature allowing the wine to deliver one of the best tasting experiences found in modern California Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Harlan Estate is truly a world class wine, with prices to match.

www.harlanestate.com/

Wine Tasting Notes

Displaying 15 vintages | 127592 Views Sorted by vintage

  1. 2010 Harlan Estate

    1. Licorice, espresso bean, earth, graphite, cassis, blackberry, fresh herbs, tobacco open the perfume. In the mouth, the wine is polished, soft and already open. The texture is lush and polished, but it lacks the level of density and concentration found in the best vintages. There is a touch of olive tapenade in the end notes.

      96 points - Tasted
      4802 Views
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  2. 2009 Harlan Estate

    1. Inky purple in color, with a beautiful nose of fresh picked, blackberry, boysenberry and blueberries, complicated by, charcoal, hot stone, vanilla, jam, and floral aromas. This is finesse style of Harlan Estate, rich in texture, lush, soft and with a beautiful sense of purity and elegance. The wine is polished with no hard edges. It should also drink well young.

      97 points - Tasted
      2927 Views
    2. Lush, rich, concentrated and packed with notes of fresh, roasted espresso bean, earth, licorice, boysenberry and smoke, this is an elegant, fresh, silky wine of purity and intensity, that offers the difficult combination of refinement and power.

      98 points - Tasted
      5271 Views
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  3. 2008 Harlan Estate

    1. The wine opens with chocolate, fresh herbs, blackberries, truffle, oak, forest floor and cassis notes. Polished, soft, sweet and supple textured, with a chocolate coated, boysenberry finish.

      96 points - Tasted
      2261 Views
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  4. 2007 Harlan Estate

    1. Incredibly deep in color. The next thing you notice is the pungent aromas of truffle, coffee bean, blackberry jam, blue fruit, black cherry, spice box, caramel, chocolate and smoke. In the mouth, the wine coats your palate with waves of silky, pure fruit that fills every nook and cranny of your palate. Everything is perfectly balanced. This stunning expression of Harlan Estate is effortless is to drink. If you have the funds and the desire to experience California Cabernet Sauvignon at its decadent best, this is perfection in a glass.

      100 points - Tasted
      5408 Views
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  5. 2006 Harlan Estate

    1. Still young, the wine starts unwrapping its charms with boysenberry, truffle, smoke, caramel, vanilla, jam and black cherry aromas. Incredibly lush, rich, ripe, dense, sweet and mouth filling, there is a great persistence of fruit on the palate that ends with a concentrated blast of sweet, ripe, luscious fruits with no hard edges at any point in the experience. There is a purity in the fruit matching the wine's power with elegance. It's not just the score that expresses the pleasure of the wine being tasting. Much of it is about the style. The 2006 Harlan Estate is a very stylish style of California Cabernet Sauvignon that if you can afford it, or if you have a wealthy friend with a bottle in their cellar, if possible, you should try and taste this wine.

      98 points - Tasted
      3384 Views
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  6. 2005 Harlan Estate

    1. Silky, lush, soft and polished, the aromatics offers smoke, truffle, blackberry, vanilla and cocoa aromas. The elegant, poised finish ends with sweet, ripe, black cherries and dark chocolate. There is a hint of dust on the back note in the finish. This is in a great place for current consumption.

      96 points - Tasted
      3023 Views
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  7. 2004 Harlan Estate

    1. Served blind, there was no way a taster could avoid the mountain of silky pleasure in the glass. Licorice, smoke, black cherry, jam, espresso and earthy scents combined with lush, fat, perfectly ripe berries and a long, fresh, sensuous finish. Wow! This was probably decanted about 20 minutes before serving.

      97 points - Tasted
      2685 Views
    2. Deep in color with a flamboyant, expressive nose packed with licorice, black cherry, blackberry, coffee, smoke, earth, truffle and ripe, no make that very ripe berries. Powerful, rich, intense and packed with layers of ripe, juicy, mouth filling fruit, no hard edges and seamless, plush textures, this large scaled vintage of Harlan Estate is still young and demands more time in the cellar before it softens and fleshes out.

      98 points - Tasted
      6577 Views
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  8. 2003 Harlan Estate

    1. Not showing like a 10 year old wine, this seemed much younger with its fresh black and red fruits, licorice, wet earth and oaky nose. Power with elegance, the finish was long, fresh and clean.

      96 points - Tasted
      840 Views
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  9. 2002 Harlan Estate

    1. Inky in color, with pungent aromas of coffee, smoke, blackberries, cassis, earth, 5 spice, herbs and incense. Powerful and concentrated with mouth filling layers of fresh, ripe berries, this California Cabernet Sauvignon ends with an intense licorice, black cherry, oak, vanilla, smoke and olive filled finish. I am enjoying how this wine is developing. I wish I had more than one bottle left.

      99 points - Tasted
      6969 Views
    2. With its explosive nose of licorice, blackberry, blue fruit, jammy berries, oak, fresh herbs, oak and caramel grabs your attention. Thick, juicy, dense and concentrated, with layers of creamy, polished jammy blackberries and coffee flavors, this made a solid impression. I tasted this on release and thought it was over the top. This tasting changed my mind, I was surprised by how much I liked it. It's truly a world class wine.

      99 points - Tasted
      7061 Views
    3. Incredibly rich and concentrated with layers of ripe black and blue fruit, chocolate and jam, this Napa Cabernet was almost too much of a good thing.

      97 points - Tasted
      2162 Views
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  10. 2001 Harlan Estate

    1. Served double blind in what turned out to be a flight of Harlan Estate, there was no problem in shouting out the obvious qualities of this wine. Big, bold, balanced and rich, with layers of sweet, ripe, polished fruits, soft tannins, freshness and a long finish, this is one of the benchmark California Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

      99 points - Tasted
      2041 Views
    2. Some wines are so good, they leave you speechless. 2001 Harlan Estate is one of those wines! With between 30 to 60 minutes of decanting, this incredible wine explodes with licorice, smoke, coffee, black cherry liqueur, blue fruit, truffle, chocolate and incense aromatics. Concentrated with incredible layers of juicy, sweet, polished fruits, the wine is pure silk, velvet and power that expands in your mouth. The finish seems to last at least 60 seconds! It's scary to think, this could get even better over the next few years. Looking back at my tasting note from about 18 months ago, the wine seems to have improved and blossomed to an entirely new level!

      100 points - Tasted
      3812 Views
    3. With prices where they are, opening a First Growth, Screaming Eagle or bottle of Harlan is a rare treat. Quite often, these tremendously, expensive wines do not offer an experience close to their cost. For lovers of California Cabernet Sauvignon, this was about as good as it gets. The first thing you notice is how young, fresh and vibrant the wine is. For the tasters who think high alcohol wines do not age, this wine refutes that argument. With an explosive nose of licorice, coffee bean, earth, blackberry, spice and cigar box, the wine coats your mouth with flavor. Rich, plush, round and palate filling, there is a beautiful sense of purity to the fruit. There is no sensation of heat, even though the wine could be above its stated 14.5% alcohol level. Everything is in balance. the wine is not an over the top tasting experience. This has morphed into an elegant, sophisticated, California Cabernet.

      98 points - Tasted
      3649 Views
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  11. 1997 Harlan Estate

    1. The most inconsistent famous Cabernet Sauvignon on the planet. There are faulty bottles of this wine that are clearly marred by excessive VA. There are perfectly clean bottles as well. And there are bottles that are good, but not great, like this one. The fruit was ripe, the complexity was there as well. The wine was rich, long and round, but something felt a little bit off, as this was not at the same level of quality of the other bottles of Harlan served in the same blind flight.

      95 points - Tasted
      2062 Views
    2. When this wine is on, it’s a majestic experience. On other occasions, the wine is marred by excessive VA, robbing the wine of its purity and exotic quality. Sadly, this example was flawed.

      0 points - Tasted
      3504 Views
    3. This could be the most controversial California Cult Cabernet wine in existence. And for good reason. Several bottles have been marred by VA, while others are clean. The clean bottles offer a stunning tasting experience. Fortunately, this was one of the clean bottles! Coffee, coconut, chocolate, licorice, blackberry, blueberry, jam and smoke, along with a minor touch of VA. Enough VA to add complexity, but not enough to overpower the wine. Huge, intense, concentrated and packed with layers of sweet, ripe, fruit, this wine coats your palate and keeps your attention focused on the levels of fruit packed into a single bottle of this elixir.

      98 points - Tasted
      5837 Views
    4. Smoke, blackberry liqueur, blueberries, cassis, spice and toasty oak aromas were all over the place. Powerful, concentrated and intense, this mouth filling wine coats your palate with waves of juicy ripe berries. Like all the bottles from this evening, the Harlan Estate was served blind. I bring this up so that you know, out of a table with 8 people, not one taster mentioned finding VA in the this particular bottle. I am certain some bottles are not clean, but this specific botte was a compelling tasting experience!

      99 points - Tasted
      6273 Views
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  12. 1995 Harlan Estate

    1. Wow! The first sip captures your attention with its display of truffle, smoke, licorice, boysenberry and blackberries. Intense, rich, , plush, full bodied and powerful, yet, refined and elegant, there is nothing out of place from start to finish.

      98 points - Tasted
      2023 Views
    2. When this was poured, I was told it was the 98 I was blown away by how good the wine was. I was convinced this was the California cabernet of the vintage. When I discovered it was the 95, I did not care, this was compelling. Filled with black cherry jam, licorice, smoke, herbs and truffle scents, this rich, dense wine was a treat for the senses. The wine ends with silky blackberry and chocolate flavors.

      97 points - Tasted
      4628 Views
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  13. 1994 Harlan Estate

    1. Blackberry, black cherry, licorice, earth, mint, truffle and stone aromatics keep you involved in the glass. On the palate, the wine is incredibly dense, rich, concentrated and fresh. The fruit coats your entire palate with ripe, fat, fleshy berries that leaves an impression of ripe berries and freshness that expands and lingers for close to 50 seconds.

      100 points - Tasted
      1857 Views
    2. Now we're talking! Mind blowing from the first sniff, swirl and sip. The bodacious perfume, packed with ripe blackberries, jam, coconut, earth, black cherries, licorice, smoke and spice was the perfect start. When the wine hit the palate, that's when the fireworks took off. Thick and intense, balanced and refined, with freshness, length, and expansiveness. Everything needed for a great was here in spades. Note to self, be nice to my friends with bottles of this in their cellar as it's so good, I need to taste it again!

      100 points - Tasted
      2991 Views
    3. 1994 Harlan Estate kicks off with a powerful perfume filled with oak, vanilla, black cherries, blackberry, earth and spice. This full bodied, concentrated, powerful wine is balanced and harmonious. This is not overpowering. Everything comes together in an opulent, round, thick, ripe, fresh, fruit filled, polished finish. With today's prices hovering close to $1,000 per bottle, this was an honor to taste. This wine tasted like a wine with 5-10 years of age on it. I would never have guessed it was only days short of its 17th birthday. 99 Pts.

      99 points - Tasted
      9474 Views
    4. Spectacular nose with ripe cherries, cassis, blueberries, licorice and coffee notes. Full-bodied and very concentrated with gobs of perfectly ripe California fruit. The seamless finish was endless. This could easily be described as liquefied essence of California fruit.

      100 points - Tasted
      6835 Views
    5. From the first sniff and taste, it was clear, this was out of this world! What more could you want from a wine? This wine was packed with so much elegant, concentrated, ripe, decadent layers of black fruit, it was off the charts! Still youthful. The seamless finish lasted over :60!

      100 points - Tasted
      6476 Views
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  14. 1993 Harlan Estate

    1. This very balanced wine delivered a boatload of pleasure. Ripe black fruit, licorice, coffee and chocolate in the nose leads into an elegant style with layers of complex, ripe fruit.

      94 points - Tasted
      2655 Views
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  15. 1992 Harlan Estate

    1. A beautiful style of wine, with incredibly soft, supple, lush textured layers of pure, sweet, ripe, delicious black cherries and plums. This is drinking perfectly today.

      96 points - Tasted
      1946 Views
    2. Sadly, with prices that can compete with Lafite Rothschild, I seldom get to taste Harlan anymore. It's always a special treat. The wine opens with a perfume filled with black cherry, truffle, tobacco, earth, spice and smoke. Full bodied, concentrated, harmonious, plush and rich, this fully mature wine ends with chocolate covered black cherries and licorice.

      95 points - Tasted
      2923 Views
    3. Silky, elegant, balanced and complex. Everything is in harmony. What a great style of wine.

      97 points - Tasted
      2656 Views
    4. Concentrated and complex. Great texture and presence on the palate. Beautiful long, dark berry finish.

      96 points - Tasted
      2580 Views
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