Ultimate Napa Valley Cult Cabernet

Today’s Story: Harlan Estate

Harlan Estate is a highly regarded “cult” Napa Valley winery, established in 1984 by developer H. William Harlan in the western hills of Oakville. The Harlan property consists of 240 acres, about 40 of which are cleared for viticulture activity and planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Harlan’s first commercial vintage is the 1990, which was released in 1996, and over time the estate has commanded incredible critical praise and accompanying price action in becoming what many people refer to as the ultimate cult Napa wine. A staple in the winemaking process at Harlan is rigorous selection of fruit both in the vineyards and the winery, as only the highest quality fruit is accepted, triple sorted, and destemmed. Fermentations occur in open top vats with indigenous yeasts, then the wines feed into the barrel room for aging in French oak barrels for 24-36 months depending on vintage. Production is fairly limited, with 1,200 to about 2,000 cases produced of the flagship Harlan Estate bottling and about 900 cases produced of the estate’s second wine called The Maiden.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Harlan Estate

Proprietary blend, but I believe about 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot; 14.8% ABV

The 2015 Harlan Estate is deep ruby in color. This powerful and opulent red needs at least 3 hours to open up in the decanter at this stage, but one is highly rewarded with the air time. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the remarkably complex nose showcasing cassis, blackberry, blueberry, violet, licorice, cigar box, pencil shavings, graphite, scorched earth, coffee grounds, vanilla, caramel, and clove. Meanwhile the palate also offers flavors of pronounced intensity, displaying notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, anise, violet, tobacco, graphite, mocha, chocolate, and clove. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high but velvety tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $1,350. The value conversation kind of goes out the window at this price-point, and all I can really say is this is a gorgeous cult Napa Cab that hits on all the quality measures. The balance at such a young age is already near perfect, the length of the finish hits that one minute mark, and the intensity and complexity speak for themselves. Glorious wine, but it really needs the air or cellar time.

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