Friday, May 27, 2011

The Maiden of Harlan Estate 2002 and 2001

The Maiden is more of a little sister of Harlan Estate, than a second label. There’s nothing about this estate at all – every sincle barrel that is produced from the estate fruit is made with the same ambition, and the same care. All grapes are harvested with the intention to make the cut into the final cut. Fermentation is carries out in stainless steel tanks wooden fermenters and oak barrels, before the wine is racked into brand new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and slow maturation. After twelve months of ageing, Bill Harlan and his team of Bob Levy, Paul Roberts, Don Weaver and consultant Michel Rollad, goes through all the barrels to make the strictest selection to select the barrels that offers the typical Harlanesque style for the Harlan Estate bottling.

Wines with more of less the same characteristic but not the same intesisy and length, goes since the inaugural vintage 1995 into this little sister bottling, The Maiden. This wine is also very good, indeed, it’s very muich like a baby Harlan Estate – I’d often describe it as 75 percent of the style and quality to 25 percent of the price. In other words, it’s the best deal!

Whatever there’s left in the barrel cellar – and believe me, the selection is strict, so there’s a lot – is sold anonymous in bulk, to end up in blends somewhere without sanyone knowing where.

2002 The Maiden / 94 p
If 2001 vintage combined a relatively cool growing season with a few heat spikes, the 2002 vintage was more even, but overall a bit warmer. This can be tasted in the wine, which is a bit darker, more concentrated, riper and fruit driven than the 2001. Although there’s abundant of ripe cherry and cassis fruit flavors, more density and fuller body, there’s also a youthful and quite firm structure of tannins and mineral notes to make the wine fabulously well balanced. It’s a bit closer to its bigger sibling thanks to the concentration, silkiness, length and intensity, but then the 2002 Harlan Estate is also an even more intense and impressive wine. Taken the price into consideration, this is an outstanding wine that may well be compared to many of the much higher priced so called cult wines of Napa Valley, and it’s just a good as the best of them. During the hour I enjoyed this wine (and poured it again, and again from the bottle), it showd more and more the more I let it breathe, so decanting is essential to get to taste all flavors there is.
Drink it 2011-2027

2001 The Maiden / 93-94 p
I was a bit surprised how young and still purple this wine is – also that it still carries most of its primary fruit aromas. The nose is open, expressive and still intense with lovely aromas of black berries and cassis as well as more complex nuances of ink and stony minerality so typical for the wines of Harlan Estate. As with it bigger sister, the oak flavors a beaulitfully well integrated. Compared with the 2001 Harlan Estate, this wine is a bit more open, and – to be honest – at the moment also a bit more elegant due to it’s a litte bit less concentrad body. On the palate, it’s as youthful as on the nose, still firmly structured with a good amount of tannins, acidity and mineral notes, which hold the ripe, pure and fresh berry fruit back a bit. Its truly a great effort, a wine with lovely personality and complexity, and it will continue to age in a fantastic way more than a decande from now. Drinking it today, I’d decant it at least half an hour before I serve it.
Drink it 2011-2026

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