The annual visit at Harlan Estate is of the highlights of the year. Since my first visit here over ten years ago, the vineyards have now become mature and produce wines of more gracefulness and depth than pure power and fruit intensity. Some of the lots, like the older one right below the winery (planted in the late 1980s), have been taken out to be replanted due to age and some kind of virus, I was told. A part from that, few things are really new here.
Don Weaver is still the manager, Bob Levy is still making the wines and does it in the same way as always, Michel Rolland is still involved as a consultant for the blends, and the blend seems to be pretty much the same today as in the past vintages.
Just a few things are different, 1) the vintages are not the same from year to year, 2) the knowledge of each parcel is deeper, and 3) the philosophy has for one reason changed a little bit.
“For sure we will never, by intention, make another 1997, even though that vintage was awarded with a perfect 100 point score by Robert Parker”, Don Weaver says.
And there we see the small change. Stylistically Harlan Estate will never again make another blockbuster wine like 1997 or the 2004, classic elegance, total balance and complexity are the key words.
“2004 was the last warm vintage we had, since then it seems like the climate has become a bit cooler, which suits us just fine”, he adds.
Although 2007 is one of the best vintages ever here, 2008 as well as 2010 and 2011 all shows great finesse. A preview of an almost complete final blend of 2010 is very promising, with at lively balance, great finesse and freshness, and a long finish with a lingering blueberry and cassis fruit, lively acidity and fine minerality. Production, however, was very small. Only 900 cases were made in 2011.
2008 Harlan Estate / 96-97 pThis is yet another great expression of the site, a true evidence of the great terroir of the hillside vineyards of Harlan Estate. Color is deep, but not dark or opaque, which indicates a smart and perfect extraction from the skins. The nose is rather elegant than concentrated, still intense with a absolutely pure dark berry fruit, cassis and blueberries are noted, ripe but not sweetish. The oak is perfectly well integrated and actually not detected on the nose, a part from a slight nuance of cedar tree, and there is also a fine and already today complex touch of graphite, which normally comes with some age (in this case it’s there because the fruit is so elegant), and with that typical note of walnuts I find so appealing.
The freshness and elegance are also there on the palate, medium bodied and silky with very fine tannins, good acidity and great length, and overall it’s more classic and complex than powerful. It’s delicious to drink already today, especially if served the way I had it, decanted a good hour ahead and then served in a big Bordeaux Riedel glass. With that said, the greater complexity will not be there for a few more years, and I rather wait for that. The 2008 vintage has the potential to be a new classic from Harlan Estate, and a vintage that would suit the classic and French palate more than the typical American.
“For us, the 2008 Harlan Estate is a charming wine, it’s all about freshness”, Don Weaver adds.
Drink it 2015-2033