Harlan Estate Wines

Harlan Estate: Winemaking, Prices, 10 Cult Favorite Wines (2024)

by Hunter Robillard

Harlan Estate - one of Napa Valley’s cult wineries - produces some of the most unique Cabernet Sauvignon wines. You’ll often hear it uttered in the same breath as the exceptional wines of Screaming Eagle.

These wines command high prices and are a favorite among critics and collectors. And, you’ll often find yourself on a long waiting list if you want to buy one!

So, what makes Harlan Estate wines so attractive? Which are the best bottles to buy in 2024?

Let’s embark on a tour of the terraced vineyards of Harlan Estate and explore its history, winemaking techniques, delicious food pairings, and the top 10 wines from this winery. Plus, we’ll show you how to invest in Harlan Estate wines with ease.

Further reading

A Brief Intro Of The Iconic Harlan Estate

Harlan Estate, one of the most sought-after wineries in Napa Valley.

Founded in 1984, Harlan Estate is one of the most sought-after wineries in Napa Valley that crafts what are known as California’s "First Growth" wines. 

It is located in the western hills of Oakville, a popular wine appellation of California. The 240-acre estate sits atop the fabled Oakville benchlands, overlooking the famed Martha’s vineyards - credited for producing some of Napa’s best Cabernet.

The winery produces gorgeous Bordeaux blends from signature French grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Its two highly sought-after wines include:

  • Harlan Estate Proprietary Red
  • Harlan Estate The Maiden

It also owns the Mascot winery, which produces Cabernet wines from the younger vines of the family run estates. 

Lets see how this Oakville estate achieved a cult winery status in just three decades.

A Quick History Of Harlan Estate

Bill Harlan of Harlan Estates

Bill Harlan, the founder and owner of Harlan Estate, was inspired to create a First Growth California winery while on a trip to Bordeaux and Burgundy with the renowned winemaker Robert Mondavi.

Bill Harlan purchased 6 acres of the Sunny St. Helena winery in Merryvale with his real estate business partners. 

His first vineyard purchase was in 1979 when he acquired undeveloped land from the Stelling family. He started constructing the winery in 1984 and began planting vines on the property.

Harlan’s initial vintages were produced at Merryvale since the Oakville winery’s construction wasn’t completed until 2002. 

Today, the winery has 40 acres of land under vine cultivation. 

During his time at Merryvale, Bill met Don Weaver (who became the General Manager of Harlan Estate), winemaker Bob Levy (director of winegrowing), and the estate’s consulting winemaker Michel Rolland.

Bill didn’t release the estate’s first few vintages because he wasn't satisfied with their quality. His first release was the 1990 vintage.

In April 2021, Bill’s son, Will Harlan, became the managing director of the estate and the Promontory and Bond wineries (owned by the Harlan family.) 

Let’s explore more about its famed winemaking practices.

Vineyards And Winemaking At Harlan Estate

Harlan Estates wine vats

The 17-hectare Harlan Estate vineyard is situated on the fabled Oakville benchlands, overlooking Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard.

The terroir of these terraced vineyards is a mix of different soils and topography. The multiple elevations ranging from 225 feet to 1,225 feet provide perfect drainage, helping the grapes grow slowly and ripen evenly.

The winemaking process at Harlan is under the supervision of winemaker Bob Levy and winemaker Cory Empting. 

  • The grapes are picked by hand from the vineyard and taken to the winery in bins.
  • The vine plantings are de-stemmed instead of being crushed to get intact berries for whole berry fermentation.
  • Only perfectly ripe berries undergo alcoholic fermentation using indigenous yeasts in large oak open-top casks.
  • The malolactic fermentation occurs in new French oak barriques for 24 - 36 months, depending on the vintage. 
  • Finally, the core team (winemaker Bob Levy, Cory Empting, and Michel Rolland) determines the wine blend. 

The aim is to create extraordinary Harlan wines with a complex character and remarkable aging potential.

The Elegant Wines Of Harlan Estate

The estate produces two highly regarded Californian wines.

A. Harlan Estate Proprietary Red

Harlan Estate Proprietary Red

Rated as one of the 10 best wines of the 20th century by Jancis Robinson, Harlan Estate’s flagship red wine is a distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon wine. 

This proprietary red is stored in new French oak barrels for upto 36 months, giving it a rich and complex character.

The annual wine production of this red wine varies from 1,200 cases to 2,000 cases.

Vintages of the proprietary red have been described by Robert Parker as "the single most profound red wine made not just in California but also in the world."

B. Harlan Estate The Maiden

Harlan Estate The Maiden

The Maiden made its debut in 1995. Although many believe it to be the second wine of the estate, Bill Harlan claims otherwise. 

The Maiden is considered the second label of the estate instead of a second wine since it has an entirely different blend than the flagship Harlan Estate.

It is a delicious wine with rich, robust flavors that follow the Harlan heritage of elegance and purity. 

The average annual wine production of the Maiden is about 900 cases.

How To Serve Harlan Estate Wine

Steak food pairing with Harlan Estate wine.

You can serve Harlan Estate wines at 15.5oC (60oF) with classic meat dishes like lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, veal, and pork.

Harlan Estate is also a good choice for pairing with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, mushrooms, dried herb, and pasta.

Let’s take a look at the gorgeous Harlan wines produced here.

10 Exceptional Harlan Estate Wines To Buy In 2024 (Including Tasting Notes, Prices)

Here's a list of Harlan Estate wines that you should consider buying for your cellar.

1. 1990 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

1990 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

The 1990 vintage was the first release from Harlan Estate. It is a classic wine made from Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. 

The palate reveals a velvety structure, polished tannins, and blackfruit, tobacco, cedar, and blackcurrant notes on tasting.

Price of 1990 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA: $5,307

2. 1991 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

1991 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

This bold and structured Harlan Estate wine received a near-perfect score of 98 from Robert Parker Wine Advocate. 

This stunning wine has notes of licorice, blackberries, and chocolate. It has a full-bodied palate with ultra fine tannins.

Price of 1991 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA:  $2,289

3. 1992 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

1992 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

This red Bordeaux blend from the winegrowing estate is an elegant wine that offers aromas of black cherry, truffles, tobacco, earth, and spice. 

It is a full-bodied wine with a rich palate of blackfruit, plums, creme de cassis with well-integrated ultra fine tannins.

Price of 1992 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA:  $1,990

4. 1993 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

1993 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

This Harlan Estate wine has incredible lavender aromas with Provencal undertones (referring to the Provence winegrowing region in southeast France) of dark fruit, blueberry and blackberry. 

With a whopping score of 98 from James Suckling, this fine wine can be cellared for 30-50 years.

Price of 1993 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA: $1,949

5. 1994 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

1994 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

With a perfect 100 from Robert Parker, this fine wine is a true gem. 

This California wine has an intoxicating perfume of creme de cassis, licorice, and berries. The palate is intense and opulent that ends with a seamless fruity finish. 

The drinking window for this wine is from 2000 to 2033. 

Price of 1994 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA: $1,933

6. 2018 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

2018 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

A world-class Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend, this young wine received a perfect 100 from Jeff Leve. 

The wine has incredible lavender aromas along with notes of black fruit, cassis, chocolate, and vanilla. The palate is super silky with firm tannin and a long citrusy finish.

Price of 2018 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA: $1,384

7. 2017 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA 

2017 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA

The 2017 vintage made from Bordeaux varietals, is a bold and structured fine wine with an exquisite nose of plum, mocha leather, and rose petals. The palate packs firm tannin with tasting notes of black cherries, black currant, smoky oak, and tobacco. 

Price of 2017 Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA: $1,341

8. 2017 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA 

2017 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA

The 2017 Maiden from the winegrowing estate is a fresh and lively medium bodied wine. The palate is savory with tasting notes of blackfruit, plums, cassis, along with hints of smoke, tobacco, and dried herb. 

This California wine comes with a drinking window of 2022 to 2032.

Price of 2017 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA: $562

9. 2016 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA 

2016 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA

The 2016 Maiden is a classic red Bordeaux blend. The palate is fruity and savory with ample notes of licorice, coffee, black cherries, and herbs. 

The 2016 Maiden got a score of 95 by the Wine Spectator. It comes with a drinking window from 2019 to 2038.

Price of 2016 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA: $524

10. 2007 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA 

2007 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA

This deep garnet-colored Bordeaux blend has a nose of spices, dark fruit, clove, and chocolate. This Napa valley wine has a rich palate of mocha, rosemary, and mulberry, with dry tannins and a smooth lingering finish. 

Price of 2007 Harlan Estate The Maiden, Napa Valley, USA: $482

Should You Invest In Harlan Estate Wines?

Harlan Estate wine investment.

Harlan Estate wine reaches peak maturity in 10-20 years of bottle age. 

Besides this age potential and impeccable winemaking, this cult wine is also produced in limited quantities - the reason why it is highly sought-after among serious wine collectors.

Harlan Estate is also rated one of the top 10 Napa Valley wines based on critic scores (like Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate), perhaps second only to Screaming Eagle.

All these factors drive up it’s demand and prices.

  • The 1990 Harlan Estate grew from $1,344 to $5,320 a spectacular 295% increase in six months (Nov 2020 to May 2021.)
  • The 1991 Harlan vintage also grew from $1,048 to $2,977 a 184% rise during the same period.
  • As for auctions, a vertical selection of 10 vintage magnum bottles was sold for $700,000 in the 2000 Napa Valley's Wine Auction.

Thinking about adding these exotic Napa Valley wines to your cellar?

You can get a hold of these gorgeous wines by joining the Harlan Estate mailing list. However, it may take you two to three years to just get accepted on the list.

Or, you can try to look for a rare Harlan Estate bottle on online wine auctions or on sites like Wine Searcher.

But, we have an easier option for you. 

A trustworthy online wine investment company likeVinovest can help you get the best vintages with just a few clicks of your mouse!

Invest In Harlan Estate Wines And Other Fine Wines Through Vinovest

Vinovest is a leading wine investment platform that lets you invest in sought-after wines from all around the world, whether you’re looking for a classic Nebbiolo, Chardonnay, or a rare Screaming Eagle.

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A Remarkable “Californian First Growth” Wine For Your Cellar

sHarlan Estate wine are a great long-term investment.

The Harlan Estate wine isn’t just a perfect drink for your special dinner, but is also a great long-term investment. 

Apart from the low production volumes and age-ability, the estate's relentless commitment to quality - from vineyard to bottle - is what makes its cult wines command high prices. 

So, sign up with Vinovest and get your hands on the best vintages from Harlan Estate and other world-class winegrowing estates right away!

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