Curled into the western hills overlooking the expansive valley floor portion of the Oakville AVA, this serenely situated property has been, since 1984, the very singular passion of real estate developer Bill Harlan. With just 30 acres of this 240 acre hillside estate planted to grapes, (along with a berry-sorting regimen that borders on the obsessive), only 1500 cases of Harlan are produced each vintage.
On arrival, we were greeted by a charming young lady, given a festive glass of Krug bubbly, and led past a gently flowing water feature to a superbly well appointed eyrie-like patio. From this vantage point the panoramic patchwork of vineyards stretching away below us was truly breathtaking. The entire Harlan property is astounding. It is a pity more people don't get to experience it as unfortunately Harlan is not open to the public.
The last Harlan I tasted was their 2002 vintage; a mere 3 years old, (when I tasted it blind against other '02s from producers such as Phelps, David Arthur, Opus, and Groth), I remember it being quite harsh, disjointed, and most notably, unapproachable. Today, the 2004 poured for us at the conclusion of our tour of the facility was inviting and quite delicious. It showed a little heat, but the mid palate was nicely balanced. There was this huge smoky-bacon thing going on which to me was coquettishly moreish. As the wine warmed in my hands the bouquet of overly ripe blackberries, reminiscent of a hot bramble patch in full July sunshine, filled the rather voluminous Riedel stemware. The finish was a bit odd, not exactly flat but quite abrupt in it's sprint across my taste buds. I can only attribute this one hiccup, in an otherwise eminently desirable glass of wine, to the fact that the Harlan 2004 is still very young and not yet showing anywhere near it's full potential.
Personally I would have liked a little more viticultural insight on the tour, but I do understand that not everyone is a vine geek like me. I contented myself with hanging, most unladylike I might add, over a stone wall to get up close and personal with some gnarly, single cordon trained Cabernet vines that clearly demonstrated the fact that low yields are harvested from the estate's vineyards.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.