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Harlan

There is a lot to know about the story behind Harlan Estate, the famed winery in the hills above Oakville, but the most interesting aspect is the story of Bill Harlan, himself.Harlan Estate The Maiden 2006 label shot

As a young man from humble roots in Whittier, California, he was entrepreneurial even at the age of six when he would earn money by tending his neighbors' victory gardens. But he isn't just entrepreneurial, he is also a huge risk taker. The first 40 years of his life were spent quite unconventionally, with experiences that included surfing, motorbike racing, daredevil flying, Olympic hopeful water-polo team member, professional gambling (Poker), hitchhiking around Africa for a year, and sailing around the world. And his career efforts were just as varied and highly intense, from fixing marine engines at sea to stockbroker to real estate flipper to winery owner. He is clearly one of those highly energetic visionaries that does nothing half-way.

And Bill Harlan's attention to the wine world is nothing short of exemplary. He had spent some time in the Napa Valley during college at UC Berkeley, and in his real-estate dealings, and in 1979 he already knew he was in love with the idea of the winery lifestyle. Having made quite a bit of money from flipping condos, he had the cash and the drive to make it happen, which he did when he came across a struggling Meadowood, a resort off the Silverado Trail. He turned the fledgling business into one of the top rated luxury resorts and restaurants in California. He also helped found the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 1981, which takes place at Meadowood every year.

To gain experience and a foothold in the winemaking business, he launched Merryvale. First making wine at a custom crush facility in Calistoga, Bill and his newly assembled wine team were on a mission to learn how to make world class wine. Soon Merryvale Vineyards began to flourish and Bill, whose fantasy of owning his own wine estate became realized 1984, sold his interest in the company in 1991 to focus on his estate label - Harlan Estate.

The purchase of 40-acres of forest-like wilderness in the hills above Oakville and conversion into vineyards and winemaking facilities was no small feat. He had to use a machete just to look around, as there were no roads or walking paths. He took years to plan the layout of the vineyards and buildings that would support the operation for hundreds of years to come. Careful attention was paid to avoiding erosion and minimizing the impact to nature. It took twelve years from the time he purchased the property until his first bottle was released for sale - that is a long-term investment!

And the wine has been well received since the 1990 vintage sold. Not only by critics like Robert Parker, who has awarded Harlan five 100-point scores over the years, but also by fans, who have driven demand so high that aftermarket prices quickly rise. The Harlan Estate wine sells for $650 bottle at release, but unless you are on their mailing list you will pay more like $1,000-2,000, depending on the vintage.

The Maiden, Harlan's "second" wine for the estate, is more affordable (at $125 upon release and around $300 in the aftermarket) and is made with the same attention to detail as the Harlan Estate, but the finished product is just not as stellar as the Harlan Estate. That is a relative declaration, of course, because some of the best wines in Napa Valley can't command the demand and pricing that the Maiden gets.

Of course, Bill Harlan can't just sit back and relax and enjoy his Harlan estate success. He went on the start other labels and wine projects as well, including Bond, Napa Valley Reserve, and Promontory. I always admire people like Bill Harlan, who have the gumption to take the big risks, because they are always the biggest winners. 

  • 2006 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2006 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $271.98
  • 2007 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2007 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $300.55
  • 2008 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml bottle

    2008 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2008 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $0.00
    $312.55
  • 2009 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml bottle

    2009 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2009 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $0.00
    $287.55
  • 2010 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2010 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $0.00
    $287.55
  • 2011 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml bottle

    2011 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2011 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $279.00
  • 2012 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml bottle

    2012 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red

    Proprietary Red 750 ml

    The 2012 Harlan Estate, The Maiden Napa Valley Proprietary Red 750 ml is from the Napa Valley region of California. Almost as good, but a fraction of the price of its "big sister," Harlan Estate's The Maiden represents the second selection. Since its first commercial release of the 1995 vintage, Harlan's The Maiden has been producing top notch wines that impress critics and are coveted by enthusiasts. Wine Advocate, for example, consistently scores The Maiden 91-94 points.

    $405.55