In 1984, H. William Harlan, a real estate developer and Napa Valley resort owner, purchased a 240-acre property with steep hillsides, multiple elevations and exposures in Oakville with Harlan’s expressed ambition to “create a first growth wine”.
The first Harlan Estate wine label, a design inspired by a 19th-century engraving, was overseen by retired U.S. Treasury engraver Herb Fichter, was the 1990 vintage in 1996. On its qualities, Harlan has stated, “It was a label designed for a bottle that would sit on a table in candlelight, not on a store shelf.” Described by Jancis Robinson as “one of the ten best wines of the twentieth century”, and consistent acclaim from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, including four scores of 100 “parker points” have further contributed to the wine’s high prices and long waiting lists. Released at $850 per bottle, the price soon rises on the speculative market, and the cost may range from $1200 and up. A 10-vintage vertical selection of magnum bottles sold at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction for $700,000.
The Director of Wine Making, Bob Levy, has worked with Harlan since 1983 when Harlan took part in founding the Merryvale Winery. The estate has retained Michel Rolland as consultant enologist since 1989.