In this year’s Best of the Best, we continue to honour the brands and people who have continued to create covetable products, even in the midst of a global pandemic. Here, we have the Harlan Estate 2017 win ‘best wine’ in the wine and spirits category
When Bill Harlan acquired his first hectares of raw land in the western hills of Oakville, with the vision of producing a wine that in time would be recognised among the first growths of the world, he didn’t rush. Along the way, Harlan (the wine and the vintner) might have inspired competition among Napa Valley reds that at its peak pushed past nuance for the sake of lushness and power. But for this vintner, it was never about explosive style. It was about the land, about slowly learning its requirements and expressions. “Much of the character of the wine comes from the fact that the vineyards are next to these wild lands, this forest,” says Harlan.
The Harlan Estate 2017 seems a vivid reflection of place, benefiting from those years of study and the age of the vines. Floral notes mingle with forest, tobacco, mint, spice and crushed rock, while mountain herbs season rich layers of cassis and dark mocha through an endless, elegant finish. It’s bold and structured (in fine-tannin style), but also seamless, fresh and graceful.
Winemaker Cory Empting describes the challenges of the 2017 season in two words: heat and fire. During the final, brutal heat of the summer, the vines shut down, and when the fog returned, sugars retreated as the tannins ripened. He was given a second chance, harvesting most of the fruit at pinpoint ripeness before the devastating fires of October. His luck has become ours.