Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Orgasmic Vertical of Harlan Estate 1995-2002

A good buddy of mine, Andy Tan, currently General Manager of Auric Pacific Fine Wines first introduced me to the wonders of Harlan Estate some 15 years ago. Andy is the sole distributor for Harlan Estate in Singapore since the early 90s, and I therefore have had the privilege of drinking some of the finest Bordeaux-blend red wine produced in all of California. Recently, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Don Weaver, Director of Harlan Estate, during which a vertical tasting of Harlan Estate's wine from 1997-2002 was organized at the elegant Crystal Jade Golden Palace Restaurant, Singapore. There was the surprise addition of the 1995 and 1996 vintages courtesy of our always generous friend, David Ong, and so the stage was set for what was to be a memorable tasting of some very fine juice.

> Harlan 95 - According to Don, Bill Harlan's favorite vintage. I have had this bottle on a number of occasions, and must say that at this tasting, the wine was at its best. Having had the benefit of some time in bottle, there was wonderful integration of all elements, and a lovely mineral quality. Opaque to the eye, with lovely tobacco, smoke and dark fruit on the nose. Fruit was pure and seamless, backed up by fine tannins and a very endearing sweetness that proved uncloying. A treat.

> Harlan 96 - More restrained than the 95, but no less impressive. There was a sense of brooding in this one, a beast waiting to bare its fangs. The fruit profile as always, impeccable for a Harlan, but overall more closed for me on this night.

> Harlan 97 - Always one of the more talked about vintages of Harlan. This boy has never left any doubt as to how serious it is. Maybe it's just me, but I've always 'liked' the 97, but not loved it. The sweetness has always been a little cloying for me, even though one has to be in awe of the raw materials and gargantuan wine-making effort. I think it has to do with how I've been burg-ified recently by the recent pursuits of our wine table. I've started to look for elegance, femininity, balance and minerality in a wine.

> Harlan 98 - From a difficult vintage, Harlan gave birth to a healthy 9 pound baby boy! Crushed cherries and raspberries married with a lovely touch of oak and tannin. A very good wine, but lacks somewhat the usual verve and 'wow' factor that comes to mind with a Harlan.

> Harlan 99 - This I really liked tonight. Not as loud and brassy as some of the 'bigger' vintages of Harlan, there was a lovely sense of balance and class to this wine. Reminded me of the 1993, which I loved. Expressive, and assured in balance. Beautiful.

> Harlan 00 - From another difficult vintage, Harlan crafted quite a remarkable wine. Black currants, lead shavings and tobacco. Mid palate just a shade lacking, but the finish was smooth and long.

> Harlan 01 - My first look at this wine. In a word - remarkable, and already drinking incredibly well for a young Harlan. Reminds me of Ramey, Jericho Canyon 2001. There was wonderful depth and breadth to the juice which was all black fruits and Valrhona chocolate coming at you in waves. This wine simply had formidable presence. Can't wait to drink this again.

> Harlan 02 - Sneak peek at this wine, as it is not due for release till April 2006. My initial thoughts were "Whoa Big Boy!". This was a heck of a mouthful of wine. It had an almost candied fruit profile, with a good smothering of tannins, which were a little harsh for me at this stage of development. Can't complain about the obviously fine components of this wine though. Probably could use some time in bottle before a fair assessment is made. At this point in their evolution, much preferred the 01.


Blogger Henry Hariyono said...

Nice one, dude. Good to read (next best thing to do since I wasn't there).

From the very few vintages I've drunk, I thought the 96 was awesome -- very serious, brooding monster with all the refinement it could amass. Didn't like the 97, but the 98 was nice. More 'traditional' and claret-like perhaps.

Very curious about the 01 and 02. I was told by Andy that Harlan is returning to very classical claret style. Which I think is a very good thing. Did you see this aspect in these two wines?

12/21/2005 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger dominus91 said...

Thought the 96 was a little closed, although Andy said it was really coming on strong later in the tasting. Agree with you about 97, which has always been a little too bubble gummy and blowsy for me. Btw, Chee Wee and I felt the 99 was very 'traditional', lovely.

This more classic style is certainly evident in the 01, which I much preferred to the 02 on this night, but to be fair, we're probably drinking the 02 a little young.

Cheers my friend,


12/21/2005 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Henry Hariyono said...

Sounds promising. Let's hope the jiu-shen would crack some open soon... He's my last bastion of hope for a personal Harlan experience. That said, his current burgging passion might distract him from doing just this for some time..., not that this is a bad thing at all, wouldn't you agree?


12/21/2005 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger dominus91 said...

Burg away I say. You won't hear any complaints from me.


12/21/2005 03:54:00 PM  

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