Harlan Estate Napa Proprietary Red Wine 2020 1.5L Rated 99DM

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Decanter Magazine Review
Rated 99
The 2020 Harlan Estate is such a pretty wine - compact, tightly knit, with a coiled-up energy that delivers surprise and intrigue in every swirl and sip as the wine evolves in the glass. Leading with beautifully delicate wild herbs, dried and crushed bay laurel and sage, red and black currant fruit, and a pop of liquorice intermixed with cigar leaf. Medium to full-bodied with a richness to the mid-palate and intense grip from the wine's multidimensional acidity. Almost feathery and extremely fine tannins frame all this, and the wine finishes long, cool, and so composed. Tasted at Harlan Estate with director of winegrowing Cory Empting and Will Harlan, managing director at Domain H. William Harlan. Both expressed to me that the 2020 vintage - while challenging because of the fires - has resulted in a critical inflection point in the evolution of Harlan. 'We gained 5-10 years of learning in one year', said Will, intimating that their scrupulous probing and attention to detail amounted to a genuinely academic year in farming. Empting, for his part, explained that while it's not unusual for picks at Harlan to begin in late August, the entire property was finished with harvest by 12 September - the earliest in the estate's history. Empting said that his greatest concern was wind direction after the LNU fire ignited on 17 August. Favourable winds kept the smoke at bay for their Oakville vines. Most importantly, Empting emphasised that the growing season, which began dry and warm and continued as much, meant that picking by the second week in September didn't mean picking underripe grapes. 'We weren't just picking early to pick early; the grape ripened earlier', he said, and given the age of their vines (30-40 years) and the fact that as of this writing, some 70% of the vineyard is dry-farmed, the vines are adapting in ways Empting and even longtime vineyard manager Bob Levy hadn't imagined. Fermentations were faster but not hotter as sugar levels were lower, and while they pulled back on punch-downs, the wine macerated on the skins longer. 'The result and surprise are in the details and fine-ness of tannins', remarked Will, 'It's not a complete departure; we feel we have removed the clouding and can see it all so unobstructed'. In short, the structure of the Harlan estate has come into focus. In subsequent vintages, as with 2021 and 2022, grapes were harvested on the earlier side, never eschewing ripeness but paying closer attention to what 'ripeness' means for the vines growing at Harlan Estate. For my part as a reviewer, the best observation I can make is that there is indeed a remarkable freshness and tension, like turning the page of a great Fitzgerald novel only to find the story continues to build, surprise, delight, and inspire intrigue.

Drinking Window: 2023-2040.
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