[caption id="attachment_78854" align="alignleft" width="200"] Bill Harlan[/caption]
OAKVILLE -- Bill Harlan in 1984 set out to create a California "First Growth" wine from hillside vines overlooking Oakville in Napa Valley, and nearly three decades later he remains among the defining producers of top-end California wine.
The Harlan Estate property has 36 acres of vines on the 240 acres of land. Production is about 2,000 cases a year of Harlan Estate, about 1,000 cases a year each of The Maiden and Napa Valley Reserve, and 2,400 cases of the Bond Estates line of blends.
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The first commercial vintage for Harlan Estate was 1990, and the wine was released in 1996. Earning four perfect 100-point scores by the influential Wine Advocate publication over the years, Harlan Estate wines easily fetch more than $500 a bottle on release and well more than that in successive years.
The first vintage of second label The Maiden was 1995, and it was released in 1999. The Bond Estates project started in 1997. Napa Valley Reserve was set up in in the opening years of the past decade by Mr. Harlan and other partners in the Meadowood just for members of the St. Helena resort.
Mr. Harlan's background also includes real estate development, co-founding Pacific Union Real Estate in San Francisco in 1974, and leading vintner investors in the purchase of the Meadowood resort in 1979.
A panelist at the Impact Napa: Wine in Napa on Aug. 29, he talked with the Business Journal about the need to increase awareness of the top-class stature of Napa Valley wines while keeping in place the high-end agriculture focus of the area that maintains that image.What’s the outlook for the wine business?
It’s excellent. More people worldwide are drinking wine, more in the U.S. are drinking wine, and the culture of Asia is changing to include wine.
We’ve been selling wines outside the U.S. for 25 years, and Asia is part of that. It’s an important market for us. As time goes on, it will continue to be more so.What’s at top of mind for Napa Valley wine businesses?
Much more than top of mind -- it is a commitment for us -- is to build greater awareness for Napa Valley wines outside the U.S. One of the most important things we need to do is let the world know we can produce wines in Napa Valley at the same level, and in some cases, better than wines recognized as the top wines in the world.
France has a 100- to 200-year head start on us and covers every corner of the planet. Historically, America has been known for producing inexpensive New World wines. We have our work cut out for us in letting the world know that wines from California and especially Napa Valley belong in the ranks of the greatest wines of world.
Every day we’re working to build stronger relationships with our importers in the key markets around the world. We’re in 45 countries now. We need to continue to meet and exceed the expectations of those in the trade as well as our patrons.You have said Napa County needs to remain a “working agriculture community.” What do you mean?