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Cover Story | 2017  May - Jun 

 

Harlan Estate : From Cult to Legend

哈 蘭 酒 莊 : 傳 奇 非 僥 倖

“When I came to Napa Valley, there were only about 30 wineries. We were fortunate that Harlan Estate could be one of the five or six other projects happening in the similar timeline, which were collectively known as Cult Wine.”

The rise of cult wines in 80s was an interesting phenomena. As one of the icons, Harlan Estate has never slowed down its pace. Bill Harlan, founder of Harlan Estate, now seventy-six old, started the largest project in his lifetime in recent years, which is called Promontory Estate. Just a few years ago, 125 bottles of Promontory vintage 2009 recorded a USD 600,000 deal at the Napa Valley auction, which of cult wine.

TYCOON WHO GROWS GRAPES

Bill Harlan come from Southern California and was a well-known entrepreneur specialized in real estate business. Since the 1970s Bill expanded his investment to the wine business. The first beautiful vineyard he purchased, however, has now transformed into the famous Meadwood Restaurant under the flagship of Harlan.

There was pretty harsh time at the beginning, especially in the 1970s when Robert Mondavi raised the curtain of a new era of California's wine industry in Napa. The competition was unprecedentedly keen but fortunately, his acquaintance with Mr. Mondavi has. "Suggested by Mr. Mondavi, Harlan launched a trip to France in 1980s. He visited a number of Chateaux in Bordeaux and Bourgogne in five weeks," said Don Weaver, director of Harlan Estate. The fascinating journey not only broadened his knowledge in winemaking techniques but also changed his belief and value.

WINEMAKING IS NO SHORT TERM RETURN

Harlan Estate is an epochal project started from scratch- When Mr. Harlan purchased the land, it was actually a forest. What he believed in was the potential of the soil. He prevailed over all dissenting views such as the sloppy location, manual harvest, etc. After numerous trial and experiment, Harlan released its debut ‘Harlan Estate 1990’ after a dozen of years. Before this point, Harlan did not sell a single bottle of wine, and sure there was no revenue.

Harlan Estate 1990 was the earliest bottle of California worship wine. The following decade saw a craze that groups of Cabernet Sauvignon producers in the State released their expressions with similar direction, which aimed to express the diverse terroirs within Napa and were collectively known as ‘Cult Wines”. Don Weaver summed up the common qualities of these wines, " small, limited production, most of them are Cabernet producers, and they were doing things at a very high level, with great commitment to quality. They captured the imagination of the enthusiastic group."

The word ‘cult’ seems to be a compliment to those wineries being involved, but it was not Mr. Harlan’s intention all the way. On the contrary, Mr. Harlan aimed to create a first growth in Napa and overtime they would like to be known as a classic estate or a blue chip producer, which means it’s rather traditional in style and in particular, an exclusive Cabernet producer.

EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITIES OF CABERNET 

 

As early as 1984, i.e. prior to Harlan’s establishment, Bill has run a winery in St.Helena called Merryvale in which he bought grapes from 65 plus growers nearby. In 1996 they sold the winery to a Swiss partner and Bill focused on Harlan for years. After Harlan won several RP100 points, it is widely recognized as the legend in Napa. However for Bill, the practice that making one wine for one place become a little bit boring. They began to miss Merryvale.

"In fact, we have always wanted to pursuit a dream, that is, applying the same philosophy on various areas in Napa, with single variety Cabernet. This is the concept of BOND." Invited by two Cabernet growers, they come to Oakville, where they found two vineyards very similar to those in Merryvale. They launched the BOND project here.

From Melbury and Vecina in 1999, Matriarch in 2001, Pluribus in 2003 to Quella in 2004, Bill and his winemakers have created five wines from five distinguished plots, all Cabernet Sauvignon. With the same winemaking regime, each wine only produces 600 to 800 cases annually.

"Compared to Harlan, the beauty of BOND is you can taste five wines horizontally and really get a feeling for the season in Napa Valley. "

‘If Harlan is about creation, BOND is about linkage, then Promontory is an innovation.’ As early as twenty years ago, Mr. Harlan had noticed a potential vineyard on the hillside just a mile from Haran Estate, which was belonged to some existing winery. With his well-established background in the property industry, he has definitely an advantage in the market. However it was not until a few years ago that Harlan received the news the land was available, and he finally got the opportunity to capture this piece of land at a very good price.

The vineyards of Promontory cover more than 800 acres and stands at an altitude of 400 to 1,100 feet. Does the height imply a wine that is soft and elegant? Don Weaver admits, “In fact we found it was quite powerful and needs taming a little bit. We did a lot of replanting, changed the row of direction and rootstock, and added an additional year of ageing before we release the wine, so it is released five years after harvest instead of three or four like Harlan. But in the end it become a very elegant wine. "

Promontory will be another legend. But compared to Harlan, it will be more approachable. Don Weaver reminded,"starting from 2017, Promontory will be open to visitors by reservation."

「當我初到Napa時,只有約30家酒莊。我們正好搭上了那班潮流列車,成為開創納帕谷膜拜酒風潮的先鋒酒莊之一。」

上世紀80年代加州興起的膜拜酒是有趣的現象。作為其典範之一,哈蘭酒莊近年的步伐並無放慢。其創辦人比爾‧哈蘭如今年屆七十六,卻於近年大膽地開展其有生以來最大的項目Promontory Estate。幾年前,125瓶2009年份Promontory期酒,於納帕谷拍賣會上以60萬美元成交,盡顯膜拜酒的身價。

從地產大亨到傳奇膜拜酒

來自南加州的比爾‧哈蘭是地產投資界的名人。自70年代起比爾的投資計劃開始涉獵到葡萄園,他買下的第一幅美麗的「葡萄園」,現今已成了哈蘭旗下著名的Meadwood餐廳。

哈蘭的發展絕非一帆風順,尤其在70年代,當羅拔‧蒙大維在納帕開創加州釀酒業新時代之際,酒莊之間的競爭變得空前劇烈。有幸的是,哈蘭在對的時候跟這位傳奇人物結下淵源。酒莊總監Don Weaver回憶道︰「1980年,哈蘭在蒙大維的介紹下展開了一趟法國之行,在五周內探訪波爾多及布根地多家酒莊。這次旅程啟發了哈蘭重新思考釀酒,不僅是技術上的提昇,觀念上的轉變更大。以往視釀酒為投資的一部分,後來釀酒更像是一種自身使命。」

造酒非短期回報

Harlan Estate是從零開始、開天闢地的項目——當初哈蘭購入的是一片森林,他看好的是這幅山坡的潛力。儘管外界對於他們的做法,譬如選址山坡、人手篩選葡萄等感到詫異,但他和他的團隊卻堅定不移,經過長期的釀造、陳年、調整、試驗,第一瓶Harlan Estate 1990終於在12年後橫空出世,於此之前哈蘭沒有賣出一瓶酒,當然也沒有任何營收。

1990年份的Harlan Estate可說是年份最早的一瓶加州膜拜酒,在接著的90年代,一批同樣以赤霞珠主導、完美呈現加州風土優秀一面的精品酒,如雨後春筍般湧現,世人稱之為膜拜酒。Don Weaver這樣概括這些酒的共同特質︰「小規模、限量生產、以赤霞珠為主的一系列酒莊。它們都極有質素,而且捕捉到一些著名酒評家的心思。」

膜拜一詞或許是恭維,與眾不同的意思,不過對於哈蘭來說,他的原意並不是標奇立異,相反,他一直以創立足與波爾多一級酒莊比擬的傳統酒為目標,而赤霞珠始終是哈蘭的專長。

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

呈現赤霞珠的不同可能

早於1984年尚未開創哈蘭的時代,比爾已在St.Helena區經營著Merryvale酒莊,葡萄是向65家酒農採收的,包括了不同品種,直到1996年將酒莊售予瑞士的合作夥伴後,比爾專心一致地經營哈蘭酒莊一段時間。哈蘭旗下酒款後來拿下了幾個RP100分,成為一代傳奇,但對於比爾來說,於同一地方釀同一款酒,似乎有點沉悶。他們開始懷念Merryvale。

「其實我們一直希望實現一個夢想,就是將相同的釀酒哲學放在Napa不同地區,看看結果有甚麼不同。這就是BOND的概念。」受到兩位酒農邀請來到Oakville,在這裡他們發現兩幅跟Merryvale相似的葡萄園,於是從這裡開始了BOND的大計。

「跟哈蘭比較,BOND更能表現微氣候、風土和年份的差異。這樣一來,每年你都可以做一次水平品試。」

 

「若果哈蘭是創造、BOND是連結,那麼Promontory就是一種革新。」納帕谷跟香港有個共通點,就是土地供應問題,因此比爾哈蘭的地產大亨背景,無疑是一種優勢。哈蘭先生其實早於廿幾年前已注意到,位於哈蘭酒莊一英里外的山坡上的一幅潛質優厚的葡萄園,只是一直未能如願購入。直到幾年前,哈蘭收到消息原業主放地,多年的夢想終於有機會實現。

Promontoy葡萄園覆蓋800多英畝,海拔約400至1,100呎的高度傲視其他葡萄園。以這種高度,酒風是否偏向溫柔細緻?Don Weaver坦言︰「這裡的葡萄風格頗為強壯,需要一點技巧去馴服。我們改變了原有的葡萄藤行列方向,甚至重新栽種部分葡萄,將陳年時間延至5年,孕育出優雅的酒風。」

Promontory將會是另一傳奇。不過相較哈蘭,它會更為平易近人。「2017年開始,Promontory會開放予預約的遊客參觀。」

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