Harlan Estate 1997

SubregionNapa Valley

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Tasting Notes

I have never had a doubt about the 1997. Yet, I have read controversial comments about it, saying it tastes like Amarone, is overripe, volatile, with low acidity, etc., etc. These are simply false. The 1997 is one of those wines that transcends most wine-making parameters. In that sense, it is a California version of a 1959 Lafite-Rothschild, 1961 Petrus, 1947 Lafleur, 1947 Cheval Blanc, 1961 Latour à Pomerol, or 1990 Beauséjour-Duffau. Unable to think "outside the box" precludes comprehending any of these wines or the 1997 Harlan. It is one of those wines that just had so much of everything in its youth that it was nearly impossible to see past its thickness and massiveness. Not anymore. The wine is now settling down beautifully, and even Bill Harlan and Bob Levy seem to admit that the 1997 did go through a stage where it was awkward and clumsy. However, this is unquestionably an historical effort. An inky/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary perfume of black truffles, graphite, blackberries, and an Haut-Brion-like scorched earth note (such as one sees in Haut Brion's 1989, 1961, and 1959), an extraordinary density and unctuosity to the fruit and texture, and a remarkable finish of well over a minute. This monumental wine represents history in the making. It is richer, fuller, and more massive than anything Harlan made before or since. Still in its adolescence, it is becoming more civilized and refined with each passing year. The 1997 was the most unanimous perfect wine in the entire tasting, although 2002, 1995, and 1994 had their proponents. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2050

Score: 100Robert Parker, RobertParker.com, January 2010

The 1997 Harlan Estate is one of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines I have ever tasted. A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this enormously-endowed, profoundly rich wine must be tasted to be believed. Opaque purple-colored, it boasts spectacular, soaring aromatics of vanilla, minerals, coffee, blackberries, licorice, and cassis. In the mouth, layer after layer unfold powerfully yet gently. Acidity, tannin, and alcohol are well-balanced by the wine's unreal richness and singular personality. The finish exceeds one minute. Anticipated maturity: 2001-2030.

Score: 100Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (132), December 2000

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