Haute Wines: BOND Estates – Les Grand Crus of Napa Valley

BOND Estates is Bill Harlan’s trophy project that displays multiple single vineyard expressions of Napa Valley terroir at grand cru level. With critics constantly claiming that Napa Valley is unable to produce wines at grand cru or 1st growth quality, Bill Harlan disproves the nay-sayers and does so ever so gracefully with every vintage and every bottling of BOND Estates cabernet sauvignon.

After twenty-five years of eating, living and breathing Napa, few know it as intimately as Bill Harlan. He has established strong and solid relationships with numerous individuals over the years that have led to a slew of critically acclaimed wines and projects such as his namesake winery, Harlan Estates, and luxurious lodge, Meadowood Napa Valley. BOND is yet a further extension of his dedication and connection to the Napa Valley area and what it represents, hence the name.

In an effort to follow a Burgundian approach to vineyard selection, BOND Estate uses fruit from specific growers that express particular features of those areas, albeit following strict Harlan directives. Beginning in 1997, Bill Harlan and Bob Levy carefully selected 27 vineyards that would then be whittled down six specially designated sites. Fourteen years later, only five vineyards have made the cut and they are still looking to discover the sixth. Each of these unique sites articulates the distinct characteristics found in the terroirs of Napa Valley. The five sites are Melbury, Mt. Eden, Pluribus, Quella and Vecina.

This type of painstaking precision should be of no surprise to us as Robert Parker (the only wine critic able to make or break a winery) has referred to Bill Harlan as a “perfectionist.” Like his Harlan Estate cabs, BOND Estate cabs are big, rich and powerful wines. Impressive in their youth, they are intended for long cellar aging. A secondary label was created, ‘Matriarch,’ for the wine that does make it into BOND Estate bottlings. Only several hundred cases of each of these wines are made yearly and are only available to friends of the family and wine club members.

This week’s Haute Wines salutes the Bill Harlan and his ability to produce wines a cut above the rest.


BOND Estates, Melbury, Napa Valley, 2006

One of the first vineyards to be established for an official BOND bottling, Melbury sings red fruit more than black, tons of vibrantly tart currants, cherries and plums; flowers and smoke coming through as well. Of the three, Melbury seems to be more tightly wound than rest and is less “sweet” and ripe. It also has a marked acidity that did not show in either Pluribus or Mt. Eden.

BOND Estates, Mt. Eden, Napa Valley, 2006

Intended to have seemingly “sweet” aromas, ripe black fruit, mocha and amarena cherries draw you in for a sip. The same sweet aromas persist on the palate as the wine goes down smoothly with an eternal finish. Surprisingly, the tannins are seemingly soft for this wine, but it is powerful and dense never the less.

BOND Estates, Pluribus, Napa Valley, 2006

Chosen in 2003, this 7 acre plot is located above 1100 feet in elevation and surrounded by conifers. It has an herbaceous, Christmas tree quality mixed with layers of black fruit, espresso and woodsy herbs. On the palate, Pluribus is far too young consumed now; it is austere and dry with gripping tannins enveloping the mouth.