Napa Trip - Day 4 - Seven Stones, Harlan, Shafer, Kongsgaard

Continuing on with the notes for our final day:

Wednesday - The Grand Finale

Seven Stones - Roy Piper, assistant winemaker, is just a super cool guy and I’m glad I had the chance to finally meet him. Thanks for being a great host! He gave us a tour of the property which is beautiful, and the collection of sculptures, including the Seven Stones, is a sight to be seen. What I learned is that they had been producing family wine for a number of years before deciding to commercialize the property. It also sounds like they are trying to improve the winemaking and viticulture practices. As an example, the original vines were planted in a direction that today they realize is less than optimal, causing the grapes to fry with heat spikes towards the end of the season. They now cover those vines with a thin burlap screen to shade them from the sun. I guess I wonder if they would consider a replant to change the direction of the vines, but I didn’t ask Roy that question while there. So now blistering hot, we went back inside to taste to 08 Seven Stones. As we were pressed for time to make it to Harlan, Roy poured us each a taste and then gave us the bottle to enjoy over lunch (of course we only got around to it just before dinner). I only wish that I had the opportunity to try Roy’s new project as it sounds really interesting. I wish him much success! And Roy, sorry about the Naked Truth!

Harlan - We met at The Founder’s Room, a newly developed part of the property near the Napa Valley Reserve at Meadowood. Upon arrival, we were told to kick our shoes off and relax as we had Harlan for the day. We were then served a nice bottle of Krug to get us started while they explained the history of Harlan and the properties. The Founders Room is beautiful and was designed for private tastings like ours. We heard stories about a young Bill Harlan who didn’t have much money and used to live on a barge in the Bay known as the Taj Mahal, complete with a plastic palm tree on the end of the barge. He quest was relentless to find property in Napa, and when he found what he wanted, he rang a doorbell and made an offer…and was turned down. It was about 10 years later that the deal finally happened. My take is that as much as Harlan is a wine visionary, he is a real estate mogul, locating the best hidden gems in Napa and buying them in to his portfolio. He has no aspirations of expanding beyond Napa.

We then proceeded to taste the yet to be named 6th and final wine in the BOND portfolio form the 08 vintage. We were the first to have tasted this wine in bottle as it was bottled 2 weeks ago. Amazing purity of fruit, excellent balance and a long finish. Stylistically, I’d put it more on the Quella side of St. Eden. We then went in to the barrel room and tasted the 09 in barrel. As many of you know, each BOND wine is notated by a color circle. We are guessing that this next wine will be yellow…let’s see.

We then went back to the Founders Room for a sit down tasting of the entire 06 BOND lineup: Melbury, Quella, St Eden, Vecina and Pluribus. In doing so, we also looked at jars with sample soils from each of the sites. It really drilled the point home about terrior as they we all so distinct. The wine went from elegent to powerful as we drank them in that order. Melbury dances on your tongue while Pluribus is a muscular brut. St Eden was right in my wheelhouse (and apparently is Bill Harlan’s favorite as well), but they were all special.

Once done with the BOND portfolio, I was told Don Weaver (GM of Harlan) wanted to offer me a special treat. So next up they poured the 04 Harlan, which had spent a few hours in a decanter. This wine was truly amazing and continues to be one of my favorite vintages of Harlan. The nose was a beautiful bouquet of blue and black fruits, cigar box and spice. The palate had impeccable balance and remarkable structure, and the layers of fruit were all in perfect harmony. And the finish kept going for well over a minute. It is clear that Harlan spares no expense in making a near perfect product every year.

Sloan – unfortunately, Martha McClellan cancelled a few days prior due to harvesting sauvignon blanc for another winery. Really too bad as it would have been nice to see the winery and taste the wines prior to the changes that will be made by the new owner.

Shafer - I’d compare the Shafer tasting to the Phelps tasting, but better. Perhaps it was tough to taste coming off of Harlan, but other than the Hillside Select, I didn’t find a wine in the lineup that I enjoyed - 09 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, 09 Merlot, 08 One Point Five, 08 Relentless. As for the Hillside, we drank the newly released 2007. It was quite good, but like many 07s not showing as well as it did as it enters the dumb phase. I’d suggest giving it 2 years and it should be terrific! As much as I like Shafer, it pales in comparison to Kapcsandy and Harlan.

Kongsgaard - This property is located at the top of AtlasPeak, way in the middle of nowhere. It is about a 30 minute drive uphill from Napa, and you pass cattle ranches as you go. From hear, you can see the Golden GateBridge. We met Evan Frazier, assistant winemaker who took us in to the caves. We tasted components of the 10 Chardonnay from barrel - Hudson and Hyde. The Hudson component is delicious. Hyde a bit more austere. We then tasted the 10 Judge from barrel. This should be a long lived chardonnay. The 10 Syrah from barrel is a deep, dark teeth staining beast, with all kinds of game notes and smoke in it. It could be a killer. Finally we went outside and had the 09 Cabernet and 10 VioRous from bottle. Both were excellent and rich. The VioRous is always one of my favorites and I still consider it to be one of the most unique wines made in Napa. Soaring aromatics of honeysuckle and a full bodied mouthfeel. I only wish they could increase production of this wine as it continues to be made in less than 100 cases per year.

As much as I like Shafer, it pales in comparison to Kapcsandy and Harlan.

Isn’t Harlan like 5-10x the price of Shafer wines?

True, they aren’t always easy to find.

Have you tasted many other 2010 Napa Chardonnays? And if so, what’s your overall thoughts on the vintage?


Harlan is actually about 2x the cost of Shafer Hillside.

Hey Frank, was great to see you. Looks like the rest of you trip was great too.