The missing shade of red

Epicure Magazine|January 2020

The missing shade of red
While his father brought Harlan Estate to unimaginable heights, managing director Will Harlan locks in a new legacy with his own Promontory.
June Lee

Will Harlan has grown up under so many expectations that a lesser person might have caved, but it has only made him tougher (if more reserved). He’s in good spirits in Singapore while on an official visit to promote Promontory wines, quoting 18th-century empiricist David Hume and sharing dreams of long meditative rides on his Ducati ’09 (among them, a motorcycle trip from North to South America).


The lanky Californian nearly didn’t join the company started by his father, H. William “Bill” Harlan, who turns 80 this year. Harlan Estates, established by Bill in 1990 as a ‘first growth’ Californian estate, is one of the true icon wines of Napa Valley — lush Cabernet Sauvignon, small production and allocation-only, with an out-of-bounds tasting room that preserves its allure.

“I’m surprised I came back,” Will says a few times during our talk, without a hint of regret. His slow, thoughtful demeanor clearly draws from a deep well of questioning that saw him graduate in Philosophy from Duke University, North Carolina in 2008. Around the same time, Bill was making the decision to buy the property that would eventually be called Promontory, a big bet due to the size and unknown aspect of the scrubby land in the Oakville hillsides.


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January 2020