Deep medium ruby. Knockout nose combines black raspberry, blackberry, candied violet, licorice pastille, black pepper and a suggestion of dusty earth. Like a liquid confection in the mouth: thick and sweet yet almost magically shapely and fresh. The longest, most inexorably palate-staining wine of my tour of the North Coast in early March: this lost no strength in my mouth after I had spit it. Damn near close to perfect wine; only my own refusal to give a perfect score to a wine that’s still a decade or more short of its peak kept my score down. Bill Harlan, incidentally, compares the 2002 vintage to the 1995, which is showing spectacularly today. (I was able to retaste the extraordinary 2001, which is perhaps even more classic than the 2002 if not quite as extravagantly thick, with slightly more roasted yet sappy aromas and flavors of crystallized berries, minerals, tar and licorice, and great inner-mouth energy and persistence. This very backward wine has the acid/tannin spine to evolve in bottle for 15 to 20 years. On my latest tasting I rated it 96(+?).
Robert Parker 100
The extraordinary Harlan Estate, which I awarded 100 points seven years ago, offers no justifiable reason to doubt its perfect score. It is still a baby, with an inky purple color and notes of smoky camphor intermixed with creme de cassis, Asian soy and a hint of cedar beginning to emerge as well as some espresso and subtle damp forest floor notes. The wine has awesome intensity, a full-bodied mouthfeel, a skyscraper-like texture, and a finish that goes on for close to a minute. This is a perfect wine, still youthful and young, and not even in full adolescence as of 2012. It has 40 or more years ahead of it, but should hit its plateau of full maturity in another 5-10 years. It is certainly one of the most showy , flamboyant and remarkable Harlan Estates made to date. (More recently, the 2007 tends to resemble this wine more than any other vintage I can think of.) Kudos to Bill Harlan! Tel. (707) 944-1441; Fax (707) 944-1444
Magnum. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, remainder: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. With plenty of aromatic presence, the nose carries an aromatic lift paired with rose, tar and tobacco elements. The palate continues with deeper-toned flavours of molasses, sweet tobacco and a bit of dark sugar still somehow lifted by violets. There is plenty of depth and warming generosity here with fine-grained tannin and good length. A bit more oak spice presence but it works overall for the wine. It’s certainly ready to drink but would do best with air and food. (ECB)
Anticipated maturity: 2010-2040