Bond is owned by Bill Harlan, and the wines are crafted by Harlan Estate winemaker Bob Levy. It is not, as some believe, the second wine of Harlan (that wine is called The Maiden). Rather, Bond is an attempt to isloate and perfect the best vineyard sites for Cabernet in Califonia, and to produce those wines with no compromises or shortcuts.
Bill Harlan was hanging around Napa for decades before he ever produced his first wine. He just happened to be driving by on the day Robert Mondavi opened his seminal winery in 1965. He spent 15 years touring vineyards around the world, trying to understand what conditions give rise to a great vineyard site and what practices make that site successful. He purchased the land that became Harlan Estate in the 1980s, and did not release his first wine there until 1996.
He approached Bond with the same precision and intensity. Harlan had been based on the European chateau model, but Bill Harlan came to understand that Napa was really closer to Burgundy in terms of diversity of terroir. The genesis of the Bond idea was to apply the Burgundian principles of terroir to Napa Cabernet. At harlan's direction, Helen Turley and Bob Levy toured the Napa Valley looking for great Cabernet sites. Five have been identified thus far (Melbury, Vecina, Pluribus, St. Eden and Quella), and there are plans to add a sixth. The fruit from each vineyard site occupies a separate wing of the winery.
The selection process is rigorous beyond belief. To be chosen as a site for Bond, the vineyard must "audition" for five years. During that time, the wine is made but not sold, and carefully evaluated by the team. There have been cases where the vineyard site did not make the cut after the five year audition period, and the wine was never offered for sale.
The result is a collection of sites that Harlan believes are of Grand Cru quality The "shared committment to produce the best expression of the land" is the ongoing bond between Harlan and the growers. In fact, the wines are extraordinary in their combination of power and seamlessness.
The 2006 releases were sampled during a recent visit to Palm Beach by Paul Roberts, MS, Estate Director. The tasting also offered the opportunity to revisit some of the older vintages and see how the wines were evolving. In that setting, it quickly becomes obvious that these are great California Cabernets which are just beginning to fully come into their own.
Current vintages (all $280):
Melbury, 2006: From a hillside vineyard north of Lake Hennessy and east of Rutherford. Spicy, high-strung nose. Rich, plummy and concentrated in the mouth, with good acidity and profound black fruit flavors. Rich and mouythfilling. Tart berries linger on an exceptionally long finish. B+/A-
Pluribus, 2006: Located at 1100 feet on Spring Mountain. Dense, recessed nose that gave up aromas of bacon fat with coaxing.forceful on entry, with vibrant blackberry fruit and formidable tannins. a large-scaled and powerful wine, which needs time to settle down. Echoes of red and black berries on the lingering finish. B+
St. Eden, 2006: An 11-acre rocky vineyard located just north of the Oakville Crossroad. Scents of pepper and powered cocoa on the nose. Vibrant and almost electric in the mouth, with tremendous ripeness and purity; the black fruit flavors are wrapped around hints of mocha and bitter chocolate. The fruit lingers on the finish, carried by mouth-coating tannins. A beautiful wine, and one that should be perfect in time. A-
Vecina, 2006: On volcanic soil in Oakville's western foothills, bordering the Bond property. Whiffs of anise and spice box on the nose. Rich and full-bodied, with an unbelievably dense and penetrating texture which is somehow graceful rather than massive. The black fruit flavors are luscious, and the wine is succulent and meaty at once. Echoes of dried mushroom haunt the long finish. A-
Quella, 2006: The debut vintage for a 9-acre vineyard in Napa's eastern hills. cool, metholated nose. Intensely tart and concentrated, with a full range of red fruit flavors highlighted by fine acidity. The finish echoes with flavors of blueberry reduction. B+
Melbury, 2003: Sedate nose with recessed spice notes. Broad and firm in the mouth, coating the palate with syrupy blackberry flavors; echoes of cedar and chalk emerge in the mid palate. finishes long and spicy. A beautifully poised and composed wine. A-
Pluribus, 2003: Recessed nose with saline hints. Forceful tannins on entry, but recede in the mid palate to reveal an explosion of red berries, black cherry and blackberry jam. Big, cedary mid palate and a long, tart finish. Another beautiful wine. A-
St. Eden, 2003: A tart, recessed nose is followed by a wine which is remarkably bright and fresh on entry; the mid palate is highlighted by a reduction of bitter cherries. Powerful and complex. Currants, red cherries and tart red fruits linger on the very long finish. A
Vecina, 2000: Spicy, savory nose. Dense, ripe and perfectly mature, with completely resolved tannins. A fresh, balanced texture is contrasted by exotic hints of soy and shiitake mushroom. Full-bodied, complex yet seamless. Just about perfect. A