May 16, 2007

Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle dinner

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My friend Paulo who is part of our MNSC tasting group invited us to a dinner last night with the teams from Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle, arguably the top two Californian wineries of today. Paulo has been representing Harlan Estate and sister winery Bond for the last few years, and their recent association with the new owners of Screaming Eagle brought the two teams together for a joint tour of Asia.

The dinner was held at H One, one of the new establishments by HK uber-chef Harlan Goldstein, who is incidentally of no relations to Bill Harlan, the founder and owner of Harlan Estates. The food was quite good and removed my earlier prejudices against the chef. The menu was as follows:

Bruschetta Toscana Burrata Mozzarella, "36" Months Aged Parma Ham 

Risotto Arborio, Italian Forest Mushrooms, Braised Radicchio 

Charcoal Grilled Prime Rib Eye of Beef, Artichoke Frittata and Glazed Balsamic Onions 

H One's Dessert Surprise

The only issue I had with the food was that there was a lot of rosemary stuffed into the middle of the rib eye, and for me this detracted from the wines.

The Harlan team was represented by Bill Harlan himself, as well as Don Weaver, the marketing Executive Director and Will Harlan, Bill's young son who looked like he was being groomed to take over in the future. I felt quite privileged to meet Bill, who is often cited as a visionary and I think can be compared to the likes of Robert Mondavi.

The Screaming Eagle team was represented by Ursula Hermacinski, the famous wine auctioneer who apparently was lured to Screaming Eagle by the new owners, Charles Banks and Stanley Kroenke. Banks and Kroenke were part of the Asian tour, but had left yesterday during the day so did not attend our dinner.

The lineup of wines were quite interesting, and I believe that most of the guests had never tasted Screaming Eagle, after all the hubbab we had heard for the last 10+ years, so it was a rare treat for us.

El Alma de Jonata 2004 - "the soul", this was a smooth, easy-drinking Cabernet Franc

El Desafio de Jonata 2004 - "the defiance", this is their Cabernet Sauvignon that would be one of the stars of the vineyard. Much more tannic and concentrated than the El Alma

El Corazon de Jonata 2004 - "the heart", this was curiously a blend of every varietal from the vineyards, which include Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, among others. The nose was quite funky since this is a jumble of both red and white grapes...I was left with the question: "What were you thinking?!"

La Sangre de Jonata 2004 - "the blood", this was a ripe, sweet and powerful Syrah which I think will do well Jonata is a project in the Central Coast owned by Banks and Kroenke, and the vines were planted in 2001 so they are extremely young.

BOND St Eden 2003 - this was clearly superior to the Jonata wines, and as well it should since the quality/price/target market is completely different. Much more complex and very open. BOND is the project Harlan started a few years ago in cooperation with several growers, and shares the same winemaking team and style with Harlan Estate.

Harlan Estate 2000 - this was not a particularly good year in California but Harlan felt that this was one of the wines of the vintage. Still very closed and tannic

Harlan Estate 2001 - this is one of the wines Robert Parker rated 100. This is still very closed today but you can see the potential for this wine to go to great heights

Harlan Estate 2002 - this was one of the wines of the evening. Robert Parker also rated it 100, and I can see why! This is very ripe and forward, and already drinking very well compared to the 2001

Harlan Estate 2003 - this was also very forward and ripe, although some in the crowd quiet complained that it was too ripe and again the comment of being "madeirized" The highlight of the evening was no doubt the

Screaming Eagle 2003, which was quite interesting. It was clearly very ripe and the nose was very sweet. Fairly concentrated as it is still a very young wine. I would not say that this was the best Californian I have ever tasted, but it is nevertheless a very good effort. Whether I would pay the USD 500 release price from the winery...well, I can probably turn around and flip it in the market if I didn't like it enough.

 I think most of us appreciated the chance to finally drink Screaming Eagle, but I don't think any of us were really wowed...not at these prices. The similarly-rated 1998 vintage is now being offered on for USD 1,100 - before premium and taxes. For that price, I can think of many, many legendary wines in the world I would prefer to drink...


Anonymous said...

so bond, Harlan, or screagle?

Peech said...

Harlan, and maybe BOND in a good vintage.


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