The philosophy of BOND, founded by California vintner H. William Harlan, is to offer wines from vineyards that highlight very specific sites in Napa Valley. William Harlan, owner of Harlan Estates...Read More
2017 marked the 20th anniversary of BOND estates project designed by influential Napa Valley vintner Bill Harlan to showcase the incredible versatility of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, the most popular variety in Napa Valley’s great terroirs. The estate’s five distinct sites are beautifully represented by five premium wines, each expressing a unique personality and profile derived from its place of origin.
The story of BOND Estates is the story of famous California vintner Bill Harlan. In 1983, Harlan founded Merryvale Vineyards in collaboration with his real estate partners. He appointed Bob Levy as winemaker, and later took on Swiss businessman Jack Schlatter as an additional partner. The first wines of Merryvale were made at the nearby Rombauer Vineyards winery, until Harlan constructed a new winery in St. Helena, just in time for the 1989 vintage. In 1984, Harlan began expanding his vineyard holdings with the purchase of a 40-acre plot near Oakville. This property would one day become the legendary Harlan Estates. Over the course of the next few years, he added 200 acres to this property. Initially sourcing fruit from 60 local vine growers, Harlan eventually declassified his own fruit and began producing a wine named Oakville Grade. This wine was later renamed The Maiden and made availed under the Harlan label.
Following a period of great success, the owners of Merryvale bought out Harlan, who invited the vineyard owners to become part of the BOND project. The inaugural 1997 vintage of BOND was vinified in the Harlan Estate's winery, alongside the Harlan flagship cuvee. Just 3 years later and just in time for the 2000 harvest, a brand new winery was constructed and fully dedicated to the wines of the BOND project. Over time, the brand portfolio expanded to include five wines, each vinified separately from five different vineyards, which Harlan calls “the grand crus of Napa.”
The five single-vineyard and single-variety Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the BOND Estates portfolio come from five signature sites, each located on a hillside in California’s Napa Valley. The vineyards are quite small, between 7 and 11 acres in size, and each one produces between 450 to 600 cases per year. Although BOND Estates maintains complete viticultural control over these parcels (the winegrowing directed by Bob Levy), the company does not own them. Instead, the fruit is purchased under "evergreen contracts," which are renewed on a yearly basis. To understand the personality of these five flagship cuvees, it is important to first get to know the landscapes from which they come.
Mary Maher joined the BOND team in 2001, taking over from David Abreu as BOND’s new in-house vineyard manager. Under her leadership, the team has adopted various techniques to grow grapes in a way that encourages the most genuine expression of terroir. These techniques include "crimping" the grass (cutting it in a certain way) to prevent it from absorbing too much water. This reduces the temperature of the soil and preserves moisture. Maher also introduced biodynamic mulch with which to nourish the soil’s microbiological ecosystem. Irrigation has gradually been phased out, resulting in a greater maturity of tannins and flavour in the finished wines. Dry farming has also encouraged the development of the vine root systems.
The Cabernet Sauvignon wines included the BOND portfolio are produced in a way to most clearly showcases each terroir of origin. At the BOND winery, the grapes undergo spontaneous fermentation (mostly in barrels), at temperatures of 78 to 82° F. The team carries out four pump-overs per day, along with some punch-downs during the peak of the fermentation process. The maceration is long, allowing for the greatest extraction of natural colour and tannins from the skin, while the length of the post-fermentation maceration depends on the personality of each plot in a given vintage.
The grapes of each property are picked in batches, with the timing of the harvest depending on levels of ripeness. These batches are vinified separately and then matured in oak barrels (almost all new, from Taransaud, Darnajou and Sylvain). The base wines are blended to produce the final wine. While 60% of the grapes harvested from the 5 BOND sites are used to produce the estates 5 wines, 20%-25% is sold in bulk. The remainder goes into a special blend named BOND Matriarch.