This morning has seen Promontory’s inaugural release on the Place de Bordeaux, beginning with the stunning 2012 vintage, the first vintage offered outside the US market. Promontory is the exciting new project of Bill Harlan, the man behind the epic Harlan and Bond Estate wines. It is noteworthy these are exclusively distributed through their mailing lists in the domestic US market: they are oversubscribed and extremely hard to source. Promontory, therefore, reflects a shifting paradigm in distribution, one more accessible to the global market. However, Promontory currently only produces 2,000 cases a year, so with the best will in the world, Promontory like Harlan, will be imbibed by the market.
Promontory 2012 has been awarded 97 points from Robert Parker and 96 from Antonio Galloni. Parker’s score puts it on par with Harlan’s 2009 which trades at £1,700 a case of three, while besting the 93 scoring 2011, which trades at £1,650. News that Promontory will be released openly to the market has been met with much excitement. Past vintages of Promontory already trade at Bond and Harlan-esque prices. Promontory 2010 currently is priced at £1,725 and the equal scoring 2009 at £1,500. The official release price in the UK market for the 2012 is £1,395 per case of three, which we can offer in minuscule quantities today.
Promontory reflects what is likely to be Bill Harlan’s last project, who in his late seventies, talks of their 200-year plan for the business. Promontory is produced by Bill’s son Will, thereon representing the fruit of the new generation. It is a romantic notion that while this is the newest endeavour it was in 1984 that Bill discovered this isolated territory, while he was planting Harlan Estate nearby and hiking along Oakville’s southwestern ridge; Harlan produced its first vintage in 1996. It was not until 2008 that Bill Harlan could buy the Promontory vineyard which is sited a quarter mile south of Harlan, in the foothills of Mount Veeder, straddling the Oakville and Yountville borderlands. As such, the vineyard falls outside of the AVA boundaries and the two seismic fault lines which bisect it. It therefore boats an incredible slope across a 500 feet elevation, almost too precipitous to cultivate, resulting in only 10% of the 840-acre territory being able to be used in the cause of wine.
The Promontory vineyard has an almost mystical reputation at the Estate, which they believe has the terroir to potentially surpass Harlan over the coming years. They are throwing the kitchen sink at it, so intricate is the replanting programme that Will does not think it will be finished until he is in his 70s. The winery has not been built on the promontory vineyard, rather with their almost bottomless resources, bought another winery in Oakville, 300 metres from Harlan.
Not to golden an already over gilded lilly, but the 2012 vintage in Napa is special. It therefore follows that it is the ideal vintage for Promontory to begin its global assault, especially on the strength of the next four vintages, 2013, 2014 and 2015 which will be in enormous demand. There is no exact blend ever announced for Promontory, rather it is blended to suit the vintage, but undeniably remaining a cabernet sauvignon dominant in its St-Estephe style. It is aged in 30% new French oak for 12 months and then in larger Stockinger Austrian oak casks, clearly refining the oak and dialling it back slightly form Harlan and Bond.
There is no denying the fact that Promontory already commands a hefty asking price. However, this is at a discount to Harlan, with many betting on the Harlan’s family and business to re-create their magic once again and with 97 points already, it surely won’t be long until they achieve a perfect score. We expect allocation to be stretched for years to come.
Promontory 2012, 97 Points, Robert Parker
The 2012 Promontory, which is the softest vintage to date, was slightly better this year than last year, as it had rounded out. It does not have the depth of the 2013, but it is a great wine on its own merits. Notes of new saddle leather, loamy soil, and crushed rock intermingle with blackcurrants, plum, tobacco leaf and spice in a full-bodied, wonderfully pure and large-scaled style with ripe, well-integrated tannin. It is accessible enough to enjoy, and in spite of its massiveness, it is certainly capable of evolving beautifully for 30 or more years.
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