Why I Stopped Buying Harlan Estate

Pricing for the last few vintages of Harlan Estate:

2001 – 225
2002 – 245
2003 – 265
2004 – 350????

2001 and 2002 vintages saw perfect scores (100) from Robert Parker Jr. Granted, this is a business, and I understand Bill Harlan is a savvy businessman, but wow, that sure is a turnoff, especially when this vintage didn’t score nearly as well as some previous vintages, with Parker predicting between 93-96.

It also appears that many new to the mailing list were offered the 2004 Estate, which means one of two things:

1. Production is up from 2000 Cases, or
2. Regular customers were also put off by the price increase, and they opted out this year.

Perhaps it’s a combination of both. I do recall a letter from Harlan saying they were ramping up the vineyards planted to the Maiden to eventually become part of the estate bottle, but I’m not sure when that would happen. I did have a large allocation increase over the 2003 vintage, but that could be because I ordered the estate 3 years in a row.

Researching some of the wine boards, apparently, I wasn’t the only one to drop off the list this year, as many long time buyers felt the same way as me.

So there you have it. If production has increased, it is more widely available, and not as precious. If long time customers were turned off by the price increase, it might be wise to rethink the pricing strategy, especially when these wine lovers are loyal and consistent, an ideal customer.

That said, I’ve got a message for Bill Harlan: It’s just fermented grape juice dude.

Mark Anderson Charged With Arson in 2005 Vallejo Warehouse Fires

As reported in October of 2005, the warehouse fire that destroyed millions of dollars worth of wine, including 2 of my friends wines, now has the prime suspect indicted. Federal prosecuters announced yesterday that Mark Anderson now faces 19 Phelony counts in connection with the arson of a storage building in Vallejo, CA and defrauding the customers of his business. Officials now estimate between 200 – 250 Million dollars in damage to the wine from 92 wineries and the warehouse building on Mare Island, a former Naval base in Vallejo, California.

The motive? Greed.

Anderson was attempting to cover his tracks for illegally selling his customers wine. His business, Sausalito Cellars, catered to high end wine collectors, providing safe storage of rare and collectible bottles. His clients were not aware their wine was being sold.

According to the indictment, Anderson created a second business to illegally sell his clients’ wine between September 2004 and October 2005.

All of this comes as no surprise, as Anderson was the prime suspect in this case since this tragedy happened.

Read [seattlepi.com]

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 70% Off!

Cameron Hughes Lot 28 Napa Valley Cabernet The hunt for the illusive Napa Valley Cabernet that is both stellar and affordable has left many a wine lover frustrated, with many losing their belief that such a scenario even exists – until today. Cameron Hughes, Negociant extraordinare, has done it again, this time with his limited release Lot 28 which arrived at the Danville Costco today. Treasure Hunters, start your engines, this wine will not be around after the weekend. I actually feel bad that there is such a limited quantity of this Lot, and that it isn’t even available at other Bay Area Costco’s or Cam’s site. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, you have my sympathy. But for the fortunate few, your Hommage a Cameron has paid off; you are now being rewarded. Tasting notes below:

2002 Cameron Hughes Lot 28 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $14
Abv: 14.1%
Notes: This Inky Purple wine is loaded with Dark Fruit, Cassis, and Vanilla, aromas with a hint of violet apparent after a little aeration. On the palate this wine has good tannic structure and reveals glycerin, blueberry, licorice and leather notes with a full bodied finish. The terrior suggests hillside fruit; an incredible value.
Score: 94pts

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 27 Russian River Valley Syrah
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: Of the two Syrah’s out now, this is the one to buy.  This wine is very young and tight, but opens up after about 30 minutes of air. Decanting is a must if you are going to enjoy this wine early, but you are rewarded with lovely Vanilla and Blackberry notes, glycerin, well integrated tannins and a nice finish.
Score: 92pts

2006 Cameron Hughes Lot 26 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ
Price: $7
Notes: This is a fantastic effort, with a ton of tropical fruit notes, great acidity, and a clean crisp finish. It possesses Passion Fruit, Mango, and Citrus aromas, as well as floral notes and spice on the palate. A refreshing wine, this effort can stand up to similar bottles from the region selling for twice the price. Sealed with a Stelvin Screwcap, bravo!
Score: 90pts

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 24 Syrah Sonoma County
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5%
Notes: This Ruby/Purple colored wine offers loads of Coffee on the nose, with a medium bodied mouth feel with hints of earth, pepper, and currant, with the dominate quality of coffee carrying over on the palate. This wine finishes mildly and is a bit one dimensional.
Score: 82pts

2002 Cameron Hughes Lot 23 Meritage 63% Sonoma 37% Napa
Price $12?
Abv: 14.2
Notes: This “mystery blend” which tasted to me like a Cabernet Sauvignon/Franc, Merlot blend, has a nice ruby purple color but possesses a somewhat cloying perfume. Hints of oak, raspberries and forest floor caress your tongue. A somewhat short finish, this wine is a simple yet tasty effort.
Score: 86pts (tasted twice with consistent notes)

2004 Cameron Hughes Lot 21 California Zinfandel
Price: $9
Abv: 14.5
Notes: A Ruby/Garnet color is just the start of this pleasant wine. With notes of Cherry liquor, sweet currants, and ample glycerin, this wine isn’t overly tart and has nice black fruit characteristics.

Score: 88pts (tasted twice with consistent notes)