Wednesday, 21st September 2016
If Napa Valley were considered to be the Bordeaux of America, then Harlan Estate would certainly achieve first growth status. H. William “Bill” Harlan, the founder of Harlan Estate and the prestigious Meadowood Napa Valley Resort, approached Philip Norfleet, a premier golf club developer, with the idea of establishing a wine growing estate with a unique club membership. Their discussions bore fruit in the shape of The Napa Valley Reserve.
‘I had already worked for Jack Niklaus in the golf club development business when Bill Harlan first called me,’ says Philip Norfleet, now Managing Director of The Reserve, ‘He asked “What are the elements for a private club, a wine equivalent of the New York Yacht Club in sailing or Augusta National in golf?” We discussed ideas and agreed that if it wasn’t unequivocally exceptional we wouldn’t do it.’
Bill Harlan completed a purchase of 80 acres adjacent to Meadowood Napa Valley for the vineyards, hospitality barns and state-of-the-art winery and caves that now constitute The Reserve. Together Bill and Philip developed educational programmes including lectures by renowned oenophiles, special hosted dinners and hands-on lessons in winemaking. ‘Our members can learn how to prune and harvest, blend their own wine, choose their own bottle format, and design custom labels,‘ explains Philip, ‘Members may participate as much or as little as they choose for a fraction of the cost of owning their own vineyard and winery.’
All wine is produced by the Harlan Estate winemaking team and is exclusively sold to members. Grape varietals for the Bordeaux-style blend include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc and The Reserve has recently begun producing a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon white wine blend.
A ‘Designated Membership’ entitles you to adjust the estate’s master blend that year to suit your taste and present the wine at home as your creation. All members are invited to join international trips, such as safaris in Botswana and Zambia followed by a visit to South Africa’s winelands, or sailing between Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, the Amalfi Coast and Capri.
ON THE GRAPEVINE
Since 2003, The Reserve has attracted accomplished members as diverse as Silicon Valley start-up entrepreneurs, Europe-based wine lovers and the global glitterati. The crème de la crème of the winemaking world have also been drawn to its desirable terroir: visiting specialists have included Pierre Lurton of Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Chris Cecil-Wright and his wife Kitty Johnson – a respected wine critic – visited recently and were both highly impressed: ‘It’s an extraordinary wine club that goes about their business the same way as we go about ours,’ says Chris, ‘By only focusing on the finest.’