The one world-class winery I’ve had the pleasure of visiting was a property built on a grand scale. After being buzzed in through the unmarked gate, you pull up to a most unique, breathtaking, and exceptional estate, that is unlike any I have seen in my seven visits to Napa. With a little background, you’ll see why – this is Bill Harlan’s newest and perhaps last project. Bill Harlan, who owns Harlan Estates (considered a cult winery) and Bond Wineries, plus Meadowood Resort, with its three-star Michelin restaurant, has been eyeing this land since he first spied it years ago. It finally came up for sale in 2008, and he grabbed it, all 840 acres of it. Most of the land is not cultivatable, as it lies on 2 seismic fault lines, running right through the property, as well as rocky, wildland and forests. He actually produces wine on only 10% of the property. It is located in the foothills of Mt. Veeder, straddling Oakville and Yountville.
The architecture of Promontory buildings is stunning, built by Napa’s architect to the stars, Howard Backen. It is very contemporary, minimalist and what I would call industrial-chic. He uses materials like steel, concrete, and glass.
Promontory produces only red wine, yet the tour begins with a welcome glass of Dom Perignon, while you view the magnificent estate. Then you move on to see a model of the property and begin to understand the difficulty in working this terroir. The geology, topology, and microclimate all come into play. You notice how immaculate this estate is, and that you are the only private tour on the whole property. You feel like you’ve been invited to a very private, exclusive party. Albeit one that cost $250 a person.
Next, you tour the cellars and have a barrel tasting, and it is no ordinary barrel. Because of the size of the group, we were then ushered into a luxurious dining room, that had automatic doors that opened to a view of the estate and the Harlan Estate.
They open two bottles, a current release, and a library wine. The current release sells for $800, and the library wine considerably more. For many, myself included, this is an opportunity to taste a wine like this that I would never have the chance to taste before.
Unlike Harlan, who’s winery is closed to the public, and whose prices start at $1,400 a bottle, you can only purchase wines through an exclusive mailing list. At Promontory, you can get in by appointment, sample the wines as well as purchase them at the estate. You will not see these wines at a store. They are only purchased on-site, by mailing, and a few select restaurants in the country. Three-star Restaurant at Meadowood being one of them. But you can’t imagine the markup there. The winery has a small release of only 6,000 bottles. Compare that to Mondavi, that sells millions of bottles a year. Eventually, Promontory will have a larger production than the mothership.
This was a real treat for the wine enthusiast or architecture junkie.