Wine Stars: Bill and Will Harlan

As father passes torch to son, the Napa vintners share their vision for carrying their cult Cabernet dynasty into the next century

Wine Stars: Bill and Will Harlan
Harlan Estate founder Bill Harlan announced in April that his son Will had been appointed managing director. (Rick Wenner)
Oct 26, 2021

For most of his life, Will Harlan has known of his father’s “200-year plan” for the family business, though he jokes it was a difficult concept to wrap his head around as a 5-year-old. Speaking to the Wine Experience audience, Harlan Estate founder and Meadowood resort proprietor Bill Harlan summarized the plan as “a story of place, of people and culture.”

This past April, Bill Harlan—Wine Spectator’s 2015 Distinguished Service Award winner—announced he was stepping away from the wine business, appointing Will as managing director for Harlan Estate and Bond; Will had already been running the family’s Promontory estate since 2017. “The dream was to produce wines that one day might be welcomed at the table of the fine wines of the world,” recalled Bill, who founded Harlan Estate in 1984. “We’ve been able to create an amazing culture.”

“I feel fortunate to be building upon a very strong foundation,” Will said while leading a tasting of Harlan Estate Napa Valley 2017 (97 points, $1,620), hard-won from a vintage challenged by wildfires.

Like his father, Will has a long-term vision, one focused on maintaining a deep relationship with Harlan’s natural environment and translating its character through wine. “It takes generations to truly understand a piece of land,” he said, echoing his father’s philosophy.

”The common thread that runs through our story,” Bill said, “is that we view winegrowing as the art of man and nature.”

More ny-wine-experience-2021

See More

It’s a Chef with a Plan—It’s Superman

Nov 15, 2021

A Legacy of Giving: The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation

Nov 15, 2021

It’s a Family Affair: 40 Years of the Wine Experience

Nov 15, 2021

A Very Personal Experience

Nov 15, 2021

Wine Stars: Il Palagio’s Trudie Styler and Sting

Nov 5, 2021

People ny-wine-experience-2021 Cabernet Sauvignon California Napa wine-experience ws-events

You Might Also Like

Sommelier Roundtable: Pairings for Fall Desserts

Sommelier Roundtable: Pairings for Fall Desserts

Seven somms from Restaurant Award winners share beverage picks fit for the sweets of the …

Nov 19, 2021
Napa’s Nashville Newcomer

Napa’s Nashville Newcomer

Farmer and financier Gaylon Lawrence Jr. scooped up Heitz and other notable Napa properties …

Dec 15, 2021
Team Lawrence

Team Lawrence

Profiles of the vineyards and winemakers making the mark

Dec 15, 2021
The Story of an Iconic Cab

The Story of an Iconic Cab

How a quiet handshake led to Napa’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon, now legendary

Dec 15, 2021
The Right Right-Hand Man

The Right Right-Hand Man

Carlton McCoy has adapted to Napa, but he’s also shaking it up

Dec 15, 2021
Wine Talk: Kevin O'Leary

Wine Talk: Kevin O'Leary

The investor and Shark Tank star is also a wine lover and has partnered with one of …

Nov 17, 2021