Oct 8, 2015
Bill Harlan, who made his fortune building one of California's most successful real-estate development firms, had long envisioned starting his own winery in Napa Valley. In 1978, planning to plant a vineyard, he and his partners bought a Napa country club called Meadowood. (Though the property turned out unsuitable for quality wine production, Harlan developed it into what is now one of the area's top luxury resorts.) In 1986, he cofounded Merryvale winery; then in 1990, he fulfilled his dream by founding Harlan Estate, a winery that is now a member of an elite class that came to define cult wines. He went on to cement his legacy with wineries Bond and Promontory, as well as the Napa Valley Reserve private wine club. For his impact on the California wine industry, he earns Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 2015.