Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon
Localization: Napa Valley, California, USA
Tasting Notes: Deep, brooding aromas of dark fruit, black tea, and herbal notes. The texture expands around a lifted structure, as powdery tannins gently resolve. This diffused, enigmatic softness is anchored on the mid-palate by a gratifying density, which prepares the senses for a flourish of hidden energy and vivid detail that illuminates the finish.
Notes: Following a vintage full of changing conditions and demanding decision points, the steady and pleasant progress of the 2018 vintage left our team, at times, in limbo. Contradictory as it may seem, the dramas that sometimes punctuate the definitive months for the growing season help to frame the winegrowing team’s course of action; yet the tranquil succession of weeks that emerged between spring and fall in 2018 left almost entirely open the question of when to harvest. Healthy rainfall in March and April preceded a benevolent summer, whose mildness was interrupted only briefly by a few warming periods. The fruit of the young vines maintained a measured balance that gave the team little indication that harvest was imminent. Fog and temperate days followed in September, when—relying more on instinct than empirical cues—we began to pick. This judgment—as well as the gentle nature of the season—is confirmed in the subtle, ethereal power of the vintage.
The Domain: “The Mascot” began as a family wine, unnamed, unlabeled—a blend made for and poured at our own table. The components were of the highest pedigree, harvested from the younger vines of the Harlan family domain.
The domain traces its beginning to the founding in 1984 of Harlan Estate, located in the western hills of Oakville and conceived as a “first growth of California.” In 1996, the family established BOND, a portfolio of “Grand Cru” vineyards whose wines showcase the range of expression of cabernet sauvignon across distinct geographical sites within the Napa Valley. Promontory, whose land the family acquired in 2008, is led by the family’s second generation and represents a 21st-century approach to winegrowing. As these varied sites were gradually replanted, many of the young vines contributed to my project. Yet, despite these distinguished origins, my early endeavor could only hint at the individual character embodied by each of our grands vins.
Even so, the wine showed charm and over time drew an affectionate following of close friends—so enthusiastic a following that we felt this intimate bottling deserved to have an identity of its own. The team took a little convincing, as the wine existed at first in very small quantities. But as more of the newer vines reached an age appropriate to warrant inclusion in the blend (typically 7 - 12 years), and once 500 cases had been produced, we persuaded our winegrowing team, led by Cory Empting, that a certain number of barrels could be set aside for this project on an annual basis.
From the start, the principal characteristic of The Mascot was vigor tempered by approachability. We decided to mature the wine a little longer, so that, upon release, it was delicious to drink and intensely vibrant, with the force and depth that enabled extended aging—a wine to enjoy viscerally and without excessive reverence. In short, the wonderful wine to share among friends and family.
A single common thread guided our choice of a name and label for this new creation: our shared passion for canines. The dogs associated with our team are a varied bunch, but all exhibit loyalty, energy, friendliness, perseverance, and heart.
We found further inspiration in two additional sources. First was The Bar Sinister, published in 1903, by Richard Harding Davis, a friend of Theodore Roosevelt’s and one of America’s greatest war correspondents, who reported from the front lines during the Boer War, the Spanish American War, and the First World War. His classic tale of a white English bull terrier called Kid had a special place in our upbringing; the first edition copy that once sat on the shelves of my grandparents’ library became well-worn by our hands. The indomitable spirit and latent nobility of Kid carry him through tough times on the streets of Montreal to glory as a blue-ribbon winner in Long Island. But familial loyalty and a passion for justice, above all, fuel his fight for survival and ultimately secure his redemption.
Our second cue - and the source of The Mascot’s label - came from our family’s collection of favorite engravings. The image to which we were drawn was of a white English bull terrier named Prince that the Farmers Deposit National Bank of Pittsburgh commissioned to illustrate its stock certificates. One version of Prince’s career suggests he also possessed a distinguished lineage, but rather than show him, his owner, the bank’s president, kept him at the flagship branch. Prince lived at the bank and stood watch there, enthusiastically greeting customers and employees alike. He also served as mascot to the local baseball, football, and hockey teams that the bank sponsored and, as legend has it, by retrieving a long fly on the diamond, brought his teammates a victory. We think of Prince and Kid as blood brothers, akin in their attitudes of integrity, conviction, and loyalty.
Both of these four-legged figures remind us that true honor lies not in quarterings or heraldry but in the abiding courage and generosity of spirit that open new doorways of understanding - for ourselves and for others. In keeping with this belief (and with Prince’s fondness for warm welcomes), The Mascot continues to acquaint newcomers with the profound and convivial pleasures of Napa Valley Cabernet, opening the doorway to the family’s grands vins whose still deeper roots await.