Mascot Wine. Proprietor, Will Harlan was raised in Napa Valley and was surrounded by an excellent pedigree of family-owned vineyards and wineries; perhaps it is no surprise that inevitably he would begin his own wine brand. His father Bill Harlan, founded Harlan Estate, BOND and later Promontory. While co-founding an online shopping site based in the Silicon Valley that focused on selling outdoor gear, Will also gained winemaking experience through working in the cellar at BOND.
During his time working at his startup, he would often bring wine from one of his father’s cellars to share with friends. However, these were not finished Harlan Estate or BOND wines, rather they were wines from the wine making team from blends that for whatever reason were not used in the finished wines. But these were still exceptional wines from Harlan Estate and BOND sourced vineyards, overseen by the talented wine making teams at both wineries.
Combining his continued interest in wine, with his friend’s encouragement to bottle a wine commercially and his own interest in sharing these wines with more people than friends and family, Will bottled the wine as The Mascot beginning with the 2008 vintage (the inaugural release). Besides overseeing the Mascot wine, Will is also the Managing Director at Promontory (his family’s newest winery).
General manager Nikita Stone was with the company since their early days, when she helped launch the brand. When we met with her, she was overseeing the growing brand and helping promote the wines across the country. And as she noted, other than Will, the team was entirely female based. Nikita is no longer working for the Mascot.
As opposed to Harlan Estate, BOND or Promontory, the focus of the Mascot wines is less on specific terroir and site driven wines. Rather the wines are created from grapes harvested from younger vines sourced from multiple Harlan owned properties (these vines are typically between 6 and 12 years old). This is fruit from vines that most likely will eventually be used in the Harlan Estate, BOND or Promontory wines (once the vines reach a certain age). With such a large vineyard portfolio under the Harlan family umbrella, a certain number of vineyards continue to be replanted, always ensuring the Mascot will have plenty of fruit to work with.
The wines are kept separate at each respective winery before the final Mascot blend is created. The Mascot wine is generally more approachable than the iconic wines from Harlan Estate and BOND but still carries the same Harlan family pedigree. The wine is aged 5 years before being released (a rarity in the world of Napa wines). And unlike the other Harlan family-owned wineries which produce several wines each year, the focus of The Mascot wine is on only one wine each year, always a Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot as part of the blend.
The 2018 Mascot is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance being Petit Verdot & Cab Franc. This wine is deep ruby in color; the bouquet offers aromas of ripe Santa Rosa plum, a light touch of toasted oak, tobacco spice and some dried herbs. We noted its lightly savory approach. The palate features primarily darker fruits including boysenberry, blackberry and some dried herbs. The finish offers plenty of texture with gravelly tannins that show some noticeable grip, dryness/dustiness and persistence. The finish also lingers with notes of plum, dark pepper and a woodsy spice. Some of the savory characteristics on the bouquet are clearly evident on the palate. We wouldn’t mind pairing this wine with a medium rare tri-tip from the BBQ. This wine drinks very nicely in its youth (we tasted 5 years post vintage date), but obviously has plenty of life ahead of it.
The 2013 Mascot is dark crimson in the glass; the bouquet offers pretty aromatics that are well layered with darker fruit overtones of blackberry and plum along with black licorice. It is slightly savory, more so as the bouquet breathes. Complemented nicely by white pepper, subtle notes of cedar plank and mocha. Let this beauty breathe – it continues to evolve. Rounded on the entry, immediately noticeable is the intensity of fruit without the heaviness of structure or oak. Nonetheless, five years after vintage, still shows a firm grip but with tannins that are finer grained rather than coarse. Balanced across the palate, lingers with plenty of fruit but also good acidity. 2013 is the ideal vintage to showcase a release program dictating 5 years of both barrel and bottle age. This wine is drinking as well as any Napa Valley 2013 vintages we have recently tried.
The label is visually captivating (who doesn’t love a label with a dog as the mascot) and involves an intriguing story. In the late 1800s a show dog was bred with a street dog in Pittsburgh. The resulting offspring was an English bullterrier. The owner kept the dog (“Prince”) and would bring him on his errands including a stop at a branch of Farmers Deposit National Bank of Pittsburgh. The janitor at the bank loved this dog so the owner ended up gifting the animal to the bank where Prince then lived on site and became part of the banks’ lexicon and lore, eventually earning a statue outside in front of the entrance. The bank and the statue are long gone, but the tribute to the dog lives on in memory and now on every bottle of The Mascot.
The engraving of “Prince” was commissioned by the president of Farmers Deposit National Bank of Pittsburgh at the time, for the bank’s stock certificates.
Like the other Harlan owned labels, the Mascot was overseen by a retired U.S. Treasury engraver; it is printed by Pate International – a San Francisco based graphics and design company that over the years has produced a number of legendary labels including Opus One and has done work for Domain Chandon, The PlumpJack Group, SKYY Vodka, Diageo and Jackson Family Wines among many others. The importance of their work in developing some of these storied brands is in part mentioned in the book, The House of Mondavi.
The first vintage in 2008 was such a limited production wine (500 cases) that they soon sold out due to demand. Production has grown significantly since then – total production is around 3,200 cases a year – with eventual plans to grow this to around 5,000 cases. The wines are selectively distributed in a number of markets across the country, mostly in restaurants and wine shops. There is also some distribution abroad including the UK, Switzerland and Hong Kong. The wines are offered to their membership list only once a year, in September – where the window to purchase direct from the winery is only about 2 weeks.
And unlike wines from the other Harlan owned wineries, the Mascot is relatively accessible based on both its distribution model and its price point. The Mascot sees excellent restaurant distribution in the Napa Valley and is often available at a number of retail outlets including ACME Wine Shop, Bounty Hunter, Gary’s in St. Helena, Oakville Grocery and V Wine Cellars. Those wanting to taste select vintages of The Mascot can often do so at the RH Wine Vault in Yountville. For more information and or to join the mailing list, visit: www.mascotwine.com