Nosh Pit with Chris Macias

Chris Macias chops it up about local food and drink issues

Wine Buzz: Former Sacramentans winning praise for Napa cabernet

02/19/2014 12:00 AM

02/18/2014 10:37 AM

Wine Buzz has bumped into Joe and Pat Harbison a few times over the past year, but didn’t quite realize how much of a splash their Harbison Estate Wines were making in the highly competitive world of Napa cabernet sauvignon.

The Harbisons are former Sacramentans who once called the Greenhaven area home, but moved to Napa’s Oakville appellation in 2010 to establish their own wine estate. Their Napa neighbors rank as some of California’s top names in highly coveted “cult” wines. Screaming Eagle, which fetches about $1,600 per bottle for its latest vintage of cabernet sauvignon, is next to the Harbisons’ estate. Dalle Valle, Rudd, Tierra Roja and other blue-chip wineries are also nearby. We can only imagine what it’s like when the Harbisons need to borrow a cup of sugar from a neighbor.

Harbison Wines have earned some exceptionally high praise of late. The Wine Advocate, the esteemed wine publication founded by Robert Parker, not long ago bestowed a score of 96-100 out of 100 for the 2012 Harbison Estate Harbison Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (It was a preliminary score, offered as a range). Parker described the wine as “flawless,” and further noted, “Explosive on the palate, this 2012 possesses layers and layers of flavor and character.”

The Wine Advocate has scored other Harbison Estate bottlings well into the 90s. Its 2010 Harbison Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Pony Express previously scored a 96, and the 2011 Harbison Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Estate The Trail nabbed a 95.

The wines are made by Russell Bevan of Santa Rosa, who’s worked for such clients as Cheateau Boswell and also runs his own Bevan Cellars.

Like most Oakville wines, where vineyards cost up to $450,000 per acre, they come at a cost. A six-pack of Harbison Estate cabernet sauvignon costs $1,050 from the winery, but its sauvignon blanc can be had for about $48 per bottle.

So, who are the Harbisons, and how did their wine journey begin? We’ll have that story coming soon.

Meanwhile, visit Harbison Estate’s website ( for more information.

About This Blog

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's food and wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farmworkers in Lodi. Chris judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. Reach him at or 916-321-1253. Twitter: @chris_macias.


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