Story page - engraved header image
The Missing Shade of Red
In the early 1980s while hiking along Oakville’s southwestern ridge, H. William Harlan discovered an isolated territory. The hidden expanse—ancient and untamed—moved him deeply, but remained elusive until the Harlan family finally captured it in 2008. As the second generation explored and worked with the land, they began to make discoveries of their own. At the core of this wild terrain they found a powerful geologic convergence, which had shaped its steep, rugged topography, and created the conditions for an altogether exotic winegrowing environment. Over time they found that the dramatic landscape—just beyond the edge of the known—would slowly change them, and ultimately inspire a new endeavor: Promontory.

I. Discovery

As we evolve through the seasons of our lives, there is always the “missing piece” that draws us onwards…maybe it’s the challenge of the next vintage, the next level of enrichment, a new discovery, or a greater meaning. And at a certain point we start to look past our lifetime, with the hope that the next generation might, in their own way, go beyond the dreams we initiated.

When I first came upon the land that would become Promontory, its untamed ruggedness was a surprise — quite different from anything I had encountered in the Napa Valley. This wild place, overlooked for most of the 20th century, emanated a power and a mystery and an undefinable allure.

It wasn’t until the first decade of the 21st century that we had the good fortune of acquiring the unmarked territory. This was the beginning of a new era, a time of exploration and discovery led by the next generation.

H. William Harlan signature
promontory fog panorama

II. Territory

The road to Promontory unfolds slowly. Its winding path begins in the benchlands of south-western Oakville alongside a small seasonal creek, then ascends gradually through a narrow ravine in the mountains. The air cools, ferns appear among rocky outcroppings, and moisture clings to moss hanging from surrounding trees. Almost forbiddingly, steep slopes rise up seven hundred feet on either side and slivers of light struggle to penetrate the dense forest canopy. A moment later reveals a meadow in the full glow of day, and the first glimpse of the territory’s rangelands stretching upward toward the sky.

The promontory gap, looking east to the Napa Valley

Promontory is truly a world apart from the Napa Valley that most people experience. Within this secluded canyon there are two distinct fault lines, roughly demarcating the boundaries between volcanic, sedimentary, and metamorphic soils. This diverse geology is stretched across 500 feet of elevation, on a multitude of dramatic slopes and panoramic exposures.

Less than ten percent of the land is under vine, weaving an intricate patchwork among the wild expanse of forest and woodlands. This natural landscape, along with the warmth of the rock-studded western exposure, invites morning fog and slightly cooler air to fill its narrow canyon on an almost daily basis.

The enviable — if sometimes daunting — task of unearthing and translating the essential qualities of this majestic formation has given us a deeply visceral connection to the place. The land is speaking at last, awakening a long-dormant story of this uncharted territory.

Cory Empting signature

III. Vision

In its highest form, we feel that winegrowing has the potential to transcend fine craftsmanship and enter the realm of art. While it is the pursuit of art that drives us, the role of artist belongs to nature, with our part being more closely defined as translator. We must first listen closely, observe, and work diligently to understand the character of our land; and only then can we begin transposing it into a medium communicable to others: wine.

Sunlit vineyard among the forested hills

Throughout the years we have strived to identify lands with a story to tell — a story that is beautiful, meaningful, and of epic substance. It is our firm belief that Promontory, through the wine that embodies it, will be able to profoundly move people in a way we have found ourselves moved.

My background is not in oenology, formally, above and beyond growing up as my father’s son. What drew me to the family endeavor has been the evolution of our philosophical journey; cultivating those points of discovery that are able to take us beyond the everyday, and reveal a glimpse of the sublime.

Will Harlan signature