Bill Harlan

Back to Global Conversations Episode 23: Bill Harlan, Napa Valley’s Legendary Winemaker

Loss, perspective, hope: In the aftermath of the Glass Fire that has devastated California wine country, Bill Harlan, one of Napa Valley’s founding vintners, finds inspiration for the future in Napa’s history and his “200-year vision;” and tells Melissa Biggs Bradley where you’ll find the best wines in America; how his travels shaped his life—and why what you learn about yourself, when you’re out in the world, changes who you eventually become.

Episode Guide

On this episode, Melissa speaks with Bill Harlan: founder and owner Napa Valley’s acclaimed Harlan Estate, which produces a cabernet blend that is one of the most sought after wines in the world. As you’ll hear, he got into the wine business with nothing more than a romantic dream and has become one of its legends. In addition to establishing a Californian First Growth wine at Harlan Estate in 1984, Bill also founded the wineries BOND in 1996 and Promontory in 2008.

Melissa was lucky to visit Bill and his family in Napa last fall, where they also spent time at the family’s Meadowood Resort and restaurant, which tragically was affected by California’s recent Glass fire. We had recorded a wonderful conversation with Bill and his wife Deborah before the fires, but once they hit, we realized that the conversation would fundamentally change. Bill was gracious enough to schedule a do-over with Melissa, which produced this episode.

With a career that spans decades, Bill offers incredible lessons in perspective and hopefulness as he looks toward rebuilding the Meadowood restaurant and sees the future with a longer vision than most of us. He and Melissa also talk a bit about his love for travel — how he spent a year traveling around Africa, learned how to fly planes, and sailed around the world before a 200-year vision led him to his calling and brought him back a bit closer to home.


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