The Pentalogy of BOND


It is fair to say that success is ‘predestined.’ Because the steps that lead to success were completed yesterday and the day before.

La Tâche of Domaine de la Romanée Conti derived its name from the ancient concept of ‘a la tâche’, which means ‘to the task’ – in this case, the work of the grower in the vineyards. Years ago, the Harlan family had adopted this approach, at once traditional and new, to manage their vineyards. They called it the Vine Master Program, in which each Vine Master was fully responsible for his or her own plot, after demonstrating a high level of skill and working on said plot for a certain time.

In order to fully comprehend the vines, one needs to fully immerse and ‘think’ like them in order to appreciate the logic of their behavior—to see in them aspects of one’s own image, as in a mirror. Only then can humans achieve what the vines expect. In the end, what humans can do is interpret and convey the message derived from nature in the form of a creative work, in this case, wine.

Types of wisdom are merely different forms that share a common denominator. Steve Jobs’ vision transcended the technical complexities of computer technology to focus on the human end user and how the technology could facilitate that individual’s creative faculties. Similarly, the vines—through their fruit and the resulting wine—become a conduit to deepening our appreciation of life. Cory Empting, the winegrower, who spends most of his days in the vineyards, understands this well. He understands that to seek the truth, one must find their true selves first.

Poetry speaks loudest when the poet is silent; the actor’s shadow fades to reveal the play’s soul. Cory has been working at the estate for decades and has developed his unique understanding of the wines at the domain. Through its five distinct wines, BOND presents each place in a transparent and expressive way. In other words, the BOND crus embody the understanding that Cory and his team have derived through their time spent at each of these different sites.

In Napa, all is new and developing; regulations exist and are promulgated, but standards are still in the works. Establishing a new project is like launching a rocket: a millimeter discrepancy in the calculations could result in a miss by a thousand miles. If you don’t want to be surprised at where you land after take-off, you had better plan carefully right from the get-go.

If Harlan Estate is the finale to its creator, BOND would be the prelude prior to the excavation.

Yet the establishment of BOND took place over more than a decade, and involved an empirical exploration of the Napa Valley and other regions around the world that, gradually, culminated in its unveiling in 1996.

BOND is the maiden name of Bill Harlan’s mother. The simple word of 4 letters, B-O-N-D, seems not only a fated bond with the Harlan family, but also a declaration, a cohesive connection between the family and the owners of these crus, bonded by trust. FRIENDSHIP, CHARACTER, TRUST, these words (on the label) also reveal the spiritual power of BOND.

Apart from the delivery of belief, friendship, and trust, there is something even deeper in the meaning of BOND.

When you enter the cellar of BOND, it feels almost like a palace hall. If you look hard enough, you will find so many jars and kegs in various shapes and sizes, lining up against the cellar wall. They are the numerous samples that represent the Harlan family winegrowing team’s ongoing research of Napa Valley’s geological and climatic diversity.

To the present date, BOND has released only 5 crus: MELBURY and VECINA were both released in 1999, followed by ST. EDEN in 2001, then Pluribus in 2003 and the latest one was QUELLA in 2006.

Without exception, the 5 crus have been painstakingly selected for their unparalleled character from the more than 120 vineyards with which the team has worked. Each cru, small yet exquisite, presents distinctive farming challenges due to their unique environment – the altitude, the aspect, the micro-climate as well as the soil type. These crus of BOND are highly individual yet, at the same time, they remain connected by a single philosophy and culture.

The Harlan family and their winegrowing team continue to search for the 6th cru for BOND, just as the ultimate work of art is yet to surface from this unknown cru. Whether they find this place in this generation or the next is secondary to the pursuit itself, which brings with it a greater understanding of the Napa Valley, nature, and human nature.

Haruki Murakami once wrote in his book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage[1], ‘those with colors in their names may have a more colorful destiny’. At the start, BOND was designated with different colors by the family; perhaps by fate, the crus were destined with a shared path.

  • MELBURY is located within the Vaca Mountains, on the east side of Napa Valley. Its label bears accents of the joyful pinkish red, evocative of the silent sunset and the moderate warmth in the afternoons. The sedimentary clay soil of MELBURY conveys a warm embrace, enduring and accumulating as opposed to a fleeting glimpse derived from the profoundness of the land itself. Analogous to Rembrandt’s “thinking on paper” [2] which reveals the actual person and humanity within.
  • The name QUELLA is derived from the German word for an artesian aquifer. She is the purest of blue, meandering and changeable as the water form. The vineyard sits atop an ancient riverbed composed of cobbles, rocks and tufa…Once you grasp her sense and sensibility, QUELLA will greet you with her memories of many lives lived, gently flowing like lines of a poem. The poem does not impress by colorful sparks nor volume, more in the form of a quiet stream of consciousness as in the words of Virginia Woolf. The most spectacular view perceived in the calmest and most unexpected place.
  • With iron-rich volcanic rock as its construct, the label of ST.EDEN is designated by a green color with a peaceful resolve. It represents the east-facing slopes as it welcomes the first light at the crack of dawn, the whispers of grapes conveying the strength of purity and tranquility in the language of fine wine. Here the vines/shoots are connected on the top like a bridge, akin to the handshake of poetry and philosophy.
  • VECINA has the tallest trellising system. The basalt soil in this vineyard carries messages from millions of years ago, when it started to transform from lava at thousands of degrees. The deep-orange color is reflective of the morning glow and sunset on the Western hills of Oakville, as is the momentous reflection that brightens the sky from the long-past eruption of the now desolate and cold volcano that helped to create it. Is VECINA the wise elder looking at us from above? It is ancient and profound yet sophisticated, traversing in far reaching thoughts with the wisdom of history way back when.
  • PLURIBUS, where many become one. The vines grow deeply into the unique porous volcanic bedrock, immortal and extraordinary. The surrounding pine trees form a defensive structure like the Forbidden City, rendering this site with the highest elevation as the mysterious character it is, much like the color purple, regal in its wondrous form, sensual and alluring.

It is true. To become oneself is the most important achievement in one’s lifetime.

This is BOND.


This English article is translated from the original article in Chinese.


[1] Haruki Murakami

[2] Rembrandt: thinking on paper | British Museum


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