The Mascot’s 2020 Vintage Is a Red Wine That Exudes “Young Vine Energy”

Hypebeast speaks to the brand’s founder, Will Harlan and winemaker Cory Empting to learn more about the bottle and its story.

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The Mascot is a brand that originally began as a family wine which founder Will Harlan would bring to private events. As a second generation of Napa Valley’s leading winegrowing estate, many would think he had the luxury to pop open bottles of Harlan Estate, BOND or even Promontory for almost all occasions. In clarifying the claims, Will Harlan explains, “Growing up, most folks assume we open bottles of ours like Harlan Estate all the time. The reality is that given the demand and relative scarcity, our wine is spoken for years ahead of its actual release — we tend to only drink Harlan Estate or BOND for special dinners or celebrations.” This is the main factor that led Harlan to utilize the estate’s younger vines and thus, founding his brand, The Mascot.

The freshly unmasked 2020 Vintage is a new Cabernet Sauvignon that commemorates the winery’s fruitful results amid challenging times. As the wine label indicates, the 2020 Vintage was formulated with grapes that were harvested at the turn of the decade which coincided with the global pandemic. “While the growing season of the 2020 Vintage presented challenges, it was also perhaps one of the most important inflection points in the evolution of our farming, which, we believe, shows through clearly in this wine’s expression,” says Will Harlan.

“While the growing season of the 2020 vintage presented challenges, it was also perhaps one of the most important inflection points in the evolution of our farming…” – Will Harlan

One of the key factors in determining when to harvest was dependent on weather conditions. Cory Empting, The Mascot’s winemaker explains, “We had drier conditions for 2020 and the vines started growing and ripening quite early.” In addition to that, Napa Valley also experienced a series of fires that year. While the first wildfire of the year was thankfully rather far away from their vineyards, Empting and his predecessor made the call to start tasting the fruits then. “It was earlier than we’d ever realized that the grapes would ripen, but we ascertained that since we’ve had so little rainfall and don’t irrigate or put water on the vines, everything just ripens earlier than it ever had before,” he recounts, elaborating that they “decided to pick as early as three weeks to a month than before.”

While the parent material for The Mascot wines is strong, this would not have been made possible if not for their vine-by-vine approach. Every vine is tended by an experienced vine master, who’s responsible for looking after and tracking the progress of their given plant. On this topic, Cory Empting also sheds light on his observation on “young vine energy,” a term coined from his observations. The idea is that a vine only has a given amount of energy that it exerts into its growth, with the roots taking a hefty portion of it at early stages.

“We have to follow that vine energy. If we can respect that, we can hopefully harvest at the end of the day.” – Cory Empting

Once the vine starts to sprout, its energy is focused on expanding what’s above ground. “We have to follow that vine energy. If we can respect that, we can hopefully harvest at the end of the day,” he explains, noting that it’s “not only just grapes, but grapes that have this great acidity, balance and texture that start down the path of having this kind of identity and character,” and all of this wouldn’t have been possible without having a human being dedicated to each vine.

“As we were bringing these grapes to make the wine, we realized how much purity and richness there was in there, all without lacking depth. This string of events that happened had us move forward and we ended up finishing the harvest before the second fire came, which really devastated Napa Valley,” says Empting. He recalls his excitement when he and Will Harlan tasted the wine while it was still in the barrel, noting how they both loved and were pleasantly surprised with the results. “It was a bit risky when we started picking, but now we think this is the direction that we want to take moving forward,” he says as he rejoices on what could have been a catastrophic event but ended up becoming a turning point for the winery, thus changed the way they think about farming. From then, the wines at The Mascot after the year of 2020 follow the same vein.

The resulting 2020 Vintage not only carries the natural boldness and full-bodied quality of Cabernet Sauvignon but is imbued with a touch of silkiness that makes it easy on the tongue. Best served at 58 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the wine, as Cory Empting describes, “carries a gentleness and purity” but also boasts a richness that builds up on the palate.

Within the first 10 years, the wine’s strength lies in its younger attributes and fruit notes. The longer it’s stored, its silkiness and nuanced aromas will enrich over the years. While The Mascot winemaker has his preferences when it comes to consuming the 2020 Vintage, he explains that there are no fixed ways of enjoying the wine. “Our goal is that when we put the wine in your hands, you could open it anytime and it wouldn’t be a huge mistake,” says Empting.

“Our goal is that when we put the wine in your hands, you could open it anytime and it wouldn’t be a huge mistake.” – Cory Empting

Speaking on the future of the winery, Will Harlan tells Hypebeast “The Mascot won’t grow in the traditional sense of volume, but instead will continue to refine our ability to produce a wine that captures, each year, the promise of the young vines and the potential of our hillside vineyards.” He also notes their long term plans call for replanting the vines twice per century and at a rate of about two percent per year, thus explaining that The Mascot “will always continue to evolve” and there will always be a portion of their vineyards that will contribute to this wine.

The 2020 Vintage from The Mascot will be officially available to purchase starting June 15. With a retail price tag of around $180 USD, the wine will be purchaseable through authorized distributors. For more information, visit The Mascot’s official website.

DISCLAIMER: We discourage irresponsible and/or underage drinking. Drink responsibly and legally.

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