Washington Wine Month Stop #18: Harbinger Winery
Our 18th stop on our Washington Winery tour, Harbinger Winery, is very hands on through out the entire wine making process including the label artwork, probably the most recognizable feature from this winery.
Discover what their artwork and wines have to offer for your palate.
About the Winery:
At Harbinger Winery, their mission is to create ultra premium and incredibly drinkable wines that justly represent the varietal and land from which they were grown. The point is to get you to feel the void left in your cellar when all of your Harbinger Wines have been happily consumed!
They go about doing this by purchasing the most intense and flavorful of grapes, then treating them like royalty from start to finish. Once selected, all of their fruit is then hand-picked and crushed within hours of harvest. Utilizing small lot fermentation practices, the caps are manually punched down several times a day to maximize and intensify flavor.
While very labor intensive, at Harbinger they firmly believe that by utilizing a “hands on” approach they are able to attain a much more individualized and expressive wine. With their reds they use no filtration or fining methods with the intention of leaving as much of the wines true character where it belongs: in the bottle.
About the Vineyards:
Harbinger Winery sources their grapes from several different vineyards. Doing so allows them to produce wines of distinct character and terroir, thus giving a much more structured and layered wine upon completion.
Founded in 1968 by Alec Bayless, Sagemoor has been growing quality vinefera grapes for over 40 years. Location is a big factor for this vineyard as it’s located on a southwestern slope just outside of Pasco, butting up to the Columbia River. Sagemoor customers represent the largest of Washington state wineries, as well as boutique niche market cellars.
The winemaker clients actively participate in viticultural decision-making within their preferred blocks in pursuit of their personal flavor profile goals. Precision farming techniques such as vigor mapping, regulated deficit irrigation, soil profiling, micro nutrient analysis and “green harvest” thinning are applied to manage yields, balance canopy and crop load, optimize sun exposure and ensure consistent high quality fruit.
Sagemoor provides Cabernet Franc and Merlot from their Bacchus vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot from Dionysus Vineyard, Syrah and Barbera from the Sagemoor Vineyard, and Malbec from Winebau Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope.
Elephant Mountain Vineyards
Elephant Mountain Vineyards is situated on a unique site located high on the southern slopes of the Rattlesnake Ridge at the base of Elephant Mountain, near the center of the new Rattlesnake Hills Appellation in the greater Yakima Valley Appellation.
The vineyard sits on a series of gentle, southern-facing slopes at elevations from 1320 to 1460 ft. The vineyard is located above the irrigated portion of the Yakima Valley and is surrounded by dry land shrub steppe. The vineyard has a unique micro climate, perfect for growing and maturing wine grapes.
The soil profile consists of a sandy silt loam averaging 2 ft. in depth which lays over a gravelly, calcareous sub surface. The rocky south facing slopes of Elephant Mountain surrounding the vineyard create a significantly beneficial heat sink. This feature, combined with the elevation, keeps the site warm and dry, day and night, throughout the growing season. This allows for maximum accumulation of heat units, low humidity, few frost and mildew concerns, and moderate daytime highs to reduce heat stress on the foliage and fruit.
Currently, Harbinger Winery receives Syrah, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Sangiovese from Elephant Mountain.
Piper Vineyard is located on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills. With a southern exposure and the perfect angle, this vineyard boasts the preferred growing conditions for vitis vinifera. They’ve been working with Bud Piper since 2007 to produce chardonnay that embodies the character of the land.
Two Coyote Vineyard
Two Coyote Vineyard was established in 2004 in the Rattlesnake Hills Appellation on the upper end of the Yakima Valley. Their focus is on producing Rhone, Alsatian, and Spanish varietals of the highest quality. While young, significant research and preparation have already gone into this small vineyard. With Rhone-style wines being our focus, Harbinger Winery is contracted to receive Viognier, Mourvedre, and Grenache from Two Coyote.
Located in the cooler climate of Prosser, Crawford vineyard grows some amazing grapes. Currently Harbinger sources Pinot Gris from them, but have gotten Viognier and Tempranillo here as well. They prefer the longer, cooler growing season this area offers for their white wines.
About the Owners:
Co-owner & Vintner
Crediting her great-grandmother who “always had a crock bubbling away in her basement” with inspiring her current career path, Gagnon began making wine at the “ripe” old age of 20. Her first creation was a blackberry wine made from fruit picked fresh off Gagnon land. This was followed by other fruit wines, and then grape wines.
In 2000, Gagnon accepted an apprenticeship under Dan Caudill, the former owner and winemaker at Olympic Cellars in Port Angeles. Caudill put his 29-year-old apprentice on the fast track, teaching her the ins and outs of running a commercial operation. Six months later, Caudill’s health forced him into early retirement and Gagnon became the Olympic Peninsula’s youngest head winemaker. She relished this new challenge and was determined to give it her all, supplementing Caudill’s tutelage with courses through U.C. Davis’ acclaimed Viticulture & Enology Program. Gagnon’s first commercial wine, Olympic Cellars’ 2001 Dungeness Red, won a gold medal at the Tri-Cities Wine Competition in Pasco.
Then in the summer of 2004, life threw Gagnon a curve. She was involved in a serious small plane crash along with Tammi Hinkle, a friend and fellow kayaker. The two survived, albeit with a new outlook on life.
While putting her life back together, Gagnon determined it was time for her to take the reins and actively pursue her dream of opening a winery where she had complete freedom to create her own style of wines. She approached Hinkle, a professional guide and owner of Adventures Through Kayaking, with the opportunity to partner in the new venture and Hinkle was more than happy to invest. On August 3, 2005 (exactly one year after the accident) the two opened Port Angeles’ newest winery, aptly named Harbinger to signify good things to come.
Co-owner and operations/marketing
Originally from Minnesota, Tammi came out to the Olympic Peninsula many summers ago when she worked at the Lake Crescent Lodge during her college break.
She found a special place in her heart for kayaking (it could be that she is from the land of 10,000 lakes…or that she’s a Pisces…just a theory…). Tammi guided professionally on the rivers, lakes, and open waters for 10 years before deciding to open her own guide service; Adventures Through Kayaking. She is now celebrating her 11th year in business, watching the guide service and specialty retail shop grow with each passing season.
Somewhere along the river of life, the exact time remains a mystery; Tammi discovered the equally fascinating world of wine. Soon kayak and mountain biking adventures were being integrated with winery stops. In 2005, when approached with the opportunity to become a co-owner of a fledgling winery just down the street, she was more than happy to invest in the endeavor.
While running the Kayak shop is a full time job, Tammi still manages to help out on many different levels at Harbinger Winery, from pouring wine and crushing grapes, to marketing the wares.
You’ll notice that almost all of Harbinger’s labels are different. At Harbinger they believe that each label should emulate the wine in the bottle, and what better way to do that than have different artwork on the package.
From Anchorage to New York City, artists from all over the country have contributed to their endeavor, making each bottle its own work of art. It works out to be a win-win situation as the artist gets a lot of exposure and Harbinger gets expressive artwork for their labels.
Stephanie Mallon of Watermallon Studios in Long Beach, California is their creative designer who makes sure that all of their labels flow, while retaining their individuality. Mallon is also a contributing artist and has several pieces throughout the collection.
Click here to see a collection of their labels.