Tag Archives: Harbinger Winery

Harbinger Winery in Port Angeles recognized for its wine

Harbinger Winery in Port Angeles was the recent recipient of a “Best of Show” award from the Portland Northwest Food & Wine Festival for its 2008 Syrah Vintner’s Pick.

This sought after award is definitely something to write home about. Winemaker Sara Gagnon is clearly doing something right — the wine was recognized earlier this year with a double gold from the Seattle Wine Awards.

Here’s some info from a press release Gagnon sent about the recent recognition:

“Syrah is my favorite grape and the first wine I made was a Syrah. I am elated that my continued persistence with this endeavor is paying off,” Gagnon said. “I am deliberate in making our wines food friendly and it feels great to receive acknowledgement for that. I also recognize that the amazing folks that work with me at Harbinger make it possible for me to put the time and effort into making our wines better every year.”

Harbinger also took silver medals for its 2009 Merlot and 2009 Bolero and recently was recognized by Sunset Magazine in its International Wine Compeition. The winery received gold medals for its 2008 Barbera and 2008 El Jefe’; a silver for its La Petite Fleur; and a bronze for its 2009 Bolero.

From the release:

“I am so happy to see Harbinger competing so well at an international level. The downside of this is the fact that we are small and our wines very limited. Both the Barbera and El Jefe’ are all but sold out! So I guess this will just have to be validation to all of the folks that already purchased these wines,” Gagnon said.

A limited tasting and release of the awarding-winning wines will be available at Harbinger’s Holiday Open House on Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  In addition to the award-winners, Harbinger will also have samples of its holiday wine and “four-legged-friend-wine” — a blend where 100 percent of the profits go to the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society.

Harbinger Winery is located at 2358 Highway 101 West, just 3 miles west of Port Angeles. The tasting room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For questions or more information call the Harbinger Tasting Room at 360-452-4262 or visit at www.harbingerwinery.com.

What we’re drinking: Harbinger

Mary writes:

Harbinger 2008 Sieg-MA is a delightful blend of two German grape varieties — Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine — grown in the Puget Sound Appellation. Harbinger Winery is located in Port Angeles and it’s a brewery too!

I enjoyed this delightful wine at the recent Holly Ridge Vino in Kitsap tasting and scavenger hunt. Vintner Sara Gagnon has her way with blending. A passage from Harbinger’s website puts it beautifully: “The white wine pixies were flitting mischievously through the winery.”

The wine is very aromatic with a bouquet of flowers and spice. At 10.6 percent alcohol, it is sweet but the acidity keeps it clean and crisp. Gagnon’s description of the wine, a “balance of fruit and acids that leave you feeling as invigorated as a glacially fed river plunge”, is a perfect imagery.

This wine pairs beautifully with spicy Thai or Chinese and fresh fruits and sharp cheddar.

Rhone Rangers ‘rock’ our socks off

Last week we had the chance to take a field trip to Seattle’s Maritime Event Center on Pier 66 for the annual Rhone Rangers Seattle Trade Tasting.

Yes, that’s right we played hooky on a Tuesday to taste wine.

But not just any wine, wine made in the style of France’s Rhone Valley — a region near and dear to both of our hearts.

If you’ve never heard of the Rhone Rangers here’s a little background: It’s a California-based non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. It’s membership based, and goes around the country holding tastings to spread the word about Rhone-style wines.

Some of the events are open to the public, while others are for trade only to introduce winemakers to restaurateurs and distributors who might be interested in carrying their wines.

We went to the trade event in Seattle. Most of the wineries pouring were from California, but there were five Washington wineries present (Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Winery, Harbinger Winery, Maison Bleue Winery, Mercer Estates and Waterbrook Winery).

The nice thing about this event was in most cases the winemaker, or someone from the winery who knew about the winemaking process, was pouring. So they could easily answer questions and give us insight into the wineries.

For this tasting, Brynn stuck primarily with the whites, while Mary hit up the reds. If we found one we loved from our designated color, we told the other to try it. This allowed us to divide and conquer.

After three hours of tasting (and spitting), we came to the conclusion that there are some darn good Rhone-style varietals being made in the States. But we already knew this living in Washington, where winemakers have jumped on the Rhone bandwagon in the last decade, producing some top-notch Rhone-style wines.

Before we list the wineries that caught our eye, a little history on Rhone wines and the varietals allowed in this region.

Unlike France’s other regions where wine can be blended between three to five grapes — Red Bordeaux blends often contain different levels of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and to a lesser degree Malbec and Petite Verdot — wines from the Rhone Valley can include up to 22 different varietals.

No, that’s not a typo, we said “22”.

A snip-it from the Rhone Rangers website about the most common red and white grapes in France’s Cotes du Rhone region:


The most common red Rhone varietals are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, with Syrah predominant in the Northern Rhone and Grenache in the Southern Rhone. Other relatively common red grapes include Cinsault and Carignan. Finally, the list includes some grapes that are found only in trace amounts even in France, and are just beginning to be explored in the United States, including Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terret Noir.


The principal white Rhone varietals are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, each found throughout the Rhone Valley, with Grenache Blanc a widely planted but less well-known contributor in the Southern Rhone. The other white grapes include Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.

In the Northern Rhone region (St. Joseph, Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage will be on the label) Syrah is the only red grape allowed, but winemakers traditionally add 5 percent Viognier to bring out floral notes. This is usually co-fermented with the Syrah.

In Southern Rhone, it’s more like a grape free-for-all. A Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone or Gigondas technically can have all 22 of the above grape varieties.

So, what was our favorite winery of the bunch you ask?

To be honest it was hard to come up with just one — in fact Brynn had a favorite wine from two-thirds of the tables she visited — but in the end we decided we were most impressed with Washington’s very own Maison Bleue out of Prosser.

Owner and winemaker Jon Martinez was on hand to pour, and explained his Marsanne was typically a crowd favorite — especially among wine media.

Mary would have to agree with this statement, although Brynn was more impressed with Martinez’s 2010 Notre Vie Viognier from Arthur’s Vineyard. He also had another unusual white grape varietal, Roussanne. This rare grape was aged for nine months in Burgundian barrels for a round, full-bodied mouthfeel.

The Viognier was a 100 percent Viognier wine that spent time in 70 percent French oak barrels. The rest was kept in stainless steel tanks before the two were mixed.

The wine showed a nice balance of acidic minerality with the sweeter, more tropical floral flavors often associated with the Viognier grape. The combination of oak and stainless steel aging allowed these two styles to blend perfectly.

Beyond his delectable whites, Martinez’s table was also full of red blends — seven of them to be exact.

Most were from Snipes Mountain and Boushey vineyards. Boushey Vineyards has been around since the 1980s and is highly sought after. Dick Boushey planted Syrah in 1994.

(Sidenote: Dick Boushey was at the Rhone Rangers event and Mary chatted with him for a bit about beer, of all things. Brynn only quickly compared notes with him on a couple Viogniers and a Syrah).

Of the reds, we recommend the Maison Bleue Red blend, a 50–50 blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Yakima Valley called Jaja — French slang for wine.

The ‘09 Grenache from Upland on Snipes Mountain was all raspberries, white pepper and aromatic. The balance and finish were great. But Mary’s absolute favorite was from the same vineyard: A 2009 blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. “What balance!” she said. “Rich concentrated fruit flavors, smooth and showy at the same time.”

Stay tuned next week for more Rhone Rangers reviews.