Harbinger Winery is just one of owner’s adventures

Sara Gagnon can’t quite decide if she is a kayaking winemaker or a winemaking kayaker. Either way, she is enjoying the adventure of life as an entrepreneur.

Gagnon is the owner and winemaker of Harbinger Winery, the northwestern-most winery in the continental United States. Harbinger is just west of Port Angeles, at the top of the Olympic Peninsula.

She is also co-owner with Tammi Hinkle of Adventures Through Kayaking. They lead kayak, mountain bike, raft and paddleboard tours in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, on Lake Crescent and on various rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

Gagnon grew up in Port Angeles and opened one of the first espresso stands on the peninsula in 1993, when she was just 22 years old, then moved to Seattle to go to college and work in the insurance business.

But the lure of the Olympic Peninsula and a desire to become a professional winemaker drew her home. In 2000, she was hired by Olympic Cellars in Sequim as an apprentice and soon was promoted to head winemaker.

In 2004, she and Hinkle survived when the Cessna they were riding in crashed in Olympic National Park. That was the impetus for Gagnon to launch her own winery and be her own boss.

After recovering from her injuries and working through the 2004 harvest, she launched Harbinger.

All her grapes come from the Columbia Valley east of the Cascades, though she does make two fruit wines — blackberry and raspberry — using berries from west of the mountains.

Today, she produces 3,000 cases of wine, most of which are sold directly from her winery. Here are some Harbinger wines we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or call Harbinger directly at 360-452-4262.

Harbinger Winery NV La Petite Fleur Dynamo White, Washington, $15: This blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling opens with aromas of baked pear and apple, followed by flavors of sage and orchard fruit.

Harbinger Winery 2009 Sagemoor Vineyard Barbera, Columbia Valley, $28: This Italian red begins with aromas of spicy oak, woodruff, black cherry, dark chocolate and cola. It’s an alluring wine on the palate with flavors of plum, spice and bittersweet chocolate. It is beautifully balanced and will pair well with beef stroganoff, lasagna or a ribeye topped with sauteed mushrooms.

Harbinger Winery NV Dynamo Red, Washington, $16: Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc combine for a delicious and affordable red wine that offers aromas of smoked bacon, black cherry and plum, backed by flavors of boysenberry, plum, lime zest and minerality. Pair this with ravioli, split pea soup or hot wings.

Harbinger Winery NV Blackberry Bliss, Washington, $22: Blackberries are a late summer gift in Western Washington, and a longtime tradition is picking berries and turning them into pies, cobblers and jams. Gagnon turns hers into a delicious wine. It opens with aromas of blueberry, maple syrup, vanilla and, of course, blackberry. On the palate, it is nicely textured with off-dry flavors of blackberry and vanilla ice cream.

Harbinger Winery 2009 Elephant Mountain Vineyards Sangiovese, Rattlesnake Hills, $30: This Sangiovese shows how well Italy’s signature grape can fare in Washington. It opens with aromas of oak, black cherry, black olive and cola, followed by rich flavors of cherry, vanilla and a sprinkling of cocoa. It’s a big wine with the fruit to support it. Pair with lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs or grilled portabella mushrooms.

Harbinger Winery 2009 El Jefe, Rattlesnake Hills, $27: This Rhone blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache opens with aromas of sarsaparilla, vanilla extract, black cherry and black pepper, transitioning to flavors of black currant, black olive, boysenberry and granite dust. It’s an elegant wine with great length and breadth.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.

More in Life

Sheet-pan suppers: Make an entire meal on one sheet pan

Entire cookbooks are devoted to the trend, along with the inevitable blogs.

Rose Johnson, 80, is a member of the Everett Area Newcomers Club, which meets and dines once a month at Sno-Isle Tech’s student-run Le Bistro Restaurant. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Old-timers can join the Everett Area Newcomers Club

Everett group welcomes women for friendship and fun at multiple meet-ups.

From Jasper to Banff: A Canadian adventure in an RV

Jennifer Bardsley plans to take her family on two-week roadtrip through Canada in a tent trailer.

Pureed soup is a smooth way to get your vegetables in winter

Coconut curry carrot soup is a fulfilling way to start a meal or to serve alongside a sandwich.

Skippers share sea stories at Marysville speaker series

The Bellingham couple will talk about charter cruises on the historic wooden vessel they rebuilt.

Hearty chickpea, pasta soup warms up wintry nights

Serve this ancient Roman dish with a warm cauliflower salad, which also is from Italy.

Expo in Stanwood can help you get ready for the country

The Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is set for Jan. 27 at the high school.

Anxiety, or chronic worry, is a growing problem

Paul Schoenfeld shares four approaches to help keep your anxiety from getting out of control.

Find many of our region’s winter birds in the Skagit Valley

If you love birding, also check out these bird-related festivals, lectures and other events.

Most Read