If you’ve ever spotted a pair of Easter Island heads while driving on Highway 42 south of Egg Harbor and pondered what the story behind them is, you’re not alone. One day I decided to let curiosity take the reins and set out to find the story. The two sculpture heads sit at the entrance to Harbor Ridge Winery, and I soon found myself in a warm, wood-accented, sun-filled tasting room.
Harbor Ridge Winery began about 10 years ago, aging wine on-site and growing 350 vines on the surrounding land. The vines that can be seen from the tasting room annually produce about 4,000 pounds – or two tons – of Marquette grapes, a cold-climate variety that the University of Minnesota agricultural team bred in 2006.
I talked with Pamela Flasch, who joined the staff in 2012, and I was delighted to finally hear the story behind the Easter Island statues. The tale began with one of the winery owners, Denny Stapleton, driving back to Door County from Minnesota one weekend. Somewhere along Highway 29, he spotted a variety of interesting statues for sale, prompting him to stop to take a look.
He wound up meeting the seller and offering to display a couple of statues prominently on Highway 42 to help the seller gain more business. The two heads then traveled to their new home in Door County. Little did Stapleton know that they were to become the literal faces of Harbor Ridge Winery.
Fast-forward several years, and the statue heads had not sold, leading Stapleton to purchase them himself. This turned out to be a fortunate turn of events because the statues have become ingrained in the Harbor Ridge brand. The winery released its first wine in 2010 and called it Knockin’ Heads Red, with a label featuring the two statue heads. Still a top seller today, it uses two grape varietals: a dry and light-bodied Cab Franc and a tart and fruity Maréchal Foch. “An unlikely pair, these two, but when they hit your tongue, they smooth out together in perfect harmony,” notes the winery’s website.
The heads make appearances on several other wine labels, too, including the What the Heck? malbec and the Three Wise Guys pinot grigio. They also adorn Harbor Ridge’s business cards. “Yes, they even have names,” Flasch said. “They are Rapa and Kaga.” The duo has even earned a place on the Roadside America map, a guide to roadside attractions and oddities across the U.S.
Rapa and Kaga seem to have set the stage for the winery to be a light-hearted, playful brand. “We have worked with a designer to create all of our labels, and we have a lot that follow with the catchy, punny name theme,” Flasch said of the inspiration behind the labels. There is a cabernet called Call Me a Cab, a riesling named Gimme One Good Riesling and a white blend called Two Rows Don’t Make a White.
The latest release is a rosé that’s out for the 2019 spring and summer season. Named Cracklin’ Rosé, the dark pink wine is sparkling and has a drier finish, leaving you with a bold, rich flavor that isn’t too sweet at all. It uses the Marquette grapes grown on-site. What you’ll likely notice first, though, is the Frenchie wearing a flower crown on the front label.
Rosé wine certainly has a specific target market, and its consumers are bound to love this sweet Frenchie puppy wearing a trendy, floral headpiece.
Rosé seems to have climbed the popularity ranks during the past several years, solidifying itself as a warm-weather wine that’s synonymous with sunshine and patio-drinking. The county’s wineries have followed suit and now have many rosé varieties on offer. Here are a few more options to start your season:
Door 44: 44 Rosé
Made with 100 percent Wisconsin-grown Marquette, this beautifully hued rosé offers a crisp, multilayered flavor expression of red and blue fruits with a hint of citrusy aromatics.
Door Peninsula Winery: Peninsula Pink
A fantastic, fruit-forward blend of two grape wines with a splash of cherry. Vivid in color and slightly sweet, Peninsula Pink shows intense flavors and mouthfeel.
Lautenbach’s Orchard Country: Frontenac Rosé
A blend of estate-grown Frontenac and Frontenac Gris grapes, creating a delightful, semi-dry rosé.
Stone’s Throw Winery: Grignolino Rosé
A delightfully crisp rosé that’s perfect with shrimp and a sunny afternoon with friends.
von Stiehl Winery: Stony Creek Rosé
A fun and fruity, semi-sweet rosé with hints of melon and strawberry. Made with grapes from the von Stiehl vineyard.