Harbor Winery Retrospective Tasting...

RickMinderman just put up a video:
on a tasting DarrellCorti hosted on a retrospective of the wines from HarborWnry, whose owner, CharlieMeyers, died last yr.
Charlie is best known for putting AmadorCnty/ShenandoahVlly on the map. He was an English professor at SacCityCollege who was making Ho-Made wine. Up in the SV, there were a number of very old (mostly Zin and Mission) vnyds. There was only one wnry (d’Agostini) up there at the time. The wines were old-timey & rustic. Most of the grapes up there were being fed to the pigs. Charlie hooked up w/ KenDeaver to purchase some Zin for his Ho-Made wine. Think it was the '64 vintage. Around '67 or so, Charlie showed his Zin to DarrellCorti, which is where Charlie bought most of his wines. Darrell was blown-away by Charlie’s Zin.

The next year, BobTrinchero was whining to Darrell about the horribly high prices for NapaVlly Zin that went into the SutterHome (not White) Zin. Darrell suggested he contact KenDeaver and in '78, the SutterHome DeaverVnyd Zin was released. It received an amazing reception in the wine world…at least as much as a Zin would receive. And the rest, as they say, is history. I first tasted that SH Zin in the early '70’s, and it was dynamite. I also tasted Charlie’s '68 Deaver Zin, that he gifted me, that was also outstanding. The label was a stripe of brown adhesive tape marked “Zin '68”. Still have it in my collection.

It was sometime in the early '70’s that Charlie went commercial (still teaching English for his day job). He called it Harbor Wnry, in honor of it location on HarborBlvd in the low-rent West Sac district. It was right behind Wingo & Sons Upholstery Shop. I remember walking into this only address, 610 Harbor Blvd, and asking if HarborWnry was near there. The guy directed me around the outside and outback to this unmarked wooden door with no signage of HarborWnry, but I could tell from the smell that (good) wine was being made inside. That was when I first met Charlie & we instantly hit it off.

When I would go to Sac, Darrell would often invite me for dinner and it would almost always include Charlie. He was a very loveable curmudgeon with an acerbic wit. In his later yrs, Charlie became pretty much of a recluse and I didn’t see much of him. The diners always included John, who was Charlie’s officemate at SacCityCollege. At one of these dinners, when Darrell seated us at the table, for apps, he started opening up cans of tuna fish, gave us pencil & paper, and passed the cans around and ordered us to take TN’s on the tunafish. I remember asking Darrell in sort of an annoyed voice…“canned tuna fish”?? Darrell had just been on a trip to Portugal, fell in love w/ their canned tuna, and wanted to taste it on us. He was the first, I believe, to import the As do Mar Portuguese canned tuna. I recall Charlie also being taken aback by Darrell’s app that night. But the Portuguese (and Spanish) tune is far & away superior to the US canned tuna.

In '64, Charlie also made a Peverrella wine from grapes at UC/Davis. At this point in time, UC/Davis was touting this obscure Portuguese white grape as being recommended for making white wine in the CentralVlly, but it never did take off as a wine grape.

Charlie also made one of the first Calif passito wines, from KenDeaver’s very old Mission grape. Unfortified, but harvested late, it was a very sweet dessert wine, labeled Mission del Sol, that aged very well. Much like an oloroso sherry w/o the alcohol. Another of my favorites.

In 1978, the Deaver Zin came in very overripe. Charlie made the wine anyway (think that was the time that he dropped Deaver Zin from his production). It reached a high alcohol level and the fermentation stuck with a fair amount (3%-4%) residual sugar. I remember Charlie tasting Darrell, John, and me on a barrel sample. It was actually a pretty good LateHrvst Zin. But Charlie was ashamed of the wine and commented “I’m really going to have to do a number on my customers to unload this stuff!!”
So he labeled it “Country Style” Zin, in honor of those early Calif wines that had stuck fermentation and sold it for a song. Our group bought some 4-5 cs of CountryStyle.

Often overlooked, Charlie made Chard/Cab/and (pffffttt…in my best BillTheCat accent) Merlot, often from NarsaiDavid’s vnyd. Also Fay Vnyd I believe. I actually like the Merlot as it was not as soft/soupy as NapaVlly Merlot can be. They sold for about half the price (or less) than many of the acclaimed NapaVlly wines…and were just as good. But I never thought he received the recognition that he deserved for them. I think it was his NapaVllt Semillon that first raised my awareness of the great potential that Semillon has in Calif.

His daughter, Margaret Meyers, furnished most of these wines from Charlie’s cellar. I once met Margaret long ago. She had come into Corti’s (the original shop out on FreeportBlvd) to pick up some wine for her Dad. This was afore I’d actually met Charlie, but was already buying his wines. Darrell introduced us over a rack of wines and we shook hands. Then Darrell added “he makes atomic bombs down in LosAlamos”. I can never forget Margaret’s look of horror that crossed her face as she recoiled in disgust!! Don’t think she got any radiation from me, though.

Anyway…the video is a glimpse of history worth viewing. Darrell at his professorial best. And Charlie was one of the best & I’m honored to call him “friend”.


This was a great read Tom and I enjoyed the video - thanks for passing that along!

I have a 75 Deaver zin that I scooped up at auction that I’m looking forward to opening soon. Will be interesting to see if it has any life left in it.

Still have some of the Mission del Sol. Holding onto it as sort of an experiment.

Thanks for the notes, Tom!

Correction from Darrell:
Peverella is a white grape that originated in the Trentino. Probably extinct there now. It’s found a toehold in Brazil. DNA it is identical to Verdicchio in the Marche.

Thanks, Tom.

I have about a case left of random Harbor wines and this post enticed me to open one of the '89 Semillon. Bright golden color, waxy, tea, guava, apple, oak that tastes like corn chips. It’s old but hanging on, I think my previous bottle was a little better but this was better than the bottle before that. Always fun to drink these aged Harbor wines.

Craig Haarmeyer generously opened this bottle when Eric Anderson and I visited him - and a couple of young vintners making their wines at his winery - recently. Craig makes his Haarmeyer Wine Cellars wines in the old Harbor Winery facility in West Sacramento.

Wow, this bottle was amazing! Craig told that there is significant bottle variation - no surprise - and that this was one of the best bottles of this wine that he’s opened in recent years.

63 harbor winery semillon at haarmeyer wine cellars.jpg
64 harbor winery labels at haarmeyer wine cellars.jpg
68 harbor winery labels at haarmeyer wine cellars.jpg

Yup, Ken… Charlie made some pretty incredible wines over the yrs. Old-time basic winemaking. Not surprised this was still good.

Ken, you beat me to the punch. I was going to mention that, while Charlie and his wine label are now gone, the winery is still alive! Craig is making some very cool wines in that little warehouse in West Sacramento.

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Always wanted to try his Mission del Sol, which is made in a very unusual style: Basically a port wine without fortification. Late harvest, and then you add boiled down, syruped grape juice from the same grapes to the ferment to push it as far as possible. Not unusual to be able to hit 18-20 degrees of ABV% using this method, which is about the same ABV as a fortified wine, more or less.

Call Corti’s or hit up Rick. I would not be at all surprised if they have some in stock.

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Good idea! I’ll email Darrell now.

I think I’ve only had one, and it was not a good bottle - hopefully there are better ones out there. Wes Barton’s notes, from a January 2016 tasting of Mission wines at Bryan Harrington’s winery with a few other wine friends:

Re the Harbor Winery Mission del Sol that Philip bought. His was an '86 bought at Corti Brothers. The winery is long defunct. He said he had to sort through bottles to find a good fill level. This bottle had a lot of EA.

mission tasting 4.jpg

I have 1 each of the 86 Mission Del Sol and the 2 Sherry type wines that were bottled after Charlie died. Corti still had all 3 in stock a couple months ago when I was there last. It’s hard to find the right time to open those wines.

Thank you all for reviving this informative thread. I have picked Darrell’s brain over the years and he is an amazing resource. Too bad the posted video is no longer available. Haarmeyer is making a v. nice Chenin Blanc. I think I should familiarize myself with his other offerings.


Many thanks for this! It’s tired, I’m late, I’ll reply in full later when I’m home and compos.

I represented Harbor on the East Coast, a profitless labor of love that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

I remember cooking dinner at Charles’ house, Bob Trinchero criticizing the way I was cooking the lamb chops and then apologizing to me when he ate them.

I lost touch with Charles, sorry to hear that he died and amazed that he was still alive! He must have been at least 90.

Thank you again. I still have a picture in my office of Charles leaning up against a barrel, I will try to remember to post it when I get home.

Dan Kravitz