In 2007, Denny and Sandy Stapleton started a new venture in Door County that merged both of their talents and interests, a coffee house. Door County Outpost was a coffee and sandwich shop by day, and host to live music served up with a little beer and wine in the evening. It seemed like a perfect plan; Sandy, a Registered Dietitian and coffee enthusiast and Denny a true music aficionado who is also fond of beer and wine. Coffee drinkers began to arrive at 7:00 am, sandwiches were served in the afternoon and early evenings and then fans of live music, beer and wine hung out until late in the evening. The harsh reality was a very long work day and they started to wonder, “Whoever would come up with a business plan working all those hours?”
A couple years into working the coffee house plan, Denny was lamenting his situation to Brad and Aric Schmiling of von Stiehl Winery. The brothers offered a terrific solution; “Why don’t you just become a winery, we will help you get going.” Denny recalls his first question was, “What are the hours of a winery?” When Brad replied “Oh, about 10 - 6,” Denny’s ears perked up! A light bulb went off when Denny thought about involving his partners from another business venture, Steve and Michelle Purpora.
Turns out, Steve secretly harbored the idea of owning a winery someday! With that, the Outpost changed course dramatically. A handshake between the Stapleton’s, Purpora’s and the Schmiling’s, sealed the deal. A unique friendship was forged, and Harbor Ridge Winery was established in 2010. Although von Stiehl had never been involved financially with Harbor Ridge, to this day they still bottle our wines in Algoma, WI.
At the same time, we planted a vineyard alongside our building. We currently have around 350 vines which produced almost 4,000 pounds in 2018. We use these Marquette grapes for our fortified port type wine called Harbor as well as a blend called Crimes Against Vines and more recently “Cracklin Rosé” our sparkling rose wine.
Although we take our wines very seriously, we like to have fun and hope our guests feel that same when they enter our tasting room. The first two wines introduced in 2010 by Harbor Ridge Winery are still some of our top sellers today. Knockin’ Heads Red, named after the Easter Island statues out front (which is a whole other story) and Mademoiselle, a complex white blend inspired by a Jimmy Buffet song were both launched in our inaugural year. Since then we have introduced many more labels with catchy and funny names such as Gimme One Good Riesling, Call Me a Cab, Crimes Against Vines and many more. A separate facility dedicated to making wine was built in 2012, this gave us the ability to introduce a broad selection of premium barrel aged wines, some which we age for over two years in Old World hand coopered Garbellotto barrels from Italy. As a result of our success we doubled our production and warehouse facilities in 2017. Our winery currently holds approximately 70 barrels and two stainless steel tanks for producing our wines. With a selection of over 20 wines to date, Harbor Ridge Winery offers a variety of award-winning wines that include a selection of sweet, semi-sweet, and dry, barrel aged wines.
While much has changed since the inception of Harbor Ridge Winery, what remains is a small yet vibrant business, where customers become friends and employees become family. We have been blessed with the continued growth of our business and full of gratitude for our wonderful customers, dedicated employees and talented winemaking team. Here is to the future, when we make more history at Harbor Ridge Winery. Cheers!