Larry and Kim Harris, Owners of Bayernmoor Cellars,
Developed a Love for Wine as Soon as They Started Dating
Now, that love affair includes an estate vineyard in Stanwood,
Washington and a state-of the art tasting room in Woodinville.
By Mark Storer
Larry Harris was something of a visionary with an acute sense of attention to detail even before he thought of making wine. A self-described “nerd of nerds,” with a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a degree as a patent attorney, Harris and his wife, Kim, whom he met at Santa Clara Law School, began a love affair with wine almost as soon as they started dating.
“We lived in San Francisco, and before we had children, we did the whole Napa and Sonoma experience on weekends while we were there,” Harris explained. After their children were born, they decided they wanted to live near family and moved to Washington to be closer to Kim’s side of the family.
Having moved to Seattle, Harris worked at Amazon helping establish the company’s patent operations, and eventually started a virtual law firm pre-Covid…before anyone considered that virtual work was even “a thing,” He succeeded in bringing together a team of attorneys and working with clients nationwide and internationally. That proved to be a lucrative move, and it set the stage for the family’s move north of Seattle to Stanwood.
“Kim’s parents bought this property when it was an old abandoned dairy farm back in the 80’s,” said Harris. “Kim grew up in what is now the production facility for the winery while they built the main house, and she left for college before they finished it.” By the time the Harris’s moved back, Kim’s parents were interested in transitioning the property to the next generation rather than split up the land and sell it off. “I worked virtually, so we decided to move to the estate to keep it in the family,” Harris said.
The 100-acre estate with a large house on it became yet another project for the Harris’s to turn their attention to, one that they intended to hand down to the next generation of their family. The primary need was to find a use for the land, and the couple’s love of wine made the thought of vineyards a natural one.
“We were in a position to grow and maintain the property, so we worked with Washington State University analyzing what we could do here,” Harris said. “They dug some soil samples and set up some weather stations out on the property and came back with some ideas.” The acreage sits at 700 feet of elevation in the north end of Puget Sound in Stanwood. The analysis of the land stunned the Harris’s.
“They came back and told us we could very likely grow Pinot Noir in this microclimate. We have the right soil characteristics, the right heat units and the weather pattern is very similar to Burgundy. We’re 700 feet up, and we have a warm spot in a colder climate, which is what Pinot Noir likes,” Harris said. “We’re above the marine fog layer, and we’ve planted on a south facing slope.” Six acres of Pinot Noir clones 777 and Précoce, which are grafted onto rootstock, now occupy the estate vineyard.
Harris came into winemaking with the same studiousness he put into law, with a love for learning and the aforementioned habit of attention to detail. He did online classes in enology at UC Davis soaking up as much knowledge as he could. He worked with winemaker Brian Carter of Brian Carter Cellars to learn more about what he and Kim wanted, which was an old-world style of winemaking. “We showed Brian what we were working on, and he spent a day with us. It was a good deal, and we did our production with him at his facility and he really lent his expertise to us.”
Bayernmoor is named for what Harris calls, “an homage to the German and Dutch roots of our family. Kim’s parents made up the name. Her father has German roots, and Bayern is a reference to the forests of Bavaria. Her mom has Dutch roots and Moor honors all the moorlands in Holland.”
The estate is solely planted with Pinot Noir, and that’s all the couple wants to grow. They do source grapes for several other wines from other vineyards in Washington, including some Pinot Noir from Celilo Vineyard on Underwood Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge.
Harris’s attention to detail has created the habit of tracking everything that is done in both the vineyard and the winery. “It’s how I’m wired, and so I track every little detail of every little thing in every little barrel we produce,” he said. “It’s also a part of experimenting. We keep track of what works, and what doesn’t and that’s part of improvement. In the vineyard, for example, there are at least four rows where we’re trying something new every year, much to my vineyard manager’s chagrin.” Harris said he doesn’t get out to the vineyard as often as he would like, since he’s mostly in the winery production facility as well as continuing to manage his law firm. “But I still track everything we do,” he said.
The Harris’s didn’t start off wanting to grow Pinot Noir. “We were much more Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers and collectors, having lived near Napa. We knew we wanted to plant red wine grapes, and Pinot Noir is the only major red varietal you can grow on the west side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington,” said Harris. “The first vintages that came out of our vineyard here didn’t impress, and we sold those off. It wasn’t until 2017, with Brian Carter’s help, that we released our first commercial vintage.”
The Harris’s made a point of setting up a tasting room in Woodinville, WA., that was welcoming and warm, with a sense of old-world sensibility and yet a modern edge. “The main thing about wine is that it should be fun, welcoming and served in an enjoyable social gathering.” They wanted to pair the wines thoughtfully with small bites of food that was intentionally prepared. So they hired Chef Tori Barr to create a menu to match the wines they poured, so that in tasting, customers can choose to have food with each taste, or taste the wine independently.
“Kim and I have experience running small businesses, and so we had the infrastructure set up, and could offer a healthcare plan and a retirement plan,” Harris said. “We wanted to hire full-time staff, and created that culture of treating the team like a family.” Kim set up a training program for employees, and so the tasting room is staffed by knowledgeable, creative people, Harris said. “When I go there, I still let them talk about the wine and the food. And the team knows that piece really well.”
In addition to a number of Pinot Noirs, including several exclusively estate wines and a “white Pinot Noir”, along with several sourced from other vineyards, Bayernmoor features Rosé, Albariño , Chardonnay, and several Cabernet Sauvignons. “This is the first business that Kim and I have built together, and that means a lot to me,” said Harris. “She does the training, writes the newsletter, she works with Chef Tori because she’s a fantastic cook herself, she designed and rungs the tasting room, so this is very much a family business for us and it’s so much fun to do.” The Harris’s children are also part of the winery, and the couple hopes to pass it on to them and their families as well.
“We both have similar palates,” Harris said. “So we do final tastings together before bottling and compare our notes. Before we blend, we go through each barrel and decide what we like, and how it’s going to blend with other barrels, so it’s very much a collaborative effort.”
As of this writing, the Seattle and Washington State Wine Awards have named Bayernmoor as one of its Fantastic Four Wineries of the Year. Building on its already award-winning wines, Bayernmoor continues to build a unique profile of Western Washington Pinot Noir, and quality hand-crafted Washington wines. Harris said his hardest problem is getting enough sleep, adding: “I wake up every day excited for what we get to do.”
Bayernmoor’s Woodinville tasting room is located at 17140 135th Ave. N.E., Woodinville, WA. 98027. Phone: (425) 216-3300. If you’re not able to get to Woodinville this fall to taste Bayernmoor’s wines in person, you can purchase all of the winery’s current releases by visiting: www.bayernmoor.com/Wine/All-Wine.
The best way to experience Bayernmoor’s wines is to join one of the winery’s two wine clubs — Cru and Grand Cru. Wine club benefits include: Access to Bayernmoor wines prior to public release; complimentary tastings for two in the Woodinville tasting room; the option to customize each wine club release; early access to all wines, including special bottlings and Bayernmoor’s Pinot Noir Reserve; the option to select tasting room pick up, Estate pickup, or flat rate shipping for Club releases; flat rate shipping on all orders; invitations to club-only Bayernmoor events in the tasting room and at the Bayernmoor Estate Vineyard; Priority placement on volunteer list for harvests; no fee to join. Club members are simply charged for the wines at each release minus club-member discount, plus applicable taxes.
For more information about joining Bayernmoor’s wine clubs, visit: www.bayernmoor.com/Wine-Clubs.