Eagle Haven Winery in Sedro-Woolley has more to offer just wine alone. Now under new management, its grounds also include an event venue and equine therapy nonprofit– and it’s set to grow even more in 2022.
Located in a picturesque valley beneath the Cascades, Eagle Haven has been a major player in Skagit’s wine scene since the ‘60s. In 2021, it was purchased by a seven-person collective including co-owners Melina Zahalka and Ty Bricker. Zahalka comes from a social work background, whereas Bricker is an Army Veteran and previously worked as a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service. They also currently work for Cascade Job Corps as a teacher and program manager, respectively.
After collaborating on a book entitled “Student Success through Micro-Adversity,” Zahalka and Bricker began laying down plans for other ways to directly serve Veterans and survivors of trauma. The result was Range & Gather, a nonprofit focused on equine-assisted and small animal therapy.
It was around this time that they learned that Eagle Haven was coming up for sale. Bricker, Zahalka, and five others (collectively known as the Bughouse Partners) purchased it, and 10 of Eagle Haven’s 41 acres are now also leased to Range & Gather.
“Everybody that’s an investor here is either a truck driver or a teacher, a mechanic, looking to retire, or runs a tractor supply place,” Bricker says. “Everybody’s got jobs, and to be able to pool resources to pull this off was pretty crazy. It has a lot to do with the nonprofit.”
Range & Gather
The winery provides both space and financial stability for Range & Gather. Equine therapy is a major component of the nonprofit’s mission, and Bricker has experienced its benefits firsthand.
“There’s a weird connection we have with human beings with horses, and I’ve seen it,” Bricker says. “I went on, like, 15 combat deployments. And when I came home, the best thing that could ever happen to me was getting on a horse.”
Eagle Haven’s grounds will soon include a horse barn for Range & Gather. They also plan to offer classes, horsemanship education, and day camps.
“[The winery] is an effort to make sure that we can deliver on our mission, which is healing through connection,” says Zahalka. “We want to be able to bring in– especially during the summer months– more community, families, kids, foster kids, and programming that is meant to serve the underserved and the underprivileged.”
Wines on Offer
In addition to more traditional red and white varietals, Eagle Haven is recognized for its fruit wines. This includes wines made from blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries— the latter of which Zahalka cites as a bestseller.
I enjoyed a glass of Zahalka’s favorite red, the 2017 Eagle Haven Sangiovese, during my visit. This medium-to-full-bodied red has a delightfully smoky aftertaste, making it the perfect drink to accompany grilled food or to sip around a campfire.
Eagle Haven also crafts cider, and I sampled a kiwi-apple version. Known as the Bughouse Cider, the blend was fruit-forward and approachable without being overly sweet. Eagle Haven hopes to continue expanding its non-wine offerings, and plans for beer and whiskey are already in the works.
In 2022, Eagle Haven plans to add a pumpkin patch and indoor riding arena to its 10 acres. It also hosts frequent concerts, with names such as The Olson Bros Band having recently graced its stage. In addition, the space is available for private and community rentals.
“What we’ve got to do is get the word out on everything we’re offering– everything we’re doing with the nonprofit, the total acreage here, how there’s so much to offer,” Bricker says. “It’s incredibly beautiful, but we need to brand it. And so our problem is that nobody knows about it.”
Eagle Haven might be a hidden gem for now, but we predict that this will change in the near future. Between its scenic location, family-friendly events, and delicious wine, the winery is poised to become a staple Skagit Valley destination in 2022 and beyond. 8243 Sims Rd., Sedro-Woolley, 360.856.6248, eaglehavenwinery.com