Honig Vineyard and Winery Review
Address: 850 Rutherford Rd. Rutherford,California 94558.
Phone Number: 800-929-2217
Tasting Hours: By appt. 10:00-4:30
Region: Napa Valley AVA, Rutherford AVA, California
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 7/23/2016
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Michael Honig stepped casually into the room dressed in a sport coat and blue jeans, his hair ever so slightly mussed, the faintest beginnings of a five oclock shadow beginning to form upon his jawline as the afternoon progressed; he was the quintessential image of the Napa Valley, the combination of a down-to-earth agriculturalism that exists all over the continent and a multimillion dollar juice fermentation industry that requires men like Michael to exist simultaneously in both worlds, perhaps walking the vineyards in the morning, and doing less desirable things like meeting with persistent journalists in the afternoon. The head of his familys winery, Michael was clearly at home in both of these worlds. A soft-spoken man with a keen intellect and a passion for what he does to match his knowledge of the industry, Ive met few who are better suited to walk the line between these worlds.
Sunlight made its way in through the tasting room windows, while outside it warmed the vineyard and urged the fields of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc along. It cast shadows along the walls of the second-story room in which we were seated comfortably and dried the mud that was the product of an ongoing construction project that made it all but impossible to get to the winery during the summer of 2016. Michael had my full attention, and he used it to tell me the Honig story.
In 1980, Michaels parents planted Sauvignon Blanc in memory of his grandfather, Louis, who had purchased the property in the 1960s, before the Judgment of Paris and the industry boom that accompanied it in 1976. In 1983, with the popularity of the valley skyrocketing and, along with it, the property values, his family decided to sell the land. It was then that Michael persuaded his father to allow him to leave school to try to sell wine. At first, people laughed at him when he told them wanted to sell Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay being the more popular white wine offering at that time, but Michael persisted, working relentlessly to sell the product of his grandfathers land, and eventually people began to realize that his was a product of exceptional quality, and they began to buy it.
Today, winemaker Kristin Belair has the liberty to focus solely on two varietals, Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc, and she has nearly perfected both. The wines offered at Honig are beautiful, sustainably-farmed testaments to a laser focus combined with a cheerful, laid-back family environment. We play to our strengths, and one of our strengths, I think, is family, Michael told me, sipping at a taste of his exceptional estate Cabernet. He passed me a deck of postcards, silly parodies of television shows and other pop culture references, featuring the winery staff and Honig family dressed up in different outfits, which he told me they often mail to wine club members. We like to keep it fun around here, explained Michael. I thumbed through the postcards, chuckling at some, and with Michaels blessing stuck a few in my satchel to take home.
This lighthearted atmosphere and Michaels casual personality made a visit to the elegant Honig tasting room feel more like visiting an old friend than interviewing a winemaker. Michael, of course exceedingly busy with the day to day operations of running a winery, nevertheless somehow managed to give me the impression that he had all the time in the world as we chatted away the afternoon. His right leg crossed over his left, sitting back in a chair, Michael talked about how the winery sees visitors. With permits to see 100 people a day, they try to offer a personal experience to every guest. I didnt want people to belly-up to anything, Michael explained. I wanted them to be seated as if they were guests in our home. Thats how I felt, and I would imagine how any visitor to the winery will feel. Its a rare thing, and truly a pleasant experience.
The Honig winery, like the Honig family, walks a fine line between the rural agricultural nature of growing grapes, and the upscale industry that is Napa Valley viticulture. With an annual case production of 60K, two-thirds of which is the Sauvignon Blanc Michael had to fight to keep so many years ago, Honig offers food-friendly wines that are priced affordably by Napa Valleys standard, yet constantly earning accolades. Delta just put our wines on their international first class menu, Michael told me, perhaps blushing slightly. Hes proud of his winery, proud of the wines they produce, and proud of his family, as well he should be. If you look at wine in Napa over the past twenty-five years, were making a product that competes on the worlds stage. Take all the romance out of it. Thats something Im really proud of my name is on the label.
Address & Contact Information:
850 Rutherford Rd.
Tasting Hours: By appt. 10:00-4:30.
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