Honig Winery is a small family run winery whose first commercial vintage dates from 1984. Initially they made several home wine vintages and after winning a gold medal at the Orange County Fair in Southern California they realized that others enjoyed their wines as well. Their focus is on producing high quality wine from merely two varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. They are located off of the Rutherford Cross Road and like to refer to themselves as the “50 yard line winery of Napa Valley”. If you look on a Napa Valley Wine map you will see that they are pretty much the central point in the valley. The roots of this winery date back to 1964 when Louis Honig first planted his estate vineyard to Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon – two varietals which are still the backbone of their wines. Louis purchased the property from the Wagners (owners of nearby Caymus Winery). Today Louis’s grandson Michael is running the operations.
Tasting depending on the weather is either held inside their elegantly furnished tasting room our outside under the trees. Because of all the trees and their somewhat hidden location this is an ideal spot for a private intimate tasting. Also of note; there used to be a small house where their gravel parking lot currently is and it was here that Chuck Wagner Jr. of Caymus Winery was born (some local valley history!).
Honig produces limited quantities of wine, simply concentrating on a few wines rather than many. As of press time they make three different Sauvignon Blancs, two of which are slightly blended with Semillon and three delicious Cabernet Sauvignons. We enjoy desert wines and for the taste and price their late harvest Sauvignon Blanc cannot be beat. We doubt this will remain aging in our cellar for very long!
The 2007 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc is blended slightly with 10% Semillon and 4% Muscat. In addition this wine sees 30% French oak and 6 months of barrel aging. As a result of this blend and winemaking practices this wine has a nice mouth feel and carries some good weight. The nose is decidedly floral in nature with notes of honeysuckle and passion fruit blossom. Flavors include white peach and pear with lots of fruit lingering on the clean finish.
Two of their Cabernet Sauvignons showcase individual vineyards and it is interesting to taste these wines side by side as the sugars at the time of picking were about the same as well as the actual winemaking regiment. The 2005 Bartolucci Vineyard (Spring Mountain) is 100% varietal. It is a vineyard that grows on the lower slopes of Spring Mountain and does not display a huge mountain backbone as you might find in higher vineyards. It is rounded upon entry and surprisingly soft yet complex. Notes of black cherry, black plum, blackberry and tar are found on the palate.
The 2005 Mitchell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is from a vineyard in western Rutherford growing on the Rutherford benchland. This benchland is not entirely on the valley floor yet it is not directly part of the Maycamas mountains either. It is a raised section of land on the western side of the Rutherford appellation that has formed during millions of years through erosion. As a result, these soils are composed of both gravel and loam and provide excellent drainage. The bouquet on this wine is slightly smoky, earthy and herbal at the same time. It is structured throughout but most importantly the structure is balanced by the rich fruit.
The late harvest Sauvignon Blanc has been picked anywhere from early November all the way through the first week in December. It all depends on the particular vintage. The 2007 vintage is yellow golden in the glass and shows honey and tropical floral notes on the bouquet followed by a rich palate with broad flavors of mango, apricot and honey. This is followed by a long warm finish. Sip this without food in front of a roaring fire in a log cabin in the middle of winter. We’ve done it; Lake Tahoe – all snowed in.
Honig has always practiced sustainable farming and currently employs several cutting edge bio dynamic farming techniques one of which is using sniffer dogs to find harmful bugs among the vines. Golden retrievers have a sense of smell many times more powerful than of a person and they are able to smell the scent given off by particular pests among the actual grape vines. Honig uses solar to power the winery, has a number of owl, bat and bird houses around the vineyards, maintains honey bee hives and uses draught resistant plants for landscaping. In addition their wines are bottled in lighter weight glass saving both themselves and the customer needless costs.
A major annual women’s charity event called Wine Women & Shoes was originally founded at Honig. This is now a national event held in select locations across the USA and has raised nearly 4 million dollars to date for various women and children charities. Honig of course has hosted this event in the past.
The staff is friendly, very knowledgeable and they can recommend other good local wineries and specific wines. If you dislike Chardonnay or know someone who dislikes this common very popular wine be sure to purchase one of their humorous anti-Chardonnay shirts or hats! Unlike many Napa Valley wineries, the tasting fee is applied towards any bottles purchased. They have an excellent website – be sure to visit their creative postcard section where you can pictures and comments as Ecards. Visit: www.honigwine.com