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2010 Best Sauvignon Blanc: Honig Vineyard & Winery

Author: Julie Fadda
May, 2010 Issue

It’s fitting that Honig Vineyard & Winery would win Best Sauvignon Blanc, since that’s always been its specialty. But when its president, Michael Honig, decided to take over management of his family’s vineyard and winery in 1984, he was only 22—and Sauvignon Blanc was anything but “hip.”

“In the mid-1980s, my San Francisco accounts would look at me like I had three heads when I tried to sell them Sauvignon Blanc,” says Honig. “They were all about Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. But I convinced them that, if they were going to put Sauvignon Blanc on their wine list, why not put ours, since it’s our focus.” And it worked.

The winery has since grown from a first vintage of several hundred cases to 60,000 cases today. It produces three Sauvignon Blancs (two traditional and one late harvest) and three Cabernet Sauvignons. Most of the production is for its popular Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

“This is a ‘sitting on the porch’ wine,” says winemaker Kristin Belair, who’s been with the winery since 1998. “The grapes are sourced from St. Helena south. [The end result] has elements of peach, nectarine, grapefruit and hints of herbs. It’s bright, crisp, fruit-forward, with a clean finish.

“Because we get fruit sourced from different areas of Napa Valley, we get different expressions of Sauvignon Blanc flavors that we can blend together,” she says.  

The Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, of which about 1,000 cases are produced, is made with mostly estate fruit. The 2008 is blended with Muscat and Semillon, and about 35 percent of the blend is fermented in new French oak barrels. “It’s more of a White Bordeaux style,” says Belair.

The winery started making Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc in 2000. About 500 cases (at most) are made annually. The grapes are picked when they have botrytis. “The botrytis smells like beeswax, dried apricots and honey. The wine has Sauvignon Blanc flavor characteristics complimented by the botrytis characteristics,” says Belair.

Honig is also focused on being a leader in sustainable practices. It has bird and owl boxes, tractors that run on biodiesel and solar panels (installed in 2006) that power the entire facility. It’s also improving the natural habitat along the edge of the property, including the flow of a nearby river to ensure it’s fish-friendly. The family also has bees on the property and gives honey to winery guests (Honig means “honey” in German, so why not?). “I’m proud we can be a leader in sustainability and show people in other industries how they can change their own businesses to be more green,” says Honig.

Another thing Honig is known for is its fun atmosphere. An example is its annual postcards, which have ranged in themes from Rolling Stone covers to synchronized swimming to iPod advertisements. This year’s “The Pirates of Cabernet” will come out soon.

“I enjoy working here with the dynamic, creative, forward-thinking people who make up the Honig team,” says Belair. “Wine has an extraordinary way of connecting people, places and experiences. It’s always such a pleasure to hear people’s stories that involve Honig wines and know I’m playing a part in creating them.”

Adds Honig, “A huge thank-you [to the readers who voted]. What a great honor to be recognized by people who enjoy our wine. This is one of the best awards we’ve ever received. Our whole team is thrilled to be acknowledged as Best Sauvignon Blanc.”



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