Who would come to Napa Valley for honey tastings? No one! We did not really taste honey, but we did taste wine at a winery whose name means “honey” in German. What is “honey” in German, you ask? Honig. And that’s where we found ourselves a few days ago, at Honig Vineyard & Winery in the town of Rutherford. It was not our first visit (or even second) to Honig, but friends from out of town had never been and we knew they would enjoy the beautiful outdoor patio, the friendly staff and the wine.
One of the things that we really enjoy about Honig is that there is in fact a real-life Honig at the winery. Owner Michael, the third-generation Honig at the helm, can often be seen at the winery talking to guests and, as was the case when we visited, trying to herd a couple of his smaller children as they ran around the winery property. In a valley where more and more wineries are being established or acquired by giant global beverage mega-firms, it is most definitely quaint and encouraging when we encounter family owned wineries.
When we sat down for our tasting, we had a pretty good sense of what we would be tasting from our prior visits. Our friends, though, were making their first visit to Honig and were expecting to start with Chardonnay, the typical starter for many of the Valley’s tasting menus. At Honig, though, you will not find any Chardonnay; it’s actually a point of pride for them and perhaps even a motto.
Soon after moving to Napa Valley, we became members at Honig and started receiving shipments of their wine. Perhaps our favorite part of becoming a member was getting the hat in the picture above. It was definitely a conversation starter everywhere we went, ranging from supportive agreement to bitter and vehement opposition. Personally, we do not have any thing against Chardonnay and drink it often and at home, restaurants, and other wineries. Buy we also understand the thought behind the slogan:,there is enough Chardonnay in Napa Valley already, let’s focus on some other white varietals. In Honig’s case, this would be Sauvignon Blanc. Owner Michael Honig is a tireless advocate for his wines and travels far and wide to get the word out about them and support sales and distribution. Their Sauvignon Blanc can be found in many restaurants, wine stores and supermarkets across the United States, a quality wine at a very affordable price.
At Honig we started with the Sauvignon Blanc and proceeded to a couple of reds and ended with one of our all-time favorite dessert wines.
After the Sauvignon Blanc we tasted two Honig Cabernet Sauvignon offerings: their 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet and their 2012 Vyborny Vineyard Cab. If you look closely at the tasting menu above you can see that the first Cab is half the price of the second. This should not, however, lead anyone to conclude that the Honig Napa Valley Cab is not worthy of attention or tasting. On the contrary, the 2014 offering was a nice example of Napa Cabernet with balance and texture. The 2012 Vyborny Vineyard offering also lived up to expectations and a notch or two above the 2014 Napa Cab due to its silky texture and greater richness on the palate.
Like all previous Honig tastings, our most recent ended with the 2015 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. This wine lives up to the meaning of “Honig” – honey.
Many dessert wines end up being overly sweet and simply taste like syrup. Don’t get us wrong, the Honig Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is certainly sweet – that’s why we think of it as honey. Complementing the sweet, though, are multiple layers of flavor that you will get with each sip. This is a wine that either one of us could easily consume in a single sitting …and regret it quickly, given the high sugar content (over 25%).
Over three years had passed since our first visit to Honig and our understanding of wines and our palates have developed considerably. Nevertheless, we enjoyed Honig as much on this most recent visit as the first time due in large part to the wine but also to the service and culture at the winery: laid-back, friendly, open and genuinely interested in their guests. As he has on previous visits, Michael Honig came by the table for a brief chat and then corralled his two youngest kids and wrangled them towards their house. The Honigs live on the estate right behind the winery, which we imagine contributes to their desire to create a hospitable and harmonious vibe for their guests.
As summer approaches and the flood of friends and family to Napa Valley intensifies, we anticipate more trips to Honig this year.
John & Irene Ingersoll
May 1, 2017