If you look at a label of any Honig wine, you will find a bee. The honeybee is an insignia of sorts for the Honig family since its name means honey. When people think of honey, many think of sweetness. However, opulent richness comes to mind as well; this is where the wine comes into play. The Honigs only make five wines: two Cabernet Sauvignons, two Sauvignon Blancs, and one deliciously sweet Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine. A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Honig, taste through his elegant wines, and get a better sense of Michael’s winemaking philosophy.
The Honig story starts with Michael’s grandfather Louis, who left the 68-acre estate to the family when he passed. For years, Louis sold his Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes to neighboring farmers. He’d always dreamed of making wine, but his busy schedule in the advertising industry never allowed it. Eventually, the family made a Sauvignon Blanc in homage to Louis, and it ended up winning gold in the 1981 Orange County Fair.
With this success, the Honigs knew they had to take advantage of the land Louis had left them. In 1984, Michael, at the young age of 22, took over the winery, and through hard work and perseverance, created wines that are internationally recognized today.
The day Michael stopped by, he had each of his wines with him, and we tasted through them all. I tried the Sauvignon Blanc first; it had notes of lemon peel on the nose, with a touch of gooseberry. I remarked to Michael that I was happy to see that, unlike other California winemakers, they had kept their Sauvignon Blanc fruity and floral, with moderate acidity, instead of trying to imitate the New Zealand style with high acid and tons of grapefruit. He stated that it was their mission to stay true to the style that has given them such great success.
Next, we tried the barrel-aged Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc. This Sauv blanc was at the opposite spectrum from the first. Blended with Muscat and Semillon for body and floral complexity, this is the wine that Michael says his wine team has the most fun experimenting with. The nose had lemon and orange with white flower, and the mouth-feel was creamy due to six months of aging on the lees (dead yeast cells that add richness to wine). The oak was present but not overpowering.
Their Cabernet Sauvignon is classic Napa Valley: pepper, sage and cassis on the nose; blackberry, black cherry and plum on the midpalate; and vanilla, licorice and baking spice on the finish due to 18 months of oak aging. Wine Spectator just gave it 92 points, making it a steal for under $40!
I was so excited to try the 2007 Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon. 2007 was an amazing vintage in Napa Valley, and when Michael said they had a few cases left, I snatched one up! After trying it, I could see why Wine Spectator gave this cab 93 points. Boasting more depth and complexity than the Napa cab, the Bartolucci expresses dried herbs with black fruits on the nose; silky integrated tannins, with black currant, cherry, and a long cedar finish; and terrific acidity that leaves you wanting more. This is a must have for anyone’s cellar.
Finally, dessert! If your name means honey, you’d better get your dessert wine right. They sure did. It has white flowers and stone fruits on the nose, with layers of honey, dried apricots and minerality on the palate. Mouthwatering acidity creates a perfect balance on the finish.
Michael and his family are immersed in the culture of Napa Valley winemaking and furthering green practices for vineyards. They give back to the land that has made their name world renowned. I love these wines and hope you will too.