In 1964, San Francisco ad man Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre vineyard in Napa Valley that was planted with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. He began to develop the property, meanwhile selling fruit to other winemakers, and his hope was to make wine himself once he retired.
Sadly, Louis Honig died before he could realize that dream, but the property stayed in the family. In the 1980s production began in a modest way under the Honig Vineyard & Winery label, and in 1984, Michael Honig, Louis Honig’s grandson, took over operation—when he was only 22 years old.
The winery has continued to grow, and in addition to producing red, white, and rosé wines, the company has a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture, too. They have programs in place that promote the vineyard as a good habitat for bees, bats, and birds—natural solutions that are far more gentle on the plants than pesticides and fertilizers. Extensive use of solar panels save the business $42,000 per year in electrical bills.
And perhaps the most novel idea to come out of Honig’s commitment to sustainability is their pioneering use of specially trained Golden Retrievers to sniff out the vine mealy bug. This is an invasive pest that damages the vines and causes mold problems, and dogs’ sensitive noses can detect the barest hint of pheromones produced by the female bugs. Using dogs in the vineyard means farmers can treat specific vines without having to engage is mass spraying of pesticides.
I recently asked Honig to name five wines that have really connected with him. “I am a big fan of drinking wines made by neighbors or friends,” he told me. “I like to support the home team!”
2012 Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc | 12.8% ABV | $22
“Made by Jenny Wagner—and I believe it’s her first vintage! Nice balance between acid and minerality with aromas of pear, lime, and grapefruit.”
2013 Regusci Stags Leap District Rose
100% Merlot | 14.2% ABV | $24
“With flavors of watermelon, strawberries, and melon, it just reminded me of a beautiful summer day.”
2011 Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir | 13% ABV | $65
“Spice aromas complement rose and lavender. The wine has a beautiful velvety mouth feel.”
2012 John Anthony Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc | 14.5% ABV | $22
“Ripe melon flavors with nice round mouthfeel.”
2013 Adelsheim Pinot Gris
Willamette Valley, Oregon
100% Pinot Gris | 13.5% ABV | $19
“One choice that came from beyond Napa. Nice creaminess with lots of pear, papaya, and apple notes.”