The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

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The successful story of two vineyards

Real people still make up the world of wine, starting with the winemaker to you, the wine drinker (or, should I say, enthusiast, lover, or consumer?)While there might be some industrialization techniques already employed in the process, there is still plenty of wine made by real people for real people.

And the real fun part is, that wine never stays quite the same. It fluctuates with temperatures, climate and seasons. Vintages are all different and change over the years. It's not a quantifying science that produces good wines; it's more likely a gut feeling of a real person (pun intended) that leads to the creation of great wines.

Here are a couple of the stories behind the wineries and their owners:

HONIG VINEYARD

In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in the heart of the Napa Valley and planted it with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He sold the fruit to neighboring wineries with the dream of retiring one day from his San Francisco advertising business and making wine from his vineyard in Rutherford. Before he could realize his dream, Louis passed away, leaving the estate to his children and grandchildren.

In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, the family rallied together to produce several hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard's old tractor barn. The wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, and thus, the winery was born.

 In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis' grandson, Michael Honig, took over management of the vineyard and winery. With a lot of hard work and a beat up pickup truck, Honig managed to get their Sauvignon Blanc into many fine restaurants in California. In 1987, they began producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. The family business grew with the addition of other family members; and what began as a small garage winery has become a team of people who work collaboratively to run an inspiring and socially responsible business, donating wine to charity auctions all over the country, hosting political and community events at their vineyard, and exploring ways to improve and practice sustainable farming.

WHITE OAK VINEYARD

Born in Los Angeles, White Oak founder Bill Myers worked as a building contractor and salmon fisherman in Alaska. During the 1970's, he relocated to the bucolic town of Healdsburg, California, sold his boat, purchased his first vineyard in the Alexander Valley and began to make wine. With his newly purchased vineyard, a tiny tasting room and wine production facility just off the square in downtown Healdsburg, Myers started making wines and quickly became recognized for producing wonderful Chardonnay, Zinfandel and what was to become White Oak's flagship wine: Sauvignon Blanc.

After winning a bunch of prizes and recognition for his wines, he formed partnerships with Don Groth and Burdell Properties to buy over 750 acres of prime vineyards in Napa Valley and the Russian River Valley; broke ground on this impressive Mediteranean-style winery in the most scenic area of the Alexander Valley; and thus created the current winery nestled amongst seventeen acres of Zinfandel vines dating back to 1929 and 1935.

The small bottling of this old-vine Zinfandel is only available at the winery, but the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and (to me one of the best Napa-) Cabernet Sauvignon are locally available.

Tagged: Wine, Wine Experiments