Every once in a while you come across a couple that are the perfect match. They seem ideally suited for each other, the whole greater than the sum of their parts. As Jerry McGuire would say, they “complete” one another. Female winemaker Kristin Belair and Honig Winery have one of those special symbiotic relationships.
Honig Winery traces its history back to 1964 when Louis Honig bought a 68 acre ranch in Napa Valley, planting it with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon vines. In its early days, Honig focused only on selling grapes to nearby wineries but had dreams of retiring and making his own wine. He sadly passed away before his dream could ever be realized, however his family would ultimately go on to start making wines; a sort of tribute to his legacy.
In 1981 the family produced a few hundred cases of Honig Sauvignon Blanc which they entered in the annual Orange County Fair wine contest. To everyone’s amazement, they took home the gold medal and later that same year, Honig’s future winemaker, Kristin Belair, graduated from U.C. Davis. She began her career at another Napa Valley staple, Trefethen Vineyards.
Belair, like most young winemakers, would start working from the ground up. Below ground, in fact… working in the cellar, as what’s commonly known as a “cellar rat”. In her understated humorous way she explains that during this internship she perfected forklift driving and cleaning tanks. Not exactly the most romantic ideal that winemaking has come to be known for.
In 1985, Belair moved over to Turnbull to begin an “official” winemaking position, producing both Chardonnay and Bordeaux-styled reds.
Finally, in 1998 Belair landed at Honig, starting what remains today a deep connection between winemaker and winery. Kristin Belair’s healthy sense of humor and easy going attitude fits right in with the folks at Honig. Take for example their tradition of yearly themed Christmas cards, which have included “Rock stars”, “Charlies Angels” and “Mermaids by the pool” themes. Belair not only cooperates, but loves the custom.
But don’t let their penchant for humor fool you, these wines are serious.
The 2007 Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which I was fortunate enough to enjoy at a recent female-focused winemaker dinner, is a complex and elegant wine. It features rich black fruit, a hint of sage and creamy vanilla. It’s still young but has silky tannins with a nice, long finish, and can be enjoyed now with a little decanting. The blend of 95% Cabernet, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and .5% Petit Verdot, aged for 18 months in one-third new French Oak. I asked Belair about the reasoning behind adding a miniscule .5% Petit Verdot, to which she explained that yields were extraordinarily low from their vineyard that year. In addition, the flavor profile was such that such a small amount had a greater than expected impact. With about 15,000 cases made, consumers will readily be able to find this wine.
In a word, this wine is “complete”.
Edited by Jon Troutman