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California Dreaming

California Dreaming: Stephanie Honig, In the Vineyard of Change

Stephanie Honig lives in Napa with her husband and their children. The family’s winery is known both for the quality of its produce and for its sustainable methods.

Sasha Abramsky

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Photo by Joanne Kim

Stephanie Honig lives in Napa with her husband and their children. The family’s winery is known both for the quality of its produce and for its sustainable methods.


What, for you, is Napa and California, both as places and as states of mind?

There are a few things that set the wine business, and Napa, and California apart. One is the sense of community. I lived in New York, Florida, Philadelphia, Buenos Aires — I’ve never been in a place with such a strong sense of community; people working together, coming together for business, for personal causes, for education, for agriculture, for everything. I want to believe it’s the California way. We all come together, we’ll be stronger.

Napa only produces four percent of the wine made in California; but it accounts for 35 percent of the value. It’s a very small place, but a very prestigious place. There are other great winemaking regions in the world. But people come here for the family story, the quality of the wines and because they love Napa.

Photo by Joanne KimPhoto by Joanne Kim

I feel really, really lucky. I never thought I’d live in a vineyard. I’ve always lived in big cities. It just so happened I ended up dating a guy who ran this family business and moved out here. I hated it here – the quiet and the pace. But now I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We’re known as one of the leaders in sustainable practices. Organics is great, it limits the use of pesticides and herbicides in the vineyard. Our asset here is the land; that’s what we live off. If we don’t take care of it, our kids aren’t going to have it. We feel it is our duty to pay it forward if we can. Going back to the California mentality, there is something to be said about the progressiveness in California “How can we improve, what can we do better?” That mentality of always moving forward. Trying to think out of the box.

We’re a quality winery. We only make sauvignon  blanc and cabernet sauvignon. But we also want to be fun. We take our wines seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I know this little pocket of the world, what it’s best for. The soil resembles the soil in Bordeaux, and Bordeaux varietals grow best here. It gets really hot in the summertime. These varietals ripen very well. So, cabernet is king. Cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petite verdot, and for the white it’s semillon and sauvignon blanc. Chardonnay needs cooler weather; it wouldn’t grow well here. Riesling, pinot noir wouldn’t work well here.

We’ll go out as a group with the staff and pick together. Oh my gosh, it’s very hard work. The guys that do this are super skilled, they’re fast and it’s really hard work. They’re night-picking and delivering in the early morning. They’re getting paid by the box too. It’s exhausting. You’re hunched over a lot. The picking is not as romantic as it’s made out to be. But there’s excitement and there’s harvest and a lot going on. You’re just waiting to see what Mother Nature gives you.

What’s your favorite season?

I love the springtime. Everything just starts blooming. It’s beautiful. All the new growth comes out of the vines. The trees start blooming. Bluebirds are everywhere. It’s exciting. Nature just explodes in the springtime. I’m growing my vegetables and I start planting seeds. I love that time of year. Harvest is exciting, also. You’re at the receiving end of all that, you’re picking and taking, the hustle and bustle. It smells so good. There’s this yeast smell in the air, which I love, from the wineries fermenting grapes; the sugar turns into alcohol with a byproduct of yeast. It smells like home. I love that.

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