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Stephanie Honig makes good in California, Argentina

Honig

     You could headline this column: ‘‘(Sort of) local girl
makes good."

     Stephanie Honig, born in Pennsylvania, spent her formative years in her mother's native Argentina, then came to Miami (she was Stephanie Harwitz then) to earn a hospitality management degree at Florida International University.

     At the same time, she worked at Crown Wine & Spirits' Coral Gables shop with FIU wine professor Chip Cassidy, a mentor who kindled her "raging passion for wine."

    In 2000 she moved to New York to work for Cliquot and Rudd Winery, but selling wine wasn't enough. In 2005, she pulled her savings from the bank and returned to Argentina, where she cast her lot with the Domingo Brothers, who grow the ancient but little-known grape torrontés in the country's far northwest.

     She worked out a blend with them, brought back samples and presold it to the Modern restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art, the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach and elsewhere so she could import a full shipping container of 10,512 bottles.

      In 2006, she moved to California's Napa Valley and married Michael Honig, who runs the vineyard and winery his grandfather founded. She went to work doing public relations, teaching wine classes, raising their baby, Sophia, and the family dog, Raisin. And, of course, selling her Argentine wine.

      "It's all happened pretty fast. I just had to go with the flow."

      She speaks proudly of Honig's efforts at sustainability, a philosophy of caring for the environment that falls just short of organic winemaking. The winery is powered by the sun. It recycles everything. It uses lighter-weight bottles to save resources and shipping costs and erects houses for insect-eating blue birds and tree swallows.

       To avoid using pesticides, Honig uses ‘‘sniffer dogs'' trained to patrol the vines between May and November searching out the sexual scent of the microscopic vine mealy bug, which can wipe out whole vineyards.

        The dogs stand at attention before an infected vine so it can be pulled out before the infection spreads.

        "These puppies, like fine wines, have a good nose," Michael says.

         Stephanie, now 33, came through Miami last week. She's hoping things will slow down a bit, at least in terms of wine. She's expecting their second child.

        "That's going to be my next project."

HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDHonigwine

   • 2007 Honig Sauvignon
Blanc, Napa Valley (97.6 percent
sauvignon blanc, 2.4 percent semil-
lon): crisp lemon-lime flavors with a
hint of ripe peaches; $16.

   • 2007 Sagta Torrontes,
Cafayate, Salta, Argentina: aromas of
white flowers, flavors of pink grape-
fruit and ripe peaches; $8.

RECOMMENDED

    • 2006 Honig Cabernet Sauvi-
gnon, Napa Valley (95 percent
cabernet sauvignon, 3 percent petit
verdot, 2 percent cabernet franc):
rich black cherries and mocha, ripe
tannins, no hard edges; $40.

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