Meet Ken and Cynthia Wornick of La Honda Winery
La Honda is a beautiful old-world timber-and-stone winery right in our own backyard.
When we first put our heads together to plan our inaugural Sigona’s Fresh Press Olive Oil Seminar, we knew we had to nail down a venue. There was no way we could fit everyone in the back of our store for with the event we had in mind! As luck would have it, our Redwood City neighborhood is home to the perfect, old-world timber-and-stone winery that opened its doors to us as an event venue. The setting was absolutely perfect for our event.
Ken and Cynthia Wornick of La Honda Winery, our hospitable hosts, helped us tremendously with the event. As La Honda is a regularly rented event venue, they had connections with party rental supply companies and professional parking assistance. Cynthia and Ken also helped with set up and final touches on the day of our event. We couldn’t have done it without them!
La Honda Winery, located at 2645 Fair Oaks Avenue in Redwood City, was established in 1999. La Honda Winery farms estate vineyards throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains — from Woodside in the north to Saratoga in the south. Ken, La Honda’s wine maker, helps oversee the entire wine making process. Every vineyard is sustainably farmed in order to assure natural soil and vine health, and no heavy equipment ever enters their vineyards. Ken, who began his career as a geologist, later received his M.B.A. and has also completed numerous extension courses with the viticulture and enology departments at U.C. Davis. A combination of his affinity of the earth as a geologist, along with a deep appreciation for what grows and flourishes in the soil in our Bay Area, led to the creation of La Honda’s fantastic and award winning wines.
We’re excited about the relationship we’ve formed with La Honda Winery and consider our quick connection to be driven by the fact that we both operate under a motto similar to La Honda’s: “Grow Local, Produce Local, Sell Local.”
We asked Ken and Cynthia a few questions so we could share a bit more information about their business, their wine, their beautiful tasting room and their space as a venue for different events
Here’s the Q & A:
When are you open for public tastings? La Honda is open to the public on the third Saturday of every month. Next dates are 8/21, 9/18, 10/16, 11/20 and 12/18. Each “Open Saturday” features a new wine release, a celebrity chef, or a harvest party. We’re also open a few times a year just for all of our wine club members.
The winery has several special events, such as one last month which was advertised as featuring “Two local wineries pouring great wines, a local taqueria, and a hot date!” How do people find out about these events and can anyone come? Our special events are announced only to our e-mail list; a simple sign-up can be found at http://www.lahondawinery.com/mailinglist.html
Your space is available for rent – are you open to any event? Weddings, seminars, business meetings, etc? La Honda Winery has a capacity of approximately 100 guests and plays host to varied events including, but not limited to, corporate team building, meetings, seminars, celebrations and gatherings of all types. If you can dream it up, we will make it happen.
What’s the best way to connect with you for wine club info, venue rentals and tastings? There is a lot of information on our website www.lahondawinery.com or you can give us a call at: 650.366.4104
Tim Simmers of the San Mateo County Times recently wrote a terrific article about you and La Honda Winery that takes a deep dive into your roll and how the winery operates. May we provide the article for our customers? Yes, certainly!
Here it is:
Urban Winery in Redwood City Offers Unique Experience
By Tim Simmers
For the San Mateo County Times
REDWOOD CITY — Ken Wornick’s budding urban winery stands out like a jewel in this hardscrabble neighborhood sometimes called “Little Mexico.”
The Spanish-style interior is charming and earthy, even elegant. But it’s far from the lovely rolling hills and countryside of other area wineries, which attract well-heeled wine tasters to their peaceful surroundings.
The question is: Can sophisticated wine lovers be counted on to venture into an area known for its great tacos, cheap car-repair shops and ramshackle houses to sip their favorite nectar?
“I hope people come through the front door and are transformed,” said Wornick, the winemaker for La Honda Winery and a part owner.
The winery sits in an old industrial building with a tin roof off Middlefield Road on the border of the North Fair Oaks neighborhood. Inside there’s a cowboy-style handmade tasting bar from Mexico, a temperature-cooled room for aging wine in oak barrels, and lush color photos of the vineyards Wornick tends.
Wornick, who grew up in Burlingame and still lives there, started the winery after developing small vineyards for affluent people around Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills. Most of these vineyards are one- or two-acre plots owned by people who made their money in Silicon Valley.
His landowner partners — he now has more than 20 — aimed to start backyard vineyards in the hope of producing wines rivaling those produced in Napa Valley. They hired Wornick to plant the grapes, tend the vines and make the wine in what is known as the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.
These days, Wornick makes wine from these grapes for his La Honda Winery as well as the personal labels — Quarter Moon Vineyard and Silent Hills Vineyard, for instance — of the landowners.
“I’m trying to grow great grapes and make great wine,” said Wornick, a former geologist who got tired of traveling to digs and yearned for a career change. He went back to school and wrote his master’s thesis on grape growing.
Wornick, 52, crushes the fruit outside behind the winery, where he has a sloping terra cotta backyard with a drain in the middle and large bins for the grapes. He grows the grapes organically.
La Honda’s flagship wine is cabernet sauvignon. But Wornick also makes pinot noir, Sangiovese, sauvignon blanc and others. He mixes old-world, handcrafted winemaking styles with some modern equipment.
His landowner partners appear to be reveling in being involved in the process of growing grapes and making wine.
“He’s made my dream come true,” said Rebecca Schneider, who lives in the Los Altos Hills and has an acre of mostly syrah grapes.
Wornick makes several hundred cases a year for Schneider, who loves “taking sugar readings” on her crop and getting lessons in grape growing by watching and working with Wornick.
Schneider also enjoys tracking the seasons, following the flowering of the vines and watching the buds burst open. The buds are coming on strong now, she said.
Charlie Perrell calls his land a “gentleman’s” vineyard because he doesn’t want to do all the work. Perrell brought in Wornick to plant his Silent Hills Vineyard in Los Altos Hills.
“Ken brings in the brains and muscle, and he and his staff farm it,” said Perrell, a retired high-tech executive. “I do some pruning, and we harvest the grapes and he makes the wine.”
The part Perrell loves the most is the cabernet sauvignon wine that comes from his own vineyard. He shares it with family and friends.
“(Ken) has done a first-class job of creating the look and feel of a winery,” said winemaker Brian Caselden of Woodside Winery. Caselden is watching La Honda Winery’s urban story closely.
Woodside Winery’s property was sold recently, but not the business. The winery is relocating to a warehouse in an industrial park off Highway 101 at Marsh Road. The grand opening is Memorial Day weekend.
Wornick shares ownership of the winery with Don Modica and his wife, Julie, of Modica Landscaping, which is next door to the winery. Modica’s landscaping crew does much of the picking and heavy labor.
Don Modica designed the winery, and he owns the ranch in La Honda on which some of the La Honda estate vines sit. That’s how the winery got its name.
Wornick sells La Honda wines at tastings and at a few retailers, including Piazza’s Fine Foods in San Mateo and Palo Alto and Roberts Market in Woodside. The winery makes about 1,000 cases a year. John Akeley, wine buyer at Roberts Market, pointed out that Woodside and the surrounding area have long produced wines comparable to those originating in Napa Valley.
“That goes back over 100 years, so the idea that Santa Cruz Mountains wines are second rate compared to Napa Valley is wrong,” he said.
Wine tastings at La Honda Winery take place the third Saturday of every month. The next one is May 15.