A sweet farewell
HoneyRun Winery owner Amy Hasle on 25 years in the business and moving on
The name HoneyRun for their wine business was a no-brainer for John and Amy Hasle, who launched the endeavor in their garage in 1992, just a mile from the footings of the historic Honey Run Covered Bridge. After all, they made honey—and honeywine. Perfect.
But as with any great story, the HoneyRun Winery’s is coming to a close, incidentally just months after the Camp Fire destroyed its namesake. “I miss her twice a day when I drive in and out,” Amy said during a recent interview inside the HoneyRun Winery.
For owner Amy—John retired years ago—the end is bittersweet. The business was kind to the couple, providing many lasting memories—“they all include drinking,” she joked—and lasting friendships as well.
“There was the time John took Phil LaRocca out alligator paddling and he got his foot all sliced up,” she recounted about a wine industry trip to Florida. “They sort of stretched the truth and said, ‘We think Phil may have gotten bit by an alligator.’ His daughters fell for it. I’m like, ‘You think?’”
“As long as I’ve been involved with LaRocca Vineyards, Amy and John have been part of the local wine scene. We’ve traveled together, we’ve helped each other, and we’ve always supported each other—as wineries and as small businesses,” said Phaedra LaRocca, Phil’s daughter and head of sales and marketing. “They made an excellent mead and berrywine and their label has always represented the history of Butte County. In the wake of the Camp Fire, their label is more significant than ever and I’m really sad to see it go.”
John actually started in the honey business back in 1982, and a few years later began experimenting with honeywine, giving it as gifts to friends and enjoying it at home. He and Amy met in 1989 and started up the winery after getting engaged in the early ’90s. They went through a few flavor changes, but HoneyRun’s bestseller is still blackberry. The cherry and elderberry also are popular. They made mead, too—one infused with cayenne pepper is among Amy’s personal favorites. Around 1995, they moved the business out of their garage and into the warehouse they still occupy (barely) on Park Avenue.
At that point, they were selling honey, wine and pollen. But after a while, the honey demand for their wine business outpaced their hives’ production. “We had a few hives at home, but even they didn’t make it,” Hasle said, referencing the colony collapse disorder that decimated bee populations and, therefore, the honey market. “Now I have too many bears to have hives,” she joked.
The sudden dearth of honey sent HoneyRun whirling. They went from working with three dozen distributors and having their choice of honey in bulk to basically taking what they could get. That made it difficult to maintain consistency. Juice, too, was sometimes hard to come by.
“Getting the juice and getting the honey was getting to be a pretty big challenge. When honey was abundant, and I got to pick 100 of those 1,500 drums, that was nice. Even the honey production crew would come out to me and say, ‘You want this batch,’” Hasle recalled. “As the honey possibilities were shrinking in the past six-seven years, that drove me crazy, trying to get the varieties of honey I wanted.”
Over the past couple of years, the Hasles started looking to sell the operation. Nobody came forward, so they’ve been dismantling bit by bit. They own the warehouse, so they’re hoping to rent it out. John’s post-retirement gig of rehabbing distressed properties is coming in handy—he’s fixing the place up for a future tenant. Hasle says she’d love to see a Paradise business move in.
“It would be very cool if we could even temporarily get someone from Paradise up and running again,” she said.
For her part, Hasle wants to explore a second, ecologically focused career. She was always really proud of HoneyRun’s commitment to using no sulfites or preservatives. Now she’d like to dedicate herself—and her background in chemistry—to selling or creating alternatives to single-use plastic to-go containers, or to studying the breakdown of plastics.
Whatever the future holds, one thing is for sure: The Hasles look forward to spending more time bicycling and enjoying other local wineries now that Amy’s not working at HoneyRun every day.
“We had a lot of really great times,” she summed up.