When you roll up the hill to the winery, it is obvious why the architects opted for an outdoor wine bar.
Views, views, and did I mention the landscape yet? Situated among the rolling hills in the cool, foggy Green Valley, Iron Horse creates a mean glass of bubbly. With three tasting flight choices, there should be a wine for anyone on the list. A Sparkling Flight, a Chardonnay Flight and a Reserve Flight are available to choose from. Still in the Russian River Valley road of Sonoma wineries, it is a local favorite for bubbly.
A small, independent, estate, family owned winery that was spotted by the founding partners in 1976 with only 110 acres of vines planted. The vineyards officially opened in 1979 with an Estate Pinot Noir. As for Sparkling Wines, Iron Horse stands at the top. Having been served at the White House for the past five consecutive presidential administrations, not too shabby.
After the meandering drive to the top of the hill, we were ready to enjoy the wines that Presidents like to sip on. I have been to Iron Horse several times but on this occasion I enjoyed a trip with one of Napa Valley’s finest tweeters, Jacqueline. We had met recently at Flavor Napa’s Appellation Trail tasting. Jacqueline works in the industry pouring for Pine Ridge in Napa but was not as familiar with our Sonoma County wines. What a shame.
Time to educate her on “Real Wine Country”. We planned a girls Sunday get together. Knowing that the girl loved her bubbles, I suggested we try Iron Horse Vineyards and have a lovely dinner afterwards at one of my favorite spots down the road in Graton, Underwood Bistro. She agreed with the itinerary and it was game on.
One of the unique features of the winery is that they do not feature an indoor spot to sip. I wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke but when asking the tasting room manager, I confirmed that the only way to taste at Iron Horse is outdoors. So plan accordingly folks, this is not a tasting room you want to put on the list for a rainy day. The grounds have several different spots to sit and enjoy the views and also a gazebo and small garden around the back which I believe might be for wine club members only.
Time to get to a pour or two……maybe three? Ariana was a lovely host and was able to turn us onto a few of her favorites.
It was nice to get a Napa locals opinion of the tasting as well. Sometimes I like to compare Sonoma vs Napa feuds to the skier vs snowboarder. Jacqueline knows what she likes so we decided on the Champagne flight. After only 3 pours, we decided to purchase a bottle and spend time chatting and catching up while enjoying the views at sunset.
Wines We Tried:
2009 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée
This is Iron Horse’s Blanc de Noirs, made from predominantly Pinot Noir. 2009 will be remembered for its erratic weather. It was hot, cold, mild, hot, cold, hot again. On the upside, the low crop allowed us to micromanage each block, resulting int he particularly expressive and elegant Blanc de Noirs with a perfect “rose petal” color.
2007 Iron Horse Brut Rosé
We bought and might I add enjoyed a bottle of this together. The most vivid and bold of the Iron Horse Sparklings, both in terms of flavor and color. Made mostly from Pinot Noir, the 2007 vintage is bright, full, quite dry with a soft, almost creamy mouthfeel. The gorgeous color comes from letting the Pinot Noir sit on the skins. This vintage is aged four plus years en tirage.
2009 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut
The most traditional of the Iron Horse Sparklings. A “classic” 74% Pinot Noir and 26% Chardonnay, aged an average of four years on the yeast in the bottle. Wonderfully rich and creamy, it sends all kinds of memory bells that say “champagne”, though the fruit is unmistakably Green Valley of Russian River Valley. It is vintage quality in every sense of the word.
The San Francisco Chronicle rated Iron Horse’s “Tasting Room” three stars. “Good bubbly and a great view.” – Agreed.
The winery is proud to produce a limited number of special cuvees for Charlie Palmer, Michael Mina, Bradley Ogden, Commander’s Palace, and Disney. Iron Horse is truly a family affair. Audrey and Barry’s daughter Joy Sterling is the CEO and lives at the foot of the vineyard. *Clink *Clink everyone until the next glass of bubbly.