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Iron Horse Blog

Joy Sterling
 
June 5, 2017 | Joy Sterling

We've Got Grapes!!!


Hey June 🎵,

l am very proud to be flying to London for the prestigious Decanter Magazine "Exploration of International Sparkling Wines" - initially a PR and marketing dream, now tragically a point of pride in defiance of terror.
 
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the victims from Saturday's attacks. As the Brits say: Keep calm and carry on.


 
You can click here to see the catalog. Iron Horse and Schramsberg are the two American producers. 

By my way of thinking, once in London, I am half way to Africa. So, I am going to see our cousins, the mountain gorillas in Uganda. It is thrilling to get a notification from the airline that says: "Your flight to Entebbe is approaching ..."
 
I am told it will be a very emotional experience - primate to primate. Gorillas are, after all, family. We will be tracking them on foot from a base camp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. There are just 600 left in the wild. 
 
Also very exciting, our Estate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and 2013 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs are being featured at National Geographic's Explorers Symposium in Washington DC.



Here at home, we've had bloom ... and now grapes, which over the course of summer will size up and become filled with delicious flavors.


photo: LG Sterling 
 
We are bottling the 2016 Sparklings to be laid down for the next three, four and in the case of Joy! at least 12 years en tirage. In the meantime, we are releasing our first wine from vintage 2016 - our very delicious 2016 UnOaked Chardonnay


photo: Shana Bull 

The timing couldn't be better as we have been sold out of the prior vintage for months.

We have some fun events coming up:

World Oceans Day 


 
They say the ocean deserves its own day; we at Iron Horse like to add that the ocean deserves its own bubbly! Please join us in a toast with our 2013 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs. We are offering a complimentary tasting for everyone who comes to the Tasting Room wearing blue on June 8. Remember, we are "by appointment" for tours and tastings.

Ocean Reserve is a special limited production Sparkling Wine created in partnership with National Geographic. $4/bottle goes to help restore the ocean's health and abundance.
 
Summer of Love Garden Party, exclusively for Wine Club Members


Please join us Sunday August 6 for our annual Wine Club garden party at the home of Iron Horse co-founders Audrey & Barry Sterling. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, so be sure to wear flowers in your hair. 11a to 1p.  Limited to 60 guests. Club Members price $50/person. 

Share the love (and a glass or two of 2013 Wedding Cuvee) with Audrey & Barry as they celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. Click here for more details.

A very special toast! And all best wishes,

Time Posted: Jun 5, 2017 at 2:36 PM
Tarin Teno
 
October 12, 2016 | Tarin Teno

Sabers & Bubbles -- A Brief History

 
 
The Iron Horse “marketing ” team is lean, to say the least, but we think big and are quick to move on a great idea.  A new product launch becomes part of an illustrious and dynamic legacy. Standards are high, and family expectations are higher. So when Joy informed me that Iron Horse would be releasing a new gift item, I was intrigued. That curiosity grew to excitement when I discovered that item would be a saber. Shiny and beautiful but also useful and extremely efficient towards the end goal of unleashing delicious bubbles. An engraved saber that comes in a branded wood box is the perfect accompaniment to Iron Horse Sparkling Wines.
 
I jumped at the chance to understand why Joy selected this particular item to add to the family’s special cache of Iron Horse offerings. Maybe because my wedding party sabered bottles to fuel a champagne tower at our reception or maybe because sabering is enjoying a pop culture renaissance ....  either way, I dove in. Which required research. My mini investigation transformed me briefly into my AP World History student-self, this time with the joys of the internet and none of the dust of the library. The discoveries were as enchanting as the sunrise in Green Valley and as rooted in French history as the winemaking methods at Iron Horse.
 

 

The lore of sabering takes different turns depending on your source. Most agree it all starts with Napoleon. After the French Revolution of 1789, The Napoleonic Wars raged across Europe. Napoleon’s soldiers mounted fast horses and dressed in lavish uniforms. Oil paintings depict young men in long cloaks with furs draped over broad shoulders. Most importantly, they were armed with rifles … and brass handled sabers. Early victories came easily for this force, who charged home through villages where revellers tossed them bottles of Champagne.
 
But it seems riding a horse while fumbling with a bottle secured with cork, wire cage and foil-wrapping didn’t fit the dashing portrait of Napoleon’s men. So they improvised, discovering that a quick stroke of a saber blade to the neck of the bottle both released the “drink of the stars” and did so in a decidedly heroic fashion. The upturned bottle with a dangerously sharp tip added to the overall vision of youthful brashness and celebration.
 
 
The  “Widow” Clicquot makes an appearance in accounts of saber lore. This famous female Champagne house owner symbolises quite a bit for the women of Iron Horse (a story for another blog). But in this context, the story goes that the savvy business woman opened her mansion to Napoleon’s officers and then  armed them with her bottles on their way back into battle. Wishing to display gratitude, or perhaps hoping to capture the fancy of the wealthy lady, the young men would perform the saber ritual for her before racing back to the front lines. Swoon.
 
It is comforting to me that the best things through history seem to endure. And that is truly the case with sabering. I caught up with several Iron Horse friends who were happy to chat saber etiquette and procedure. Meet Master Sabreuse Catherine Fallis aka the Grape Goddess, Master Sommelier David Glancy founder of San Francisco Wine School, Brad Kinder of Kind Wines, who represents Iron Horse through Florida, and Petra Polakovicova, Wine Director at Epic Steak in San Francisco. All have a slightly different take on the art of the performance. But all share their concern for safety above all else.
 
 
David Glancy explained, “Sabering really started out as a quick and dirty tactic. You used a sword or knife or a blunt object to knock off the neck of a champagne bottle. It started with Napoleon’s troops who employed this method very sloppily I’m sure. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.” He told us that the key to the whole show is to get the champagne REALLY cold. Especially the neck. We’re talking ice bath cold, completely submerged for at least an hour.
 
David emphasized this point saying, “Bottles DO explode. I’ve gotten very tiny shards of glass in my wrist and in my neck even from what seemed to be perfect sabering.” Catherine Fallis is also a fanatic about the well-chilled, near-frozen temperature in her sabering performances. Our favorite Grape Goddess added that she prefers magnums, which are easier to take contact with along the seam to the lip. And she reminds us the sabering is an unright motion, not a downward “decapitation” (an appropo reference when speaking of the French Revolution).
 
Michael Rosati Photography
 
But if all goes well you can be assured that party goers will clamor for more. It seems to put a punctuation mark on the event. As Brad Kinder told us, “Bubbles are the beverage of celebration and nothing really kicks it off in a better way than sabering the bottle. It draws attention and is super cool especially for people who have never seen it before.” He went on to say, “It’s showmanship and that’s what bubbles are all about. It’s a perfect pairing.” Do not try this at home, but Brad has been know to “saber” a bottle using the bottom of a wine glass.  “The danger and the uncertainty of success adds to the fun. I’ve sabered many bottle but I always get an adrenalin rush.”  
 
Taking a risk on an innovative approach can be the most powerful strategy.  If this YouTube video involving a golf ball doesn’t make you jump out of your chair, I don’t know what will.
 
However you decide to go about it, here are some performance and safety MUSTs which I gathered from our experts:
 
 
  • Pre-planning is key.
  • The bottle needs to be as cold as it can be before the wine turns to slush.  That “tames” the bubbles. With a warm bottle, the cork is likely to fly out.
  • Wear protective eyewear, sunglasses are a dramatic, easy option.
  • Some experts recommend gloves. Our friend Catherine Fallis favors opera gloves for protection disguised as glamour.
  • Crowd control is a must. Select a safe space with a clear opening, set up something to aim for, and make sure people aren’t in your path.
  • Aim at something soft which might absorb the impact … or the great outdoors.
  • Common sense should also lead you to remove the wire cage from the neck, to avoid a boomerang effect.
  • Taking off the cage is the most dangerous part - remember it has the power to take your finger off with it!
  • The maneuver is not about force … or even a sharp edge.
  • In fact, a butter knife will work.
  • They key is to run the saber along the seam of the bottle, hitting the neck at just the right angle.
  • A smooth, clean stroke works best.
  • Form is everything.
 
Petra Polakovicova presides in a well-known dining room and can attest to the celebratory vibe created by even a traditional pop of the cork. But she too is moved by the elevated experience  of the  sabering ritual. “Sabering adds drama. When you open bubbles with a sword, there’s an anticipation. The anticipation of something really cool.”
 
In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it. -Napoleon

Welcome to the family, Iron Horse saber, Sebastopol Edition.

 

Time Posted: Oct 12, 2016 at 1:44 PM
Tarin Teno
 
October 12, 2016 | Tarin Teno

Sabers & Bubbles -- A Brief History

 
 
The Iron Horse “marketing ” team is lean, to say the least, but we think big and are quick to move on a great idea.  A new product launch becomes part of an illustrious and dynamic legacy. Standards are high, and family expectations are higher. So when Joy informed me that Iron Horse would be releasing a new gift item, I was intrigued. That curiosity grew to excitement when I discovered that item would be a saber. Shiny and beautiful but also useful and extremely efficient towards the end goal of unleashing delicious bubbles. An engraved saber that comes in a branded wood box is the perfect accompaniment to Iron Horse Sparkling Wines.
 
I jumped at the chance to understand why Joy selected this particular item to add to the family’s special cache of Iron Horse offerings. Maybe because my wedding party sabered bottles to fuel a champagne tower at our reception or maybe because sabering is enjoying a pop culture renaissance ....  either way, I dove in. Which required research. My mini investigation transformed me briefly into my AP World History student-self, this time with the joys of the internet and none of the dust of the library. The discoveries were as enchanting as the sunrise in Green Valley and as rooted in French history as the winemaking methods at Iron Horse.
 

 

The lore of sabering takes different turns depending on your source. Most agree it all starts with Napoleon. After the French Revolution of 1789, The Napoleonic Wars raged across Europe. Napoleon’s soldiers mounted fast horses and dressed in lavish uniforms. Oil paintings depict young men in long cloaks with furs draped over broad shoulders. Most importantly, they were armed with rifles … and brass handled sabers. Early victories came easily for this force, who charged home through villages where revellers tossed them bottles of Champagne.
 
But it seems riding a horse while fumbling with a bottle secured with cork, wire cage and foil-wrapping didn’t fit the dashing portrait of Napoleon’s men. So they improvised, discovering that a quick stroke of a saber blade to the neck of the bottle both released the “drink of the stars” and did so in a decidedly heroic fashion. The upturned bottle with a dangerously sharp tip added to the overall vision of youthful brashness and celebration.
 
 
The  “Widow” Clicquot makes an appearance in accounts of saber lore. This famous female Champagne house owner symbolises quite a bit for the women of Iron Horse (a story for another blog). But in this context, the story goes that the savvy business woman opened her mansion to Napoleon’s officers and then  armed them with her bottles on their way back into battle. Wishing to display gratitude, or perhaps hoping to capture the fancy of the wealthy lady, the young men would perform the saber ritual for her before racing back to the front lines. Swoon.
 
It is comforting to me that the best things through history seem to endure. And that is truly the case with sabering. I caught up with several Iron Horse friends who were happy to chat saber etiquette and procedure. Meet Master Sabreuse Catherine Fallis aka the Grape Goddess, Master Sommelier David Glancy founder of San Francisco Wine School, Brad Kinder of Kind Wines, who represents Iron Horse through Florida, and Petra Polakovicova, Wine Director at Epic Steak in San Francisco. All have a slightly different take on the art of the performance. But all share their concern for safety above all else.
 
 
David Glancy explained, “Sabering really started out as a quick and dirty tactic. You used a sword or knife or a blunt object to knock off the neck of a champagne bottle. It started with Napoleon’s troops who employed this method very sloppily I’m sure. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.” He told us that the key to the whole show is to get the champagne REALLY cold. Especially the neck. We’re talking ice bath cold, completely submerged for at least an hour.
 
David emphasized this point saying, “Bottles DO explode. I’ve gotten very tiny shards of glass in my wrist and in my neck even from what seemed to be perfect sabering.” Catherine Fallis is also a fanatic about the well-chilled, near-frozen temperature in her sabering performances. Our favorite Grape Goddess added that she prefers magnums, which are easier to take contact with along the seam to the lip. And she reminds us the sabering is an unright motion, not a downward “decapitation” (an appropo reference when speaking of the French Revolution).
 
Michael Rosati Photography
 
But if all goes well you can be assured that party goers will clamor for more. It seems to put a punctuation mark on the event. As Brad Kinder told us, “Bubbles are the beverage of celebration and nothing really kicks it off in a better way than sabering the bottle. It draws attention and is super cool especially for people who have never seen it before.” He went on to say, “It’s showmanship and that’s what bubbles are all about. It’s a perfect pairing.” Do not try this at home, but Brad has been know to “saber” a bottle using the bottom of a wine glass.  “The danger and the uncertainty of success adds to the fun. I’ve sabered many bottle but I always get an adrenalin rush.”  
 
Taking a risk on an innovative approach can be the most powerful strategy.  If this YouTube video involving a golf ball doesn’t make you jump out of your chair, I don’t know what will.
 
However you decide to go about it, here are some performance and safety MUSTs which I gathered from our experts:
 
 
  • Pre-planning is key.
  • The bottle needs to be as cold as it can be before the wine turns to slush.  That “tames” the bubbles. With a warm bottle, the cork is likely to fly out.
  • Wear protective eyewear, sunglasses are a dramatic, easy option.
  • Some experts recommend gloves. Our friend Catherine Fallis favors opera gloves for protection disguised as glamour.
  • Crowd control is a must. Select a safe space with a clear opening, set up something to aim for, and make sure people aren’t in your path.
  • Aim at something soft which might absorb the impact … or the great outdoors.
  • Common sense should also lead you to remove the wire cage from the neck, to avoid a boomerang effect.
  • Taking off the cage is the most dangerous part - remember it has the power to take your finger off with it!
  • The maneuver is not about force … or even a sharp edge.
  • In fact, a butter knife will work.
  • They key is to run the saber along the seam of the bottle, hitting the neck at just the right angle.
  • A smooth, clean stroke works best.
  • Form is everything.
 
Petra Polakovicova presides in a well-known dining room and can attest to the celebratory vibe created by even a traditional pop of the cork. But she too is moved by the elevated experience  of the  sabering ritual. “Sabering adds drama. When you open bubbles with a sword, there’s an anticipation. The anticipation of something really cool.”
 
In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it. -Napoleon

Welcome to the family, Iron Horse saber, Sebastopol Edition.

 

Time Posted: Oct 12, 2016 at 1:44 PM
Joy Sterling
 
March 16, 2016 | Joy Sterling

A New Vintage of Joy! To Welcome Spring

The allure of buried treasure beguiles us as children. We trudge through our backyards guided by maps which point us to the spot marked X. Ah! The excitement of discovering something hidden.
 
This is an experience which eludes most of us as adults. That was, until our cellar master discovered a cache of long forgotten, unlabeled magnums of Sparkling Wine from various vintages going back 10-15 years.  A treasure trove of beautifully aged bubbly - 30 cases of this, 40 cases of that, from seven vintages and 13 different base wines. The first vintage of Joy! was a 1991, which we released in spring of 2007.
 
Today, the Joy! project is in full bloom. The new release, vintage 2003, makes its debut Friday, March 18th (details about Release Day Joy! at the vineyard here). Shop it here.
 
 
To sip this wine is to experience the magic of 12 years aging in contact with the yeast before disgorging. As winemaker David Munksgard explains, it takes a full 12 years for the wine’s alcohol and acid to have the time to dissolve the goodness inside the yeast’s mitochondria (break out those biology textbooks!). Once released, those "goodies" (amino acids, proteins, and fatty acids) achieve two things, both hallmarks of truly beautiful bubbles. They contribute to the umami experience and the fatty acids coat the bubbles which making the perfect, pin point, tiny orbs that accumulate at the surface of the glass creating a “foam cap” or crown. The result is an especially creamy texture and nutty, brioche aromas.
 
I wish I could say that we planned Joy!, but I do feel it is to our credit that we hold onto these magnums for so long.  As everyone in business knows, the most expensive thing you can do is hold onto inventory.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that longer aging is the key to creating the greatest California Sparklings, second only to vineyard site. The longer the time en tirage, the smaller the bubbles, leading to richer, creamier and more elegant wine. Top quality bubbly is so much about texture, which can only come from extended time on the lees. When you are drinking a tete de cuvee, like Joy!, you should not even have to swallow. It should just effervesce away in your mouth. (See our blog post on The Science behind the Magic, October 2015).
 
David says that he doesn’t know of any other California producers nor many French houses making this kind of time investment. (Maybe we should change the name of the wine to Patience?) That said, we urge you to be completely spontaneous in drinking Joy! We’ve already held onto to it long enough and David is always quick to remind us that even the most special wines are not made to be revered, but shared and enjoyed.
 
 
Here are his tasting notes:
 
"By nose, yeast and toasted hazelnut lead the way to grapefruit and baked apple scents with a hint of ginger. By mouth, your first impression is more sensual than taste. Full, rich and yet youthful and bright all at once. The most perfect lemon curd; creamy richness with freshness and bright finish. It is lush and refined like a silky ribbon."
 
How can you resist?

 
It has been four long, thirsty years since we have had any Joy! to share. That was the 1999 vintage, which won a near perfect 98 point score in Wine Enthusiast, 93 Points from Robert Parker and 93 points from Wine & Spirits.
 
The reviews were spectacular:
“Graceful and refined, with crisp apple and yeasty lemon aromas that lead to complex flavors of toasted almond, ginger and spicy mineral. Finishes with pinpoint crispness.”
“Drink now!”
“Light gold in the glass with aromas of wet stones, lemon, and roasted nuts, this wine tastes of bright apple, lemon, buttered toast, long finish. Wonderful acidity. One of the finest made in California”
“A deft blend of richness and delicacy, offering mature aromas of spiced apple, almond and cinnamon, with opulent flavors of toasty crème brûlée, laced with notes of mineral and ginger. Great length.”
 
We were greatly honored when it was served to the Queen of England at a State Dinner at the Ambassador's residence in London, Winfield House, in 2011.
 
Fortunately, the four year “drought” has been worth the wait! The current release is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The disgorging date (day/month/year) is on the back of each bottle.

 


Spring forth and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Time Posted: Mar 16, 2016 at 3:13 PM
Joy Sterling
 
April 20, 2015 | Joy Sterling

2015 Earth Day in Green Valley

Earth Day carries a lot of meaning for Iron Horse Vineyards and this year was is different. The global holiday marks an urgent call to arms in the conservation of the world around us. In this spirit, my Green Valley based family hosted honored guests in celebrating our love of the land. I was thrilled to introduce inspiring keynote speakers and friends; Gov. Jerry Brown and Kevin Jorgeson.

 

 
Kevin famously topped the Dawn Wall of El Capitan and subsequently toasted with Iron Horse bubbly. As a special celebration of the unprecedented 3,000 foot free-climb of climbing partners Kevin and Tommy Caldwell, we introduced our 2010 Summit Cuvée, a limited production, one time only, vintage brut which Jorgeson helped us finesse.
 
Surprising attendees with an impromptu conversation on the California drought, Gov. Jerry Brown ascended the podium and seized a moment to applaud California’s environmental leadership. He reassures residents the state will survive its historic four-year drought through creativity and unity. My favorite quote from the Governor's talk: Don't worry about the drought; just don't use too much water!

 

 
The day was a smashing success and it has triggered some soul searching. As we celebrate Earth Day in our roles as stewards of the environment, Kevin Jorgesen asks us: What’s OUR Dawn Wall? He never gave up on his dream of free-climbing El Capitan. My dream is for a united push towards great responsibility to the environment. The rewards of pushing through imagined limitations are endless.
 
….Because nothing compliments bubbles like a mountainous cake, we wrapped up the day by inviting Kevin Jorgeson to slice up a sweet replica of El Capitan after tracing his route on the “iced” terrain. Ain’t life sweet?

 

 
Find more information about participating colleagues who poured their own delicious Green Valley Chardonnays & Pinot Noirs during the event: Deloach Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Hartford Family Winery, Lynmar Estate, Marimar Estate, Macphail Family Wines, The Rubin Family of Wines

 

 
Find a fantastic recap of the day from Press Democrat here: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/3812019-186/governor-urges-unity-in-drought

Get your limited edition 2010 Summit Cuvee here: http://bit.ly/1H9hVMf

 

Find an Earth Day event recap from one of our VIP guests, Adrienne from Rich Life on a Budget, here: http://bit.ly/1DBUdBb

 

Peruse another Earth Day recap from a friend of Iron Horse, Jo Diaz, who has honored me with the title of "Mother Nature in Disguise:" http://bit.ly/1DOILp5

 

Time Posted: Apr 20, 2015 at 1:11 PM
Joy Sterling
 
March 26, 2015 | Joy Sterling

The Release of the Second Iron Horse Vintage Rainbow Cuvee

The Iron Horse family is excited to announce the release of our 2010 vintage of Rainbow Cuvee.  Timed to debut in concert with prime rainbow watching season at Iron Horse, we love having new vintages for you to try under a scenic sky.  This is our second vintage of this special cuvee.  Like all of our bubblies, it is estate bottled which means we use only our own grapes and vintage which requires three plus years of aging.
 
We are very proud that the inaugural release was served at the White House LGBT reception last June.  The first edition has an established presence in a momentous cultural & political moment in our country’s history, and we expect nothing less from this next release.
 
Production is very limited, only 250 cases will be available at the winery and online in our Shop Wines tab.  There may be a few retailers who special order it, but it will not be in general distribution.  Last year, we sold out in five months so make sure to secure yours in time for June Gay Pride celebrations.
 
I’d love to see your #rainbowcuvee pictures on the Iron Horse Facebook Page, my personal page as Joy Sterling and on Twitter.  My handle on Twitter is @joybubbles and the winery’s is @IronHorseVyds.   
 
With all best wishes … on every rainbow.

 

 

 

Time Posted: Mar 26, 2015 at 9:45 AM