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Tarin Teno
 
September 14, 2015 | Tarin Teno

Iron Horse Harvest 2015: An Update from Winemaker David Munksgard

This year’s harvest offered a bunch of “firsts” for the Iron Horse team and provided challenges for expert wine growers like the Sterling Family and winemaker David Munksgard. Each harvest offers its own hurdles and opportunities to recommit to a vineyard philosophy of garnering  exceptional flavors. But as the 2015 harvest comes to a close, it’s apparent that this year was uniquely challenging for several reasons.  
 
To learn more about the unprecedented growing conditions and harvesting game plan that define the vintage, I snagged some precious time with David, the 35 year “veteran of the vines” who teamed with Laurence Sterling to employ methods that traditionally are only seen in the finest wine chateaus in France.

 

 
Tarin: Where are we with harvest?  Close to wrapping up?
David: We will finish this week.
 
Tarin: Is it appropriate to say that this year’s harvest calendar was anything but expected?
David: Yes, it was completely mixed up. The normal progression would be to start by picking Pinot Noir for Sparkling, followed by Chardonnay for Sparkling. Then we’d move to Chardonnay grapes for still wines and  finish with Pinot Noir for still. This year, we started with Pinot Noir for Sparkling but then jumping all over the place from there. We’re actually wrapping up with sparkling. In my 35 year career, I have never seen a harvest like this. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It simply means that it’s challenging. You really needed to be IN the vineyard to observe and judge the ripening vine by vine, day by day, so that you could improvise a game plan to take advantage of a constantly changing situation.

 

 
Tarin: Explain some of the hurdles you experienced upon starting the harvest.
David: Compared to the previous three bountiful years, this crop was sadly very light. Additionally when we assessed the grape vines, rather than finding uniformity, we found Pinot Noir vines where half the grapes were green and half were purple. Knowing that it was going to be a smaller harvest, we had to work with this diversity and not just cut those green grapes  and let them drop to the ground. Essentially, we had to pick each vine twice. Laurence and I were clear with the vineyard team about which shades of purple were ripe for picking. It was the only way we could protect our ability to make the highest quality wine.

 

 
Tarin: How do you describe the vintage?
David: Challenging! But it is so satisfying to work with people who can all agree on the solution even when it is the more difficult path. Sure, we could have waited until the average analysis of the vineyard was what we needed, but the truth is that we would never have been able to make an amazing product by picking under-ripe or overripe fruit and let it even out in the press. We simply can’t do things like that with our commitment to excellence. We have to protect the reputation of the winery and if that means working twice as hard and incurring the cost, then we will. In the end, we devised a way to make really great wines in a difficult vintage.
 
Tarin: How does this harvest compare with last year?
David: Last year, harvest was delivered to us with a ribbon. But I think the wines are going to be on par with the last couple of excellent vintages.
 
Tarin: We’re hearing that quantity is down … but quality is high?
David: Quality is not high because the crop is small - the quality is simply there thanks to what Iron Horse does in the vineyards
 
Currently we have only six wines available to taste. The rest are still fermenting. But  they are clearly  equal to  the past few great vintages. Honestly, this was kind of shocking. Based on what we had to go through, I was expecting the results wouldn’t be so great. I am extremely happy to be surprised.

 

 
Tarin: Weather was clearly a driving factor, describe the weather starting with that nice rain in December 2014…. then what?
David: Nice and promising ... then extreme, protracted drought. Luckily we have a reservoir on the property, which the Sterlings had the foresight to build in the 70s. We use recycled water which Laurence and the vineyard crew carefully allocated to keep the vines in really great shape. We never got to a place where I was nervous about the vines holding up until the grapes were mature.

 

We didn’t have as much fog as we normally have. There was a time where the harvest was faster than normal - the sugars were rising quickly, but then we dropped into moderate weather with cool nights. For the most part, the weather was cooperative with cooler conditions that envelope the grapes through the night until mid morning and allowed the crew to pick until 10-11am.
 
However at the very end, we had a few days of 100+ heat. By then, the few remaining blocks could be completely picked before the day got too hot. We only had one very small block that suffered a slight bit from the high temperatures. It was our last block of Pinot Noir for still wine, our harvest crew culled out clusters that had raisined.
 
Tarin:  What has the long growing season meant?
David: When we started bud break, it was ridiculously early - two weeks ahead of last year, which was three weeks ahead of 2013. Then we went into a period of cool almost cold weather and that stopped the clock. The vine is only active when the average daytime temps are above 60 degrees, if it doesn’t meet that, the vine goes into a dormant, slumber state. So essentially, the early spring didn’t count. In the absence of a consistent rise in temperatures, we got the cluster to cluster variation which was so challenging. All the historically important and reliable  timelines got stopped and re-started repeatedly. That interruption of the normal cycle in the vineyard led to uneven ripening and us picking the same vines repeatedly.
 
Tarin: What are your great take aways from this harvest?
David: I’ve always heard that the great vineyards in France make exceptional wines even in a difficult vintage, while lesser chateaus often miss the mark under distress. What it boils down to is the commitment on the part of those great wineries. Iron Horse has that passion and dedication. As Laurence says, “It has to MEAN something when we put ‘Estate Grown.’” on our labels.  

 

 
Tarin: Now, tell us about your new drone! We LOVE this video shot recently. How are you using the drone in the vineyard?
David: I initially used a small drone with a 1-2 megapixel camera to take some vineyard photos. At the time, I of course knew the property was beautiful but I didn’t know it was that  beautiful! I ultimately upgraded to a big drone with a large high def camera and I’ve been blown away at the view from 400 feet. 
From a practice perspective, the benefits are untapped. Years ago, we would do an annual flight over the vineyard for infrared insights into the foliage conditions in different sections. With the drone, we can do this much more frequently and at lower cost.

 

 
Tarin: How has it helped with the harvest?
David: I got this drone a couple weeks into harvest, but next year I plan on getting it up there weeks before we start picking to look around with a hawk’s perspective. These flights will serve to help us identify which vines need more emitters (more water). It also has the potential to pinpoint differences in the canopy. Once something out of the ordinary catches your eye, you can walk out to that spot and see what’s going on. I’m sure this drone can be used to make a better bottle of wine.

 

 
Tarin:   When will we be able to taste the wines of 2015?
David: The Sterling family tradition has been to get together around Thanksgiving to taste the new vintage. Generally, November-December is when you get your first good sense of quality ie depth of character and complexity of flavors.
And as winemaker I taste the wines continuously as they develop.
As a finished product, the Chardonnays will be released in two years, the Pinot Noir in three and most of the bubbles in 2019.

 

 

 

 

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Time Posted: Sep 14, 2015 at 1:47 PM
Joy Sterling
 
June 19, 2015 | Joy Sterling

Happy Pride!

At Iron Horse, we wear our Pride on our sleeve…. and on our bottles,  celebrating diversity with our 2010 Rainbow Cuvee. This second vintage of the vibrant, limited production bubbly delivers the celebratory experience that so perfectly pairs with this 45th anniversary of San Francisco Pride in our urban backyard ... and at the White House annual LGBT reception held June 24.

 

 
We are honored to be recognized as one of the top 6 most gay friendly winery in California.
 
On Saturday June 27, radio host Joel Riddell will be broadcasting live at the heart of the San Francisco festivities on Talk Radio 910 including a pre-taped interview about Iron Horse and the creation of Rainbow Cuvee. Stay tuned for more information on how to listen in.

 

 
San Francisco Pride occurs on June 27 - 28.  The theme this year is “Equality without Exception”.
 
Here are some insider tips if you’re planning to attend.
 
1.  Wear sunscreen.
2.  Get to the parade early … it’s usually five people deep along the route.
3.  Use Uber or take the bus. Do not try to park down there.
4.  Obey the rules on nudity. (There aren’t any!)
5.  Best bar for people watching, Twin Peaks at Castro and Market. It’s all glass and has a balcony.
6.  Tune in to Dining Around with Joel Riddell on Saturday 1-3pm on iHeartRadio, Talk Station 910, KKSF.
7.  For after the parade on Sunday, go to Disco Daddy at the SF Eagle. It will be the closest you can get to the spirit of “old Pride”. Sylvester, Dianna Ross, Grace Jones and the Village People will be channeled. $5 at the door, this is the best deal on Pride Day and walking distance from the parade.
8.  Go see City Hall light up at night in the rainbow colors.
9.  Get up to date on the “Alphabet Soup”. It’s not LGBT anymore. The latest is LGBTQQIA, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Ally. By the way, Iron Horse is an ally.
10.  Make sure you have your Rainbow Cuvee chilling at home. You’ll be ready for it when you get done.

 

The idea of Rainbow Cuvee is thanks to our friend and Direct to Consumer expert, Sonyia Grabski, inspired by the beauty of Gay Pride Flags fluttering in a June breeze.

 

 
The strong symbol and graphic direction provided the official colors which were carefully integrated with the Iron Horse brand by our label designer Mark Berry.
 
Mark presented six design variations to start the process. And in playing around with print techniques, our team discovered the option of an iridescent foil on the rainbow border. This element adds the festive and dynamic feeling that we wanted to convey the delicious flavors within and the larger message of our times.
 
For an insight into the design process, check out these interesting photos, showing the embossed base colors and the final foil stage.

Supplemental Reading for those who like a little FAQ FUN:

 

The Betsy Ross of the Rainbow Flag was San Francisco designer Gilbert Baker. It was first unfurled in 1978 at the Gay Freedom Day Parade. Legend has it that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” and the Stonewall riots that happened in New York shortly after Garland’s death.
 
The world's largest Pride celebration is in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
 
For a look back at attitudes and conventions before the Stonewall riots, here is an excellent article by David Dunlap in the New York Times.
 
It’s important to remember how much has changed in just the last decade … and exciting to celebrate that we are at a major tipping point in the march towards marriage equality,  when the strength of national support has raised hopes of a Supreme Court ruling on the rights of same-sex couples to marry across the country.
 
Here's to the freedom of being yourself!

 

 

Time Posted: Jun 19, 2015 at 4:34 AM
Joy Sterling
 
June 8, 2015 | Joy Sterling

A Sip of Hope - Celebrate World Oceans Day with Iron Horse + National Geographic

Surfs up!
 
Here at Iron Horse we strive to catch every wave and today happens to be World Oceans Day - celebrated every June 8 across our blue planet. Now officially recognized by the United Nations, the date was originally proposed in 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Water has been a big topic for us this year. So it should come as no surprise that we are passionate about our ocean - the "heart" of our world. It connects us, regulates the climate, feeds millions of people, produces oxygen, is home to an incredible array of wildlife, provides important medicines, facilitates trade, and is so very beautiful. It’s imperative that we assume the responsibility to care for the ocean as it cares for us.
 
There are many ways to show some ocean love:
  • Cut back on using disposable plastic bags
  • Enter the UN’s photo contest
  • Go to the aquarium
  • Wear blue
  • Get involved in a community beach clean up
  • If you are lucky enough to be near the water, dive in
  • Just tweeting about the day spreads the word and gets people interested
  • Be mindful about your food choices. Educate yourself about sustainable seafood choices starting with this piece from Chef Barton Seaver here
  • Leverage the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch - a great resource
For the past five years, we’ve gone one step further to merge the oceans we love with what we do best. We will be toasting with our special 2010 Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs, which we produce in partnership with National Geographic.

 

$4 per bottle goes to NatGeo's Ocean Initiative, helping establish Marine Protected Areas and support sustainable fishing around the globe. It is a great source of pride that our contribution comes to about $220,000 in five years ... and counting.

 
The first vintage was welcomed with the inspirational Barton Seaver. As explained in this 2010 article here, the National Geographic fellow came to taste with us.  

 

In one video, Barton elaborates on the nearby ocean’s impact on Iron Horse "meroire"… he also conveniently presents a grill-friendly pairing recipe where sustainably farmed seafood appropriately takes center stage. The must-watch video is here.

 

Barton was an ideal partner in the creation of this cuvee and his words on the topic encapsulate the larger mission of our efforts perfectly:

 

"The oceans are in all of us and are in all that we hold dear. The wine with which we celebrate World Oceans Day was in fact grown in deposits of ancient marine life, the juice of the grapes itself a product of our oceans and a testament to the power of the oceans to sustain our reality."

In fact, Barton believes how we eat and drink is the first step towards environmental responsibility. He has been known to explain, “Deliciousness is the first line of environmentalism.” And of course the ocean plays a major role in our signature Iron Horse winemaking. The nearby Pacific (only 13 miles as the crow flies) is the driver of our special microclimate that allows us to make unparalleled Sparkling Wine with bright acidity and brilliant aromas.

 

Today, take a moment to meditate on the ocean’s role in everyday life.

 

 

Ocean Day Fast Facts:
  • Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97% of the Earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet by volume
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods
  • Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5% of global GDP
  • Oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions
  • Oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming
  • Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein
  • Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people
  • As much as 40% of the world oceans are heavily affected by human activities - pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats
 
As you digest these bubbly fast facts do what Mother Nature would want….  pair them with a special bottle of bubbles. Each sip of 2010 Oceans Reserve Blanc de Blanc is made even more wonderful with the knowledge that you’re donating to a beautiful blue cause.

 

 
Resources:
 
World Oceans Day Organization here
 
Q&A with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala here
 
Bio of Barton Seaver, chef, author and National Geographic Fellow here
 
The National Geographic webpage dedicated to our Ocean Reserve Sparkling here
 
Iron Horse being served this week at National Geographic’s Explorers Symposium in Washington, DC. Event details here
Time Posted: Jun 8, 2015 at 8:27 AM
Joy Sterling
 
May 21, 2015 | Joy Sterling

The Business of California Bubbly

Wine is fashion in many ways. There are clear trends.
 
Right now, bubbles are “in”. And we are enjoying every minute of it!

 

 
According to Tim Fish in the upcoming June 15 issue of Wine Spectator:
“This is an exciting moment for California bubbly. Sales have jumped in recent years, and the state's producers continue to push the envelope on quality, developing new niche bottlings while preserving their reputation for value.”
 
The consumption figures above from the California Wine Institute are are real through 2013. We then continued upward with our  “expert extrapolation” that we will cross the 20,000,000 case mark this year.
 
For a comprehensive study on the rise of bubbles, I recommend reading: Corks Popping as Sparkling Wines Sales Surge
 
This surge has several contributors. One is Prosecco. For many, that fruity, user-friendly Italian wine is a gateway to more complex bubbles. 
 
Another is the mass appreciation for handcrafted, small batch drinks across the board in categories like wine, beer, cider, and spirits. Two representative examples are limited edition Iron Horse cuvees: 2010 Summit Cuvee & 2010 Rainbow Cuvee.
 
Summit Cuvee commemorates the unprecedented free-climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California - the realization of a dream and an inspiration.  Only 300 cases have been produced.

 

Rainbow Cuvee celebrates marriage equality. This is our second vintage of this special, small production bubbly. We are very proud that the inaugural release was served at the White House LGBT reception last June. Total production is just 250 cases.
Rosés are a special niche. Ours is very striking, both in color and taste. It’s a dark rose, bottled in clear glass. Originally awarded 93 points by Robert Parker, the 2007 vintage now has six plus years less aging. The most recent disgorging  is 5/4/15.

 

Serious fans increasingly call for ultra brut or no dosage, like our Brut X, which is a 500 case production.

 

Most exciting to me is the breadth of interesting bubblies today. Not just Grande Marques, and even beyond Grower Champagne, the next “big thing”, according to Wine & Spirits Magazine is “Somm Sparklings.”

 

Wine & Spirit’s Associate Publisher Samantha Groseth has this to say on the topic:
“Some of the most interesting intelligence we gather from our Annual Restaurant Poll comes in the wines that most excite sommeliers. In 2015, we heard a lot of chatter about sparkling wine, and not just grower Champagne — sparkling wine is on the minds’ of America’s sommeliers, whether it’s from the Loire, California, Finger Lakes, Italy or Jura.”
Iron Horse was included in this category at the debut Somm Sparkling Table at Wine & Spirits’ annual Top of the List Tasting. A true honor. There were about a dozen to taste, right next to the Grand Central Oyster Bar station - Herman Wiener Blanc de Blancs no dosage, from the Finger Lakes, which is poured by the glass at NoMad, Gruet from New Mexico, Raventos, Domaines de la Berjorie and Baumard, both cremants de Loire, Murgo Etna Rosso, from Sicily, that was very unusual, Banfi, La Marca Prosecco and La Spinetta Moscato d’Asti.
 
It was Iron Horse and Roederer Estate from California. Ours was certainly the most fun table at the tasting.

 

 
Going back to Tim Fish’s article in Spectator, Tim makes the point that the bubbly business is increasingly year-round:
“Many people think of bubbly in connection to Christmas and New Year's Eve, but it's also enjoyable as a summer drink. Sparkling wine has always been about summer for me.”
My family and I are very proud that Iron Horse ranks among Tim’s personal favorites on his blog.
IRON HORSE 2010 Classic Vintage Brut, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $42. 91 points. Supple and richly styled, with tart apple and spiced hazelnut aromas leading to Meyer lemon, brioche and zesty cinnamon flavors.

 

IRON HORSE 2010 Russian Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $42. 90 points. A plush style, with a lingering hint of sweetness balanced by solid acidity. Offers accents of ripe Meyer lemon, toasted cinnamon and almond brioche

 

IRON HORSE 2010 Wedding Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $42. 91 points. A serious bubbly but fun to drink with lively and floral raspberry flavors.
 
More and more people now think about bubbly as a wineto be enjoyed year round with food. As we like to say here at Iron Horse: #notjustforbreakfastanymore.
 
 

 

Time Posted: May 21, 2015 at 8:44 AM
Joy Sterling
 
April 13, 2015 | Joy Sterling

Springing Forward with the Iron Horse Vegetable Garden

For those who have been to Iron Horse Vineyards, you know our Green Valley enterprise is a family affair.  I run the front of the house, my brother is in charge of operations in the vineyards, and my parents set the standards. We all pitch in where extra hands are needed, but there is one role where exclusive credit is due. And that’s the role of Vegetable Garden CEO.
 

For years, my father has presided over a massive, roving vegetable garden with help from First Lieutenant Jose Puga who has assisted from the beginning. The garden has “gone viral” and now boasts over 300 varieties of tomatoes alone.  The living exhibit of deliciousness rotates to different locations on the property, and this year the open field behind my house is playing host. Because of my proximity to the project, I will be regularly tracking growth on the blog!
 

Everything is started from seed but won't go into the ground until we are past frost season. Normally we worry about frost as late June 1st. But this year, everything is three weeks ahead, so the planting date is approaching.

 

Here are some of my dad’s top tips for starting a successful garden:
 
Q: First, explain the origins of your passion for gardening.
A: Living in France in the '60s was a real eye opener for me. In those days, in  California, we didn’t have access to the variety of fresh vegetables and fruits that we encountered in Europe. For example, we had mainly two types of lettuce - iceburg and romaine, and we thought that was advanced. I remember the luncheon at the Savoy Hotel in London where I first had a mache salad.
 
We took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the old world, which was new to us. We got very used to having fresh produce from the local markets every morning which generated an early “farm-to-table” menu. It was very exciting. When we moved back home from Europe, we couldn’t find the things that we’d grown accustomed to. So we simply decided to grow them!
 
To that end, on return visits to France, we made a point of shopping for seeds to continue growing the diversity in our Sonoma garden. Across from Notre Dame, there were two blocks of stalls along the river  devoted to seeds. We could also find them in the South of France, near the flower market in Nice.
 
Q: What is the size and scope of the garden this year?
A: The vegetable garden will be about two acres. I need a lot of room! The size is necessary for the  diversity that I’m committed to.
 
Q: What’s new and exciting this season’s garden?
A: There are always some new things to try. I have a special enthusiasm for my tomatoes, but in order to save space for new things, I limit myself to 300 types of tomatoes. And I’m constantly refining my collection to allow for new varieites to enter the garden’s repertoire.
 
Charentais melons have always been one of my specialities, a product indigenous to Provence. I’m also starting fresh with new artichokes this spring. For me, the “excitement factor” is delivered by innovations in produce color, flavor, and shape. It’s the ever evolving variety that keeps me passionate and engaged. Any one vegetable can have a number of different textures, colors, and styles. Years ago, most items had one color - like white cauliflower, green beans and red beets. Now you get a gorgeous range of colors for some if the classics. One of our favorites last year was beautiful golden cauliflower.We now make the most delicious beet chips, sweeter than potatoe chips, made from white beets.
 
Food really is more exciting now than ever.
 
Q: What environmental considerations do you keep in mind on the estate?
A: It’s important to rotate crops so you don’t play out your land. We rotate our garden on the property every couple of years.
I have farming in my blood passed down from several generations. One set of grandparents were homsteaders in Alberta, Canada. My mother's family grew walnuts in San Juan Capistrano. My father grew grapefuit and dates in the Coachella Valley, so I have always had ties to the land, a love of the land, and we work towards a better understanding of sustainable farming principles. No chemicals. We weed with old fashioned, long handled hoes and irrigate with recycled water using drip hoses.
 
Q: How has the vegetable garden added to the overall richness of the Iron Horse estate?
A: Variety is the spice of life. Nothing tastes quite like our home grown tomatoes. We firmly believe the fruits and vegetables we grow here naturally pair beautifully with our wines - terroir and terroir.  The enthusiasm has touched every member of my family.  My children and grandchildren have all participated in the garden planning and tasks at some point.
 
Q: What are your top tips for the at-home grower?
A: As you sketch out the garden and pick your seeds, you can start planting certain items in a hot house to get them going. It’s important to be aware of your climate’s limitation. For us, we can still get frost through the end of spring, so getting a head start is key. I also grow three seedlings  for each of 300 types of tomato I will plant and then only plant out the strongest one of each varitety in the ground. Right now, that means I have 900 tomato plants that we are raising. This is to insure we have a succesful crop.
 
My top tip is to get a hot house. These days you can purchase a self assembling, small hot house. Getting that head start is worth-while.
 
Q: What are some of your favorite sources of seeds for those who need a little guidance?
A: There are marvellous catalogues and exchanges like “Seed Savers” and “The Territorial Seed Company” and "Totally Tomatoes". Here in Sonoma County, Petaluma has the "Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company"store inside a grand old bank bnuilding, which has a beautiful selection comparable to my old haunts in Paris.  Every year, these sources bring a few options that end up as permanent "favorites" in the planting schedule. The hard part is being restricted to just 300 kinds of tomatoes.

 

 

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
Joy Sterling
 
March 23, 2015 | Joy Sterling

Luncheon with the U.S. Ambassador to China

I had the pleasure of meeting with U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, and his wife, Melodee Hanes while they were visiting Napa Valley last Friday.  Over a sinfully delicious pizza lunch, I joined fellow industry leaders to brainstorm ways to increase California wine exports to China.

 

Wine Institute sponsored this roundtable luncheon with exporting vintners active in the China market.  I participated as a representative of both Iron Horse Vineyard & Sonoma County and I joined colleagues including Michael Parr representing Wente Family Vineyards and Richard Grey from E&J Gallo.  The event was hosted by Delicato Family Vineyards CEO Chris Indelicato, at Black Stallion Winery in Napa.  
 
Our challenge was simple - to rechart a course towards a successful exporting relationship with China after austerity campaigns led to a 7% decline in California wine exports in 2014.  With China representing the world’s largest red wine drinking nation, the mission is certainly worthy.
 
Four next steps emerged from the roundtable discussion:
  • Build partnerships with tourism boards, i.e. Visit California and Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, to bring more Chinese tourists to wine country.
  • Pitch strategic partnerships with Disney about featuring California wines when Shanghai Disneyland opens in 2016.
  • Ambassador Baucus and his wife graciously offered to host a dinner in Beijing featuring California wine and agricultural products in the Fall.
  • Optimize Wine Institute’s education program in China to build awareness of California as home to premium wines.
 
As a California wine ambassador and family vineyard owner, I am thrilled to be part of restarting these great business relationships.  We have extensive experience exporting to China since we launched our trade with the country in 2011 via a special Chinese “Year of the Dragon” Cuvee.  The wine was a major hit with buyers and was notably served at a 2012 State Department luncheon honoring then Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping hosted by Hillary Clinton & Joe Biden.  We continue to develop special cuvee offerings for our Chinese audience and look forward to increased collaboration with our global Iron Horse Family.

 

For more information, find the fill Wine Institute press release on 2014 California wine exports here: http://bit.ly/1HstTg9

 

Time Posted: Mar 23, 2015 at 2:25 PM
Joy Sterling
 
March 20, 2015 | Joy Sterling

Welcoming Spring at Iron Horse

Today marks the official start of Spring.   A major milestone for my Iron Horse family.  The date has been marked in my calendar for many reasons.  First, we’ll experience the first total solar eclipse since November 3, 2013.  This eclipse always bring a new moon so we’ll also be channeling the spirit of renewal that comes with the season.  I take this opportunity to celebrate the new beginning with meditation, yoga, a hike through the vineyard, and a conscious effort to not over schedule my days.

 

 
Second, the seasonal change marks a significant change in our activity out in the vineyards.  Though I mentioned before that “season creep” has brought unusually warm temperatures earlier, the consistently warmer temps will now wake vines from their winter naps in a phenomenon we call “budbreak.”  We carefully monitor these sensitive, young buds to ensure evening frosts don’t damage them.  As flowering begins, Iron Horse growers manually train vines to grow optimally.  With our guiding hand, grape clusters will get just the right amount of sunlight and air and we’ll have conquered an important growing milestone.  
 
Have a wonderful Spring Equinox and total solar eclipse.  I look forward to seeing your bright faces in our Tasting Room to usher in this new season.

 

 

Time Posted: Mar 20, 2015 at 8:07 AM