Iron Horse Blog
It’s not every day I start off the week with an Iron Horse “shout out” from the Office of the First Lady. I’m proud to announce that our wine - 2007 Russian River Cuvee - will be poured at Tuesday evening’s State Dinner for the Prime Minister of Japan.
As I’m sure you know, an invitation to a White House state dinner is one of Washington's most sought-after “tickets”. VIP guests resplendent in black tie and designer gowns dine on an impeccably concepted four-course meal served by America's most famous kitchen.
The news that Iron Horse has a ticket as a featured VIP beverage came during an 11AM EST press preview for the State Dinner, led by Michelle Obama (ending speculation over which “patriotic tasting wine” would be chosen). Find the menu announcement here. The guest chef is Masaharu Morimoto. The tables will be decorated with cherry blossoms that symbolize the friendship between the US and Japan … and each place setting will have a set of red lacquered chopsticks.
The First Lady unveiled the menu along with the Obama state china service which she had a hand in designing. The china introduces a special blue inspired by the waters of Hawaii being called “Kailua blue” and the service was made by Pickard China, of Antioch, Illinois. The President was born in Hawaii and Illinois is the First Lady’s home state. Find the Architectural Digest spotlight on the china here.
Iron Horse is “at home” in the elegant State Dining Room during this Obama administration which has been selective with their schedule of State Dinners. They’ve hosted the fewest since the Truman administration, which seems to assign each event heightened historical significance. Our wine was served at the State Dinner for India in November 2009 (It paired wonderfully with the post-meal Beyoncé performance!) as well as the State Dinner for David Cameron in March 2012. Traditionally, Iron Horse is served as the toasting wine, at the end of the meal.
The Iron Horse relationship with the Obamas continues our vineyard’s tradition of strong White House relations. Iron Horse has been a favorite going back 30 years and five consecutive Presidential Administrations. Something we’re very proud of. Stay tuned as we continue to chronicle all exciting elements of this soiree - from the bubbles to the fashion & entertainment - with the hashtag #IronHorseintheWhiteHouse
Welcome to the second installment of our Star Chef Blog Series. We’ve begun a regular blog series sharing Q&As with our most special friends who serve Iron Horse cuvees in their restaurants or in this case -- at State Department functions. We’ve interviewed Iron Horse's great friend, State Department Chef Jason Larkin, to get his take on food pairings which might accompany Iron Horse sparklings & wines in a large group setting.
Starting at Blair House (the official guesthouse of the President) under Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Jason was quickly identified as a rising star capable of running special functions at the State Department for the incoming Hillary Clinton. Hillary championed the concept of “soft power” where treaties were signed over the dinner table and food & wine credited as a diplomatic tool. Thus, Jason was tasked with growing the program that is powering delicious diplomatic affairs. He ended the practice of exporting tasks like selecting wine pairings by taking it on himself and in doing so he defined a fresh path forward for the State Department which relies on local ingredients and commitment to variety. He almost never repeats a dish.
When concepting a menu for specific meals with world leaders, he aims to highlight American flavors and brands which both showcase our uniqueness and an understanding of the visitor’s culinary transitions. Lucky for us, Jason is a valued Iron Horse fan who famously features Iron Horse wines at very high profile State Department and Presidential events.
When we called Jason up we challenged him to walk us through a large group friendly food pairing for a variety of our wines. Here’s what we learned….
Iron Horse Interview with Jason Larkin
Iron Horse: What attracts you to regularly leverage Iron Horse productions in your Diplomatic Reception Rooms?
Jason Larkin: I just love Iron Horse wine - period. Every wine I’ve ever had has been food friendly and goes well with a large variety of dishes. Any opportunity I have to serve them, I reach out.
Iron Horse: You’ve featured Iron Horse products at extremely newsworthy State Department events, tell us why.
Jason Larkin: I serve Iron Horse at the most high profile, Presidential functions because of their consistently high caliber. The bottles themselves have beautiful labels and there’s frequently an amazing tie-in with the guest or the event itself. When China’s then Vice President Xi visited in 2012, the Iron Horse Chinese Cuvee was the perfect pairing. The gold and red label invoked good fortune.
The next year, after Mr. Xi became President of China, we chose Iron Horse again for the working dinner hosted by President Obama at the Annenberg Estate in Southern California.
Iron Horse: How are you planning to leverage Iron Horse in the next few weeks?
Jason Larkin: We have a lot of environmental events coming up, including meetings with people who are invested in the care of the oceans. So I’m looking forward to serving the Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc at the Oceans Conference.
I was also very excited to offer Iron Horse Sparkling as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at this week's Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Event kick-off produced along with the James Beard Foundation. We’re launching the US Pavillion at the Milan Expo which is titled “American Food 2.0” and serves to highlight the best of American cuisine and creativity.
Iron Horse: Can you explain a bit about the The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and the American Chef Corps groups which will be enjoying our wines and sparklings at the event?
Jason Larkin: The Diplomatic Culinary Partnership and the American Chef Corps are some of the most unique and delicious programs we have here at State. Participating chefs are respected as diplomats who foster a cross-cultural exchange by interacting with internationals.
As John Kerry said at the event, “There is absolutely something about good food that brings people together, and that’s what diplomacy is all about…[meals] are a critical part of our ability to be able to do business and talk and break bread and break down barriers and listen to each other and understand culture, history, and really dig underneath all the policy issues...literally some of the most candid and productive conversations that I have had have been over a good meal in somebody’s country.”
Iron Horse: Can you disclose the menu of what was served to accompany our Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut, Native Yeast Chardonnay and Deer Gate Pinot Noir?
Jason Larkin: Here are the food offerings from the vendors and chefs ---
Steak Tartare American
Raw Beef Sirloin, Parker House Roll
Created by José Andrés
Merguez Stuffed Lamb Rib
Saffron Braised Celery, Baby Artichokes and Grilled Yogurt
Created by Mike Isabella
Lobster Deviled Egg
Rainbow Hill Farm Organic Eggs topped with Ossetra Caviar
Created by Jamie Leeds
Puri-spiced Avocado filled in a whole meal puffed biscuit
Sweet Yogurt, Date Tamarind Chutney
Created by Vikram Sunderam
(CHEF’S NOTE: “I know the avocado dish is a wild one, I would probably enjoy it with a lager beer. But of course sparkling goes with just about everything!”)
Iron Horse: Finally, is that Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut in Secretary Kerry’s glass for his toast?
Jason Larkin: Yes, absolutely, what a great moment! He was giving remarks and wanted to do an impromptu toast to the chefs so one of his people ran to the bar (which I happened to be standing next to, of course) and grabbed one of the glasses that was pre-poured.
Read more about the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership: http://www.jamesbeard.org/dcp
Watch the full video of John Kerry’s remarks at the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership - Milan Expo Reception. Final scenes show Secretary Kerry toasting with Iron Horse Sparkling: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/04/240965.htm
Happy Groundhog Day! We are happy that we can see the shadow from our flutes on the Iron Horse Tasting Bar meaning there is more winter on the way … hopefully rain.
So far, 2015 is off to such a great start, beginning with the honor of having our 2010 Classic Vintage Brut served at the private reception for about 200 in the Governor’s Office, celebrating Jerry Brown’s inauguration to an unprecedented 4th term. This was at 11 o’clock in the morning, so the Brut was featured both “neat” and in mimosas with California OJ.
I am also thrilled to share with you these exciting photos of Iron Horse Ocean Reserve at the summit celebration for Santa Rosa, Sonoma County native Kevin Jorgenson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell after scaling the Dawn Wall of El Capitan - a feat that has earned them admiration and cheers from all over the world.
This is how we hope everyone feels when toasting with our bubbly ... on top of the world!
With all my very best,
Dear Friends & Family,
Vintage 2014 is in barrel and the fermentations underway. The year will be noted for drought, earthquake and wild fires. And yet, the grapes that went into the press were wonderfully delicious.
My brother Laurence wisely pruned to the drought, specifically to reduce how much leaf canopy and grapes each vine had to grow and mature. This was a gut call made last December … before we knew that this would be another severe drought year.
It was an early harvest. Everything started early. It’s as though we bracketed the growing season and moved it ahead three weeks, beginning with bud break. Even now the theme is following through with camellias in boom at my parents’ house that normally don’t come out until Thanksgiving.
Usually, during harvest, there is a fairly predictable order of when each block and variety will get picked, based on our history of 38 years at Iron Horse. This year, that orderliness flew out the window. This meant more sampling, more rows to walk, and the need for turn on a dime flexibility in moving around the vineyard crews. This is a vintage when being estate bottled made all the difference.
Drought years can produce grapes that require extra care with fermentations and that seems to be holding true. Fortunately, our winemaker’s strong suit is coaxing “grumpy” yeast to cooperate.
So, how are the wines? It is still too early for a definitive answer as the fermentations aren’t done, but I am optimistic this will stand with 2012 and 2013 as our third straight excellent vintage in a row.
Right now, my current new personal favorite of our Chardonnays is our 2012 Native Yeast. Wine Enthusiast has given it a 93 point rating. Total production of this single vineyard Chardonnay is 250 cases. I love it with anything to do with fresh fall corn – corn chowder, corn bread, and succotash.
My family joins me in wishing you and yours our very best. Please pray for rain for us ... gentle, easy, light, but steady rain ... preferably at night, like Camelot.
This quintessential Tuscan dish is said to have originated in Etruscan times when fowl was cooked over an open hearth while being flattened with a heavy stone to insure even cooking. The result is a crispy yet succulent chicken fragrant with the aromatic herbs rosemary and sage. Serve with Iron Horse 2012 Estate Chardonnay or our 2012 Native Yeast Chardonnay.
This recipe is courtesy pf Deborah Dal Fovo and Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg.
Both the Iron Horse Estate Chardonnay and the Iron Horse Native Yeast have been awarded a 93 point rating in Wine Enthusiast. Chardonnay’s lemony character makes it a perfect pairing with this dish.
2 terracotta or red clay bricks washed and air dried, wrapped in 2 layers of heavy aluminum foil
1 young frying chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, preferably free-range
¾ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
¼ cup fresh rosemary needles
¼ cup fresh sage leaves
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ask the butcher to remove the backbone of the chicken, trim and cut it in half. Then, chop off the knuckle from each drumstick and the tip of each wing and lightly pound each partially boned chicken half with a flat disk meat pounder or the flat blade of a chef’s knife to flatten.
At home, rinse the chicken halves under cold running water and dry well with a kitchen towel.
Place the chicken in the olive oil marinade for 2 to 4 hours for best flavor, turning occasionally.
Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals. Remove the chicken halves from marinade and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken halves on the hot grill and cover each with a foil-covered brick to weigh them down. Cook for about 25 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Use a kitchen mitt to remove the bricks. Turn the chicken halves on the grill and replace the bricks on top. Cook for about 25 more minutes or until juices run clear when the upper chicken leg is pierced with a sharp knife.
Transfer to a serving platter, lightly tent with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Quarter the bird and serve with the Iron Horse Chardonnay.