Iron Horse Blog
Happy Winter Solstice! The official start of winter. Meteorologists consider December 1 as the first day of winter, but the season's celestial start is tonight.
Though the entire day is "observed", solstice occurs at a specific time - the same time everywhere on Earth when the North Pole is tilted farthest from the sun.
It is the shortest day of the year ... and the longest night.
This certainly deserves a toast!
Winter Solstice as a celebration goes back millennia. The most famous at Stonehenge, seemingly built for this specific astrological event as the stones are aligned on a sight-line that points directly to the winter solstice sunset.
Ancient Romans celebrated with the Feast of Saturnalia - a festival that lasted seven days with banquets honoring Saturn, father of the gods. These Saturnalian banquets were held as far back at 217 BCE.
Pre-Christian Scandinavia celebrated the winter solstice with the Feast of Juul and the burning of a log, which became the traditional Yule log.
A perfect way to celebrate tonight is by cozying up with a wood burning fire (or lots of candles) and a glass or two of bubbly.
It is also a perfect occasion to say thank you for your role in making this such a gratifying year for us. Please know that we are toasting you and send our warmest wishes.
‘Tis the season for gift guides, discount codes (insider tip: use code HOLLY for $10 shipping valid through 12/15 on three or more bottles) and predictions for the year ahead.
I know it’s hard to believe, but 2016 is coming on fast. As a winery deeply rooted in our home place, we generally operate outside the trendy category, striving for classic, true to our vineyards, always in style, elegance and balance. But it is exciting to get a glimpse into the data based forecasts for where our cohorts are headed and we are tickled to find ourselves “ahead of the curve."
Since we’re in the gift-giving mood, we’ve rounded up some of the stand out themes from our future gazing friends.
One such visionary is Kimberly Charles, founder of Charles Communications Associates, who provides perspective on volume (bookmark Kimblery's blog for access to her extremely valuable insights at All the Swirl). In our data focused chat, Kimberly explains that global wine consumption is up 5.3% and she estimates we’ll enjoy 35 billion bottles in 2016. Yes that’s billion with a b … with plenty of room to continue growing in the U.S (more on that growth here). This is where the Millennials come in. They grew up watching their parents drink wine, see it as a daily pleasure, and according to a report from Canadian Investment Bank RBC Capital Markets, Millennials want premium bottles.
Trend spotter Andrew Freeman of AF & Co proclaims in his 2016 Trends Report that consumers are enjoying a case of “multiple personality disorder.” In other words, we want the best of all worlds. We participate in wellness movements favoring moderation, then swing to indulgent experiences, sometimes in just a matter of hours.
Here are some trends to watch for in 2016 in the Food World:
Vegetables are the hero, especially amongst Millennials. People want less animal protein and support veggies as a “center of the plate component.”
Hawaiian is the cuisine du-jour. It’s the latest regional “New American” food in the spotlight.
The spicier, the better! Even desserts are getting the fiery treatment as data shows that embracing the heat is not only delicious, but healthy.
Table service at upscale restaurants livens up in a response to a Millennial demand to be entertained and get a peek at what’s happening behind the scenes. Chefs themselves are getting in on the action upping the ante on engaging experiences.
Brunch becomes a main event. Even health nuts are relishing the opportunity to throw caution to the wind once a week during brunch, indulging in the carb heavy, over the top feast.
Now for the Beverage World:
Bubbles mania reigns. But we knew that! Sparkling Wine has captured the imagination of the public beyond celebrating special occasions. The growth of bubbles dwarfs that of still wines (see image). Restaurants are embracing this trend with expanded offerings. As Kimberly Charles declares, “There’s is a virality to hearing the pop of a cork, you want to be part of it.” We certainly agree! According to consumer products analyst Nik Modi at RBC Capital Markets, the rise in Sparkng Wine sales dwarfs still wine sales.
Note: In economists' terms, C0nsumer Value = the ratio of product price to product benefit
Stylistically, white wines are showing more restraint - lower alcohols, less oak, brighter acidity - a trend that’s part of our core values at Iron Horse.
Chardonnay is America’s #1 selling varietal, showing double digit growth. Even traditional red wine drinkers are exploring more white wines.
Coffee gets a modern makeover. New techniques and flavors create balanced and “treatful” beverages.
Instagram worthy embellished cocktails dominate. Think gold dusted flowers, sugar stirrers, designer straws, even perfectly smoked pork belly pieces. Andrew Freeman posed the very apropo question, “If we don’t Instagram it -- did it even happen?” (By the way, we’re on Instagram @IronHorseVyds)
The Bloody Mary is having a moment. Could there be a better way to recover after a late night sampling of our “Brilliant Bubbles Collection”? We don’t think so! And none are more delicious than Diane’s Bloody Marys featured at Michael Mina’s Tailgate at Levi Stadium (mentioned on recent our Star Chef Spotlight in Michael Mina).
As we take stock of a fantastic year at Iron Horse, and give thanks for your great support and friendship, we are already looking forward to a new year of success and innovation in our continued pursuit of toast-worthy excellence.
We’d love to hear your delicious predictions for 2016. Chime in on social media and in the comments below!
Last month, we started a recurring blog series of dispatches from our Iron Horse Winemaker David Munksgard who thoughtfully selects his favorite bottles for the special circle of friends and fans in his “Winemaker’s Choice Club”. We’re excited to share his December wine recommendations, perfectly timed as we dance into the holidays. Find out what our winemaker is drinking and thinking as we get a sparkling start to Christmas and New Year celebrations!
The final 2015 Winemakers Selection of the year includes the 2010 Cuvee M (sorry to say we’re now sold out … just another reason to join the club, so you don’t miss out in the future) and the 2012 Estate Pinot Noir.
2010 Cuvee M is made entirely from a single vineyard block called Block M, planted to Stony Hill Clone of Chardonnay. This wine has great meaning to me on a very personal level. In the winter of 1974, I was visiting my father-in-law in Napa. He arranged for a visit to Stony Hill Winery in the hills above Napa Valley. On that chilly, foggy, rainy day we were greeted by Stony Hill Winemaker Mike Chelini. This was my very first visit to a winery and Mike took his time and explained things in such a way as to not intimidate anyone. Heck, he even taught me how to swirl a glass of wine. We climbed on barrel stacks, tasting from them with a glass wine thief. That first winery experience could not have been better. And I fell in love with that specific clone of Chardonnay.
Twenty-two years later, I arrived at Iron Horse to be their new winemaker. I quickly learned that they had two blocks planted to the Stony Hill Clone; one was Block M. In 2010, I decided to pick block M early and use it for bubbly. The wine from this picking was so stunningly unique, it screamed to be bottled on its own.
Soon after, both blocks of Stony Hill were pulled out due to old age and replanted to Pinot Noir. Though I lost the vineyards of Stony Hill Clone, I still had the wine in time capsule fashion.
Stony Hill Clone to me has always been a benchmark, displaying lean citrus elements along with a signature of wet stone minerality. This is the only vintage we made of this wine. Total production was a mere 200 cases. Ready to impress now, this rarity will continue to gain in complexity well over the next eight to ten years with proper storage.
The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir is the still wine I chose for the December Club shipment. This wine’s evolution has been fun to follow as it continues to gain complexity and supple structure. Enjoy with your holiday meals or stash it away for three to five more years to enjoy those dried rose petal and herbal tones that bottle age brings.
All my very best wishes,