Iron Horseing Around

As a 36 year-old avid wine drinker, I can honestly say sparkling wine is my all-time favorite beverage.

I drink more sparkling wine than beer, still wine or spirits.

The attractions are the bubbles, the refreshing sensation when it hits your lips, the lightness, the ultimate high received as it goes down, and most importantly, its amazing ability to match a plethora of foods.

As someone who works in a retail outlet and a restaurant, I can also say I sell more sparkling wine than I did 5 or 10 years ago, and the momentum is increasing every day.

More and more people want it in their refrigerator to enjoy at the end of the day or to serve as an aperitif or to pair with dinner or to enjoy with dessert.

My recycling bin overflows with sparkling wine bottles, and I’m pretty sure the lovely people who pick it up each Thursday wonder who lives in the house behind the hardcore drinkers.

Interestingly enough, my husband takes full credit for the sparkling wine craze in our town.

Even in my family, my father who once shunned the bubbles because of the cheap stuff he drank when he was 14, has converted and loves the fizz as much as the next bubble head.

In a time where sparkling is not only hip and cool, but thriving in the market place, we need reasons for recommending one over the other.

When it comes to American sparkling, there are a handful of excellent producers out there.

The creme de la creme is Iron Horse Vineyards, and besides being incredibly delicious in its own right, it also has a unique story, something I believe helps others fall in love with wine just as much as the flavor.

Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards and a stunning beauty both inside and out, has reinvented this property to be a superstar in the restaurant wine scene.

Primarily responsible for making Green Valley an AVA, she is a major proponent of the word “estate bottled.”

We all say we know what estate bottled means, but I will tell you, I didn’t have a complete grasp of it until reading Laurence Sterling’s blog about the 2010 harvest.

Estate bottled means the fruit is grown on the winery’s property, and the winery and its workers are the only people who have touched the fruit, from the planting to the trimming to the picking to the ultimate fermentation, ageing and bottling.

That, of course, is a huge deal, because you have a complete guarantee that the wine has had no exposure to any other entity who may have tampered with the fruit or improperly treated it.  We also know that the estate is solely responsible for the quality, therefore they wouldn’t pick unripe grapes or grapes contaminated with grey rot, etc.

However, it also means, that in more difficult vintages, the winery takes special care to prune, sort, use the needed methods, to make sure that the wine is consistent with the wine made in the excellent harvest the year or years before.

Laurence says it best when he says estate bottled “enables us to focus on picking only the fruit we want and make sure we pick all fruit we want.”

This is exceptionally important in Champagne, and it is exceptionally important when making sparkling wine.

Estate Bottled, that is Iron Horse.

What else?

Classic Champagne Taste at a fraction of the cost.  These bottles retail at approximately $37, a perfect price point that gives you the same quality as that of the bubbles overseas.

Iron Horse grows Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the same grapes grown in Champagne and uses methode champenoise to make the sparkles.  Made from the same grapes in the same fashion, wouldn’t it be nice to offer American bubbly to your guests?

Bringing me to the word we cannot go a day without hearing:  local.

In this time where more and more restaurants are highlighting local ingredients, from honey to eggs to trout roe, we also have a responsibility to treat our beverage program with the same respect.  If you have a restaurant or wine store in the United States, it is your duty to have a domestic sparkling wine.  Iron Horse is an American Classic in a relatively young American sparkling wine industry.

It is also passionate about sustainability.  Wild about Earth Day and giving back to our planet, Iron Horse genuinely cares about taking care of the soil, the water and the plants.  That is a sell in  itself.

While celebratory and festive, it continues to drink well throughout the year…think Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Trick or Treating.  I can think of any occasion to pop open a bottle and let the fizz fly.

At On the Square, we feature the Wedding Cuvee from Iron Horse.  Made primarily from Pinot Noir, this delicate, floral masterpiece is a very special bottle to us as it is what Stephen and I drank together the day after we got married, nine plus years ago.

Anybody have an anniversary coming up?  If so, I highly recommend sharing the love with a bottle of this!


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  • Todd and I visited Iron Horse on a wine tour of the Russian River and Alexandria Vallies a number of years ago. We brought home the bottle of Wedding Cuvee we drank the night we were engaged. Thanks for the fantastic memory!