Chardonnay,Food & Wine,Russian River Valley,Wine,Winery

Iron Horse Chardonnay ~ Always a deliciously special treat ~ Part II

Earlier, I wrote about the New 2010 Iron Horse Vineyards Chardonnays being released, with much of the content coming directly from Joy Sterling,

There is a strong French influence in Joy’s life. She grew up in Paris, attended a French school and speaks French fluently. Living in Europe and traveling extensively, Joy received an extraordinary education in the appreciation of food and wine, and a love of quality wherever it’s found in the world. This is why I like her so much… She’s got “it.”

According to Joy, “2010 seems like eons ago. Looking back at my brother’s blog from that year, archived on our Website, reminded me how dramatically challenging it was and how beautifully the wines turned out, mostly thanks to hard work, dedication and pursuit of excellence by the entire Iron Horse team.”

Here are the wines as I enjoyed them:

2010 Iron Horse Unoaked Chardonnay ~ Signature Green Valley (3,617 cases, $27.00)

NOTES: The best they’ve made, yet… Joy believes that it’s harder to make Chardonnay without oak, than with it. I would imagine that stainless steel fermenting means that one must be very careful and pure with the wine. While oak might be able to mask a tiny flaw by not having the luxury of oak and its flavors, which includes its tannins, unoaked Chardonnay has to stand on its own two feet, and this one truly does.

  • SELECTION: The Grapes come from their Thomas Road Vineyard.
  • WINEMAKING: 100% Chardonnay, Clone 4, which is ideally suited to bring forth bright fruit and is mineral-dominated. This tells me to expect a Chablis-style Chardonnay. This wine didn’t experience malolactic fermentation.
  • NOSE: Eureka Lemons struck me at first… that clean, crisp, late spring day. It just has such a refreshing bouquet with floral aromas like this picture I took one time of spring in a vineyard along West Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg CA. I couldn’t wait to taste this wine’s bouquet.
  • PALATE: It had lychee nut notes, pink grapefruit, and Granny Smith apples on my palate. This is truly an uncomplicated, complicated wine, if I can even think that. It’s uncomplicated by its stainless steel and non-oak treatment, compared to other Iron Horse Chards. But it’s complicated by the great care that went into growing and making this wine. You wouldn’t get this kind of description in a commodity wine. Iron Horse is on the other side of commodity; hence, the complicated.

2010 Iron Horse Estate Chardonnay~ Signature Green Valley (3,300 cases, $28.00)

  • BLEND: 100 percent Chardonnay; 53% Old Wente, 25% Hyde Old Wente, and 22% Rued clones
  • NOSE: What a lush nose of butterscotch, pineapple and a hint vanilla. Now I’m drooling. This was a Mother’s Day treat for me this 2012.
  • PALATE: Ripe Meyer Lemons, with toasted almonds, a light black olive oil lingered on the finish… Poetry.
  • FINISH: It was 100 percent barrel fermented, 100 percent “Heritage Clones,” and no malolactic fermentation. The 100 percent French oak barrels seamlessly integrate with this wine, giving this Chardonnay a long, lingering finish.

2010 Iron Horse Native Yeast Chardonnay (535 cases, $48.00)

  • SELECTION: This chardonnay is a selection from one of Iron Horse’s most prized blocks on their estate.
  • PALATE: Fermenting with native yeasts from the vineyards gave this a rich mouth feel. One of my favorite Iron Horse Chardonnays, this is always round with luscious flavors that continues to deliver, long after you’ve swirled, sipped, and swallowed.
  • FINISH: It’s a softer, elegantly made Chardonnay with a hint of toastiness on the finish.

2010 Heritage Clone Chardonnay (411 cases, $48.00)

  • SELECTION: From one of the newest blocks of their estate, cool climate and Gold Ridge soil consistently comes together, year-after-year. This resuls in a full-bodied Chardonnay that showcases the beautiful acidity and minerality of the Hyde-Old Wente clone.
  • WINEMAKING: Like all of these wines, alcohol was kept below 14%, and that makes it so food friendly and ~ quite honestly ~ really savory.
  • NOSE: Deliciously inviting butterscotch nose, with well integrated toasted almonds.
  • PALATE: Citrus of lemon and lime, honeysuckle and pineapple. This is one very delicious Chardonnay.
  • FINISH: Sublime…

2010 Iron Horse Chardonnay ~ Corral Vineyard (464 cases, $48.00).

THOUGHTS: I opened the bottle, poured this wine into my glass and said aloud, without thinking what I was doing or saying, “Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum.” Then I thought, I need to write that one down, and not let it slip away, because that was such an instinctive response for what this chardonnay is really delivering.

  • BLEND: “Sitting amongst our southern-most vineyard blocks is a romantic old cattle corral, which explains why we call those blocks the Corral Vineyard.” ~ Joy Sterling, This one is 100% Chardonnay, 75 percent Old Wente Clone, 25 percent Rued Clone, and 13.6 percent alcohol.
  • NOSE: Pineapple… more tropical than cool climate on the nose.
  • PALATE: Very cool climate than tropical on the palate, however. Soft Myer lemon flavors and Granny Smith apples on the palate; a long.
  • FINISH: Lingering finish with hints of almond and bright grapefruit citrus. The finish has a beautiful roundness, which makes me wonder about ML, but I know that a secondary fermentation didn’t happen. this always amazes me about Iron Horse wines…

2010 Iron Horse Chardonnay ~ Rued Clone (531 cases, $48.00).

THOUGHTS: The Rued Clone is a special variety of Chardonnay, with a pronounced floral aroma. Some believe that this variety is “native” to Green Valley. It matches perfectly with this part of Russian River Valley’s cool, foggy climate, and highly prized Gold Ridge soil.

  • COLOR: Beautiful, like soft, creamy butter
  • NOSE: A really unique nose, I got immediate watermelon, which then led to a lemon zestiness
  • PALATE: Ripe golden delicious apples with a lovely olive oil roundness

My final thoughts

How beautifully Iron Horse wines are crafted, with a soft, round mouth feel to each one, and yet no ML happens to any of these wines… For me, because I’m not a huge malolactic fermentation fan, this proves – from my own standpoint – that crafting gorgeous Chardonnay has everything  to do with expert execution, versus rounding out the wines with more manipulation. It’s amazing how skillfully well-integrated oak can impart the soft flavors that so much winemaking has been left to ML. It’s so refreshing to step back to true varietal characteristics of wine and the proper use of oak barrels to arrive at the flavors that I crave in Chardonnays.

My hat’s off to Iron Horse for trusting winemaker David Munksgard to craft their consistently elegant wines.

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