Each year, about this time (the last quarter of the year, actually), all of my thoughts turn toward bubbles.

This is the time of year I get out my knitting needles and begin to make things that I give away during the holidays. I have to admit that since I moved to California 20 years ago, I’m not knitting as profusely as I did before I got here. Honestly, living in Maine during the winters had me knitting sweaters round the clock. For two Christmases in a row, I gave away 11 Icelandic knit, Lopi sweaters for each Christmas, which I had knit from September through December… (Yeah, I was that crazy about knitting. That’s making one sweater a week, and my kids will tell you that I’m not shining you on.)

Looking back over the last 20 years, it appears to me that I traded in my knitting needles for my keyboard. Never, in my wildest dreams before I got to wine country, did I know that I was a writer. I knew that I loved writing, but never thought of it as a vocation… Not until I entered a wine marketing department, and off I went writing copy because it was “fun” to do and others were looking for material.

So, here I am, writing about the last quarter of the year, the most joyous time of the year, and my minds turns to bubbles. It’s an easy subject, given that this is the second year in a row that Joy Sterling has shared all of her family’s Iron Horse newly released bubbles with me.

And, now we’re here again. I got them about a month ago, but I’ve taken the time to taste (and enjoy) each bottle of wine, so I could share my thoughts with you… When the quality of wine is this amazing, I have no reason to open all of the bottles and do an instant comparative. I could easily do that by simply driving over to the winery, where sample bottles are all open. Nope… I can’t go there when the shipment arrives. First of all, when I open the box, I’m stunned. Can you even imagine ordering what I’m about to write about, and then just popping all of the corks because you can? Sorry, I just can’t waste sumptuous bubbles that way.

AVA: Iron Horse takes painstakingly conscious measures to grow the very best grapes possible in the Green Valley sub AVA of the Russian River AVA. This area is only 13 miles from the coast, and the coolest part (there’s a pun in there) of Russian River Valley. With lots of fog, plenty of cool climate days, this is the crème de la crème of viticulture for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grown in Sonoma County… And there’s Iron Horse living the life on a charming piece of property, unique among the blessed, palm trees crowning the glory. It’s an amazing neighborhood…

VIT PRACTICES: Iron Horse has approximately 160 acres of vineyards. They’re planted exclusively to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, on this estate of gently rolling hills. Whenever I’m out there, I always enjoy the vista that spans across Sonoma County to Mount St. Helena.

For you vit geeks, Gold Ridge is the predominant soil type, a sandy clay loam. It has excellent drainage and is perfectly balanced in terms of its mineral elements, the most sought after soil type in Sonoma, especially for Pinot.

The property is divided into specific blocks, each of which is individually farmed. The grapes are harvested separately, and then they’re vinified as if each block was a “single vineyard.”

This is the hallmark of Iron Stone’s wines…

How else could I receive eight bottles of bubbly wine from the exact same producer, and have each one of them be so distinctively different from the other seven? It’s right back to their harvesting… “harvested separately, and then they’re vinified as if each block was a ‘single vineyard.'”
They’re each that unique.

This family eats, thinks, and drinks bubbles…

If an event comes up of merit, they’re making bubbles to celebrate that occasion.


  • Iron Horse Vineyards was at the official launch of the State Department’s Culinary Diplomacy Initiative
  • 2004 Iron Horse Green Valley of Russian River Chinese Cuvée... I just got to taste this delectable bubbly, and it had me dancing for Joy as I tasted it.
    • More history on China relations: Year of the Dragon Chinese Cuveé was met favorably when it was first presented to Mayor Ed Lee (who went to Bowdoin College when my Jose was there, too, Jose always remembers with each new story that involves Ed Lee…). Bubbles for the Dragon ~ Iron Horse went off to China to CelebrateIron Horse Vineyards shipped 880 cases of its Year of the Dragon Chinese Cuveé to Beijing, on January 10, 2012. It was specifically created to celebrate this year’s Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon.
  • Iron Horse was the official bubbly for the Golden Gate’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations. Joy said, “I was asked if we’d like to be the exclusive wine, and I said that just being the sparkling wine was all we needed. Why not let others share in that excitement?”
  • Iron Horse Ocean Reserve ~ Joy Sterling: “The Ocean is the source of food, rain, oxygen and beauty. But today, pollution, overfishing and climate change have placed the ocean in crisis. Here is a sip of hope. Iron Horse Vineyards is partnering with National Geographic to help restore the ocean to health. Continuing our commitment, every bottle purchased Iron Horse will donate $4 to establish marine protection areas and reduce overfishing around the world.”

Tomorrow, I’m going to write about the wine’s flavors. And, get ready, because this ain’t gonna be your daddy’s wine reviews.

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