Oh, la Joie, les Iron Horse bulles sont arrivés… a throw-back to growing up with French “Bernier” grandparents (rhymes with “Viognier”). Translated: “Oh, Joy, the bubbles have arrived.”

Each year, as we head into the last quarter of the year, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards sends a big box of her newly released bubbles to me. I feel so overjoyed to be able to sample their newest vintages for the upcoming holiday season. It’s like tasting the oncoming harvest and what will become the promises of all things pumpkin, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and into the Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014, in one fell swoop.

Each year, Iron Horse now produces about 250 cases of the “Year of the…. name the animal.” Next January 2014 begins the Year of the Horse.” Hello… How long has Iron Horse been waiting for this one? (Answer: maybe 11 years.)

It occurred to me, this time, that I’m really becoming “in tune” with Green Valley of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

  • Part of it might have to do with the new app called Vinissential, that Joy and a few others from Green Valley just had produced.  (I need to blog about this one, too.)
  • It might also have to do with our new client from that small AVA (American Viticultural Area), River Road Family Vineyards and Winery.
  • It might additionally have to do with consistently tasting wines from that region now, and finding identifiable flavors in harmony with Goldridge soils.

Lately I’ve been researching Goldridge soils for River Road Family Vineyards and Winery. The best place for anyone to start is with the Green Valley Website. This resource has been developed to assist the growers and producers of that area, to become more identifiable in how they think and talk about that location to outsiders. It’s also a great resource for outsiders, too, for all the obvious reasons. My love of research has found this to be a real class act, with nothing else coming close to it.

So what is it about the Goldridge soils that I can now equate to Iron Horse’s wines? The AVA covers an area from Petaluma (Egg Capital of the World, because of its open farmlands) to Sebastopol (Gravenstein Apple Capital of the World). I believe (and correct me if I’m wrong) what’s great for the Gravenstein apples is also great for grape growing in that region. From the Green Valley Website about Goldridge soil:

The predominant soil type of the AVA is called Goldridge—a fine sandy loam covering about 60% of the area. The soil has a dark, yellowish, fine, sandy loam surface over a subsoil of golden yellow, sandy loam and fractured sandstone. It is derived from the remains of an ancient inland sea that slowly emptied into the Pacific three to five million years ago. It is particularly valuable for high-quality wine grape production because of its excellent drainage and low soil fertility. These characteristics allow it to be initially managed from a “low vigor” situation that may be readily customized with more water and/or nutrition, which directly contributes to wine quality.

After reading and writing these qualities and digging even deeper in order to develop more stories about this soil… then tasting Joy’s wines, again, for another season… I just “got it.” I just got the tart apple flavors full force, a Macintosh in one instance, a Golden Delicious in another. I had an epiphany that seemed to smack me aside of my head. Apples… it just screamed green apples and harvest, fall and taking my kids to orchards to pick Les pommes de la saison.

Newly released Iron Horse wines, consistently holding true for me with the “apple flavors” theory:

  • 2008 Iron Horse Ocean Reserve ~ #SocialConsciousness
    • This wine is commemorating National Geographic’s 125th anniversary.
    • As an avid child explorer within their publications, National Geographic set my standards for excellence in so many ways. The fact that Joy Sterling, the CEO of Iron Horse, has found a way to give back to this organization, which has established marine protection areas and supports sustainable fishing around the globe, is very meaningful for us all, not just for me personally (although, I’m greatly impressed). For every bottle sold of the 800 cases, $4.00 helps to establish the protected areas and maintain the sustainable fishing areas (the math: $38,400).
  • 2008 Iron Horse Brut X
    • This wine is extremely dry, and yet it has a deliciously creamy mouthfeel. It was with this one that I first noticed the very ripe apples, more of the Granny Smith kind.
    • Iron Horse’s location in Green Valley of the Russian River Valley is ideally suited to produce the very best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in Russian River Valley, and this sparkling wine exemplifies the Goldridge soil’s greatest attributes: fresh, clean, crisp, crystalline focus, beautifully integrated, and restrained.
  • 2008 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut
    • A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, this wine is very traditional and elegant, because of the three years on the yeast and that’s its “brut” level dry.
    • Pair this one with food, and all will be well with the world.
    • I loved the yeasty baked custard flavors of this wine. Joy suggests that it would be great with a smoke salmon canape, cracked Dungeness crab, or buttermilk fried chicken… Okay, I’m off for some fried chicken… As I write this, it’s lunch time…
  • 2008 Iron Horse Russian Cuvée
    • Great back story: This wine commemorates the style of sparkling wine that Iron Horse made for the historic Regan – Gorbachev summit meeting, which ended the cold war. (It might be time for a new meeting, and bring this all back around, I’m just wishfully thinking.)
    • Each harvest, Iron Horse waits until harvest to decide sparkling or still wines… The only difference is the brix level. In sparkling wine, the sugar level is less than it is for their still wines. Also, winemaker David Munksgard considers berry size. The larger grapes are better for sparkling wines, the smaller fruit is better for sill wines. More considerations happen in the process, but I’m just sharing the most fascinating for me. I didn’t realize this one, so it’s worth sharing at this time.
  • 2009 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée
  • 2007 Iron Horse Brut Rosé
    • The most vivid and bold of iron Horse’s sparking wines; it’s one of my favorites, too.
    • This is always the first one I want to open… I think it’s the color, but I know there’s still so much more. Notice in the picture above, I had already opened the bottle ans we enjoying the wine, when I realized I hadn’t taken my usual group shot of the bottles. Yikes… Bottle is frosted and very much enjoyed by the time I realized my faux pas. Oops!
  • 2005 Iron Horse Chinese Year of the Horse Cuvée
    • Horse to horse, mano y mano… Delivery of another great vintage. Mandarin oranges dominate with this one’s flavors. Surprised? I think not.
    • This is the third vintage of Chinese Cuvée. I’m delighted to share that I’ve had each one, but am elated to have this one to celebrate the Chinese New Year with this coming January 31, 2014.
    • Year of the horse people from Life Script: Their captivating attributes are many. They are pleasant, have an easy-going disposition and have many friends, probably because they know how to put people at ease and are blessed with good humor. Best of all, if you befriend a Horse person, it won’t ever be boring… Horse person is an extrovert and possesses a quick wit, so he is normally the life of the party. One thing to be mindful of, though, is people born during the Zodiac Year of the Horse are frank, direct people.
    • Cellared it, and I’m looking forward to the mandarin and ripe apple flavors… This is a full and silky wine, in the past. I expect the same for the end of January… Meanwhile, it’s resting…
  • 2004 Iron Horse Brut LD (Late Disgorged)
    • This wine, being late disgorged, has been aged longer (2004), which makes it a richer, creamer, more refined, and totally elegant bubbly wine. this is their Tête de Cuvée… Top of the line.
    • Hand harvested early in the morning, Iron Horse’s Pinot and Chardonnay grapes are only gently pressed as whole clusters. This process creates wines of great delicacy. This is why I love the Iron Horse wines so much. Juice is fermented very slowly, with this, too, creating the most graceful of flavors.
    • This wine had flavors of pears, the other fruit that grows well alongside apples, but has different, more gentle  flavor profile.
    • When you enjoy this one, bring out rich foods that you think of when celebrating all things decadent.

Missing in the line-up this year, and understandable so, is Joy!. The next vintage is 2003. This one isn’t going to be released until 2015 at the earliest. This sparkling wine is allowed at least 12 years en triage… and so, the bubbles wait, and the rest of the world patiently waits for this one to come back around. Meanwhile, we have so much more Joy to be celebrating….

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