AWG Correspondent

Martin D. Redmond

Iron Horse Vineyards Photos

Iron Horse Vineyards Review

Regions: Sonoma Coast AVA, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley AVA, Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA, California

Reviewed: August 14, 2016 by Martin D. Redmond
Published: March 1, 2017

As you drive up the long gravel road that leads to Iron Horse Vineyards, if you glance in the rearview mirror, you will notice a trail of dust in your wake. If time travel were possible, it’s not hard to imagine making one’s way up that gravel road on a horse or in an “Iron Horse” as trains were known at the turn of the 20th century. By the time you belly up to the outdoor wooden bar that overlooks the picturesque Green Valley and beyond, you’re in need refreshment.

You’re offered a chilled flute of refreshing, world-class sparkling wine to slake your thirst. As you savor that first sip and bask in the beauty that surrounds you, a sigh of satisfaction escapes your lips, and you find yourself smiling. In that moment, you know it’s going to be a good day because you’re got bubbles!

Iron Horse Vineyards, renowned for their sparkling wines, is one of Sonoma County's most beautiful, home-grown, family-owned wineries dedicated to producing estate-bottled wine. The founders, Audrey and Barry Sterling first saw it during a rain storm in February 1976. They fell in love with the 300-acre, underdeveloped property. Two weeks later they were the owners.

The first vintage of Estate Chardonnay was produced in 1978, and the winery officially opened in 1979. That same year, they produced their first Pinot Noir. The first sparkling wines were produced from the 1980 harvest, which yielded more pinot noir than planned. Rather than sell it on the bulk market, they decided to venture into sparkling wine.

Located in the heart of the Green Valley AVA, their estate vineyard is composed of 160 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which is the source of fruit for both their still and sparkling wines.

The winery was named after a railroad stop, which crossed the property in the 1890s, and three generations of the Sterling family live on the property. Their sparkling wines have been served at the White House for five consecutive Presidential administrations, beginning with the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings ending the Cold War.

Iron Horse is a chance to experience the rustic elegance and authenticity of Sonoma County at its best. The tastings are alfresco with a choice of a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Bubbly flight. Each flight includes five wines. Many wines are small production wines available exclusively at the winery. While you’re sipping your choice of wine, you’ll be immersed in the beauty of the vineyards that surround the tasting bar.

I opted for the sparkling flight on my most recent visit, but I’ve previously chosen the Pinot and Chardonnay flights. I’ve been delighted with all the wines! Whether still or sparkling the wines exhibit a sense of place and balance.

Here are the wines I tasted:

2011 Iron Horse Vineyards Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blancs

A limited edition vintage Blanc de Blancs that is fresh, clean, dry and impeccably balanced with fresh bread dough, citrus zest, green apple, melon and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a very creamy mousse with green apple, tangerine, apricot, and a hint of melon and vanilla flavors with an appealing minerality. Proceeds from the sale of this wine benefit the National Geographic's Ocean Initiative, establishing marine protected areas and supporting sustainable fishing practices around the globe.

2012 Iron Horse Vineyards Wedding Cuvée

A fruit forward cuvée that’s a blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay. It’s elegant and fresh with brioche, strawberry, raspberry, mandarin orange, and a hint of baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s creamy and fresh with raspberry, strawberry, blood orange, and calamansi lime flavors.

2011 Iron Horse Vineyards Classic Vintage Brut

This cuvée is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with fresh bread dough, Crème brûlée, and quince aromas. On the palate, it’s creamy, complex, fresh and harmonious with orchard fruits, hazelnut, mandarin orange and vanilla flavors and a long finish. This cuvée is especially versatile when it comes to pairing with a variety of dishes. The Iron Horse website suggests pairing with “crispy pomme frittes with sea salt and black pepper, truffle popcorn, avocado and baby shrimp salad, bacon and watercress sandwich, wild mushroom tart, spaghetti with cream, Parmesan and crispy onions, roast duckling with citrus”. Yes, please!

2011 Iron Horse Vineyards Russian Cuvée

This cuvée commemorates the style of sparkling wines Iron Horse crafted for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings. It’s a rich, creamy and appetizing wine that’s ideal as an aperitif. It shows caramel, pie crust, apple, and citrus aromas. On the palate, it approaches with apple, pear, lime flavors accented with a kiss of brown sugar and spice.

2008 Iron Horse Vineyards Brut Rosé

This cuvée is mostly Pinot Noir. It’s a beautiful pink color with plenty of very active, tiny bubbles. It shows enticing, ripe red fruits, black cherry, raspberry, fresh baked biscuits, dried rose, and wet stone aromas. On the palate, it’s sophisticated, bright, dry, and delicious with cherry, raspberry, mandarin orange, and strawberry flavors. The wine has a savory character that invites another sip with a long mineral-laced finish. It was aged seven years en tirage.

2011 Iron Horse Vineyards Brut X

The Brut X cuvée is alluring and very dry with an abundance of tiny bubbles. It shows promising buttered toast, roasted hazelnut, raspberry, apple, and citrus aromas. On the palate, it's sleek, harmonious, and expressive with apple, baked apricot, and vanilla flavors and a hint of minerality. I could drink this all day, every day. Fresh oysters anyone?

2012 Iron Horse Vineyards Rainbow Cuvee

The Wedding cuvée is the Iron Horse interpretation of a Blanc de Noirs. It was crafted from Pinot Noir lots that are very expressive and fruit forward. This festive wine shows toast, raspberry, pear and quince aromas. It’s full-bodied, dry, and complex with a creamy mousse, orchard fruit, raspberry, and mandarin orange flavors, and a long satisfying finish.

Insiders tip:

Every Sunday between April and October from 12-4 is “Oyster Sunday” featuring freshly harvested, locally grown, Petite Miyagi oysters, served grilled or raw with The Oyster Girls' signature sauces. The oysters are $3 each, but bring cash!

Consider the VIP Tour and Tasting. It’s a behind the scenes look at Iron Horse during which you’ll receive a special tasting of five reserve wines – a selection of single vineyard still wines and limited production Sparkling Wines only available at the winery. Not only will you have an opportunity to see how sparkling wine is crafted, you receive a private viewing of their prestigious collection of White House menus featuring Iron Horse. The cost is $30.

With a bit of advance planning, set up a “bring your own” picnic. Make a reservation to reserve a table in the utterly charming, just re-built, redwood gazebo. Each of the tables has a lovely vineyard view. There is a $35 flat fee per table ($25 for Wine Club members) plus a minimum purchase of 1 bottle, which includes a complimentary Govino.

Address & Contact Information: 9786 Ross Station Rd. Sebastopol, California 95472. Telephone: 707-887-1507, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 10:00-4:30.

Overall Rating:  

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