Thursday, February 09, 2006

Iron Horse Vineyards

We took a break from food for a wine tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards which is considered to be in the Green Valley region of Sonoma County.

For some reason, it reminded me of a cool rock band that I've just discovered, whose songs are beautiful and full of intricate surprises without showing off , and acts like they're just doing what they were born to do. They made goodness seem easy. I have a feeling that there's more going on with their wines than I was able to absorb at the first first tasting, and I'm looking forward to giving them another spin.

It was a thorough tasting -- 12 wines, including 3 limited reserve wines, for $5. They claim that sales and tours are by appointment only, but we ascended the narrow and curvy palm tree-lined path up to their hilltop abode and were served without any question of a reservation.
They are especially known for their sparkling wines, which are all made by the methode champenoise, which is a certain way to make wine bubbly and was originated by Dom Perignon himself. To give you an idea about this detailed process, I found a website that cites the stylistic decisions within this method that are made by each producer: viticultural practices, cultivars, maturity, pressing vs. crushing, types of press and press pressures, press fractions, phenol levels, use of SO2 and the oxidative condition of the base wine, yeast for primary and secondary fermentation, barrel fermentation and aging, fermentation temperatures, malolactic fermentation, post primary fermentation lees contact, age of cuvée, reserve wine, blending, time spent sur lie, nature of the dosage, and CO2 pressure.

It's awfully nice for them to go to such lengths to please even those who merely saunter in, reservation-free, to swig some. They have a beautiful outdoor tasting area. The counter looks like this.
The view looks something like this.
It was the Wine Country equivalent of a tropical bar set right on the beach.

So, we tasted. The 1998 Blanc de Blanc was especially good. As they describe it, it has "in your face yeast with true aged champagne character. A super serious sparkler that finishes long and dry." Their 2002 Estate Chardonnay and 2002 Limited Reserve Corral Chardonnay were especially delicious ones; not too sweet, but still retaining fruitiness.

If you're not so much into the particulars of wine, the year of the wine seems like an extraneous piece of info that could just as well be another year. But it makes a difference. We tried the 2002 Estate Pinot Noir and the 2001 Estate Pinot Noir. The 2002 noticeably tasted " just off the vine" while the 2001 had harmonized into deeper notes; and it charmed this pinot noir cynic because it actually had some flavor and body... rather than the watery body of pinot noirs that I usually notice. But older wines aren't always better. Each wine has a peak time to drink it, which could be asap. So, aging your TJ's Two Buck Chuck will probably only lead to trouble.

The sparkling wines at Iron Horse are in the $30-$36/bottle range, and the whites and reds in the $24-$39/ bottle range.

And two more rock star elements of Iron Horse: our server was cool and friendly and even danced at one point (and I have a pic, but it doesn't seem fair to post it), and their parking lot has this contraption:
Rock on.


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