Iron Horse: Part Two of My California Wine Adventure

While on my trip to the bay area my family and I spent a day wine tasting in Sonoma. We went to 4 wineries and tasted a lot of wine! The first winery we went to was Iron Horse. Iron Horse does manly sparkling wines and has a gorgeous outdoor tasting room that overlooks the vineyards. We were actually doing a tour here so we got to hear about how they grow their grapes and actually got to see part of the sparkling wine making process.

On the tour they took us down into the production area and we actually got see how the sparkling process works. There are several different ways to get the fizz into sparkling wine. One way is simply injecting CO2 like they do in soda, this produces larger bubbles that fizz out pretty quickly. Iron Horse uses the traditional method in which the wine goes through a second fermentation process.

The wine is bottled and yeast and a small amount of sugar is added. They then put a crown cap (beer bottle cap) on the bottle and age it in a cellar horizontally. During this time, referred to as entirage, the CO2 builds in the bottle.

After the wine is bottle aged and the CO2 has built up pressure in the bottle. The residual yeast mixture (lees) has to be removed. To do this they start with a process called riddling where they store the wine at 45 degree angle, with the cap facing down and shake/rotate the bottle once a day. Each day the angle the bottle is sitting at is gradually increased until the bottle is completely upside down and the lees is settled in the neck of the bottle.

Once this is complete the wine goes through the disgorging process, which we actually got to watch. In this process they freeze the small amount of liquid at the top of the bottle trapping the lees between the cap and the ice. They then pull the frozen liquid from the bottle taking the lees with it. After this happens and right before inserting the cork the liquid level is replenished with mixture of a small amount of the base wine and some sugar. This entire process happens rather quickly and very little pressure is actually released from the bottle between the time the crown cap is removed and the cork is inserted. It’s a pretty cool process to watch and I had no idea how they made sparkling wine before this.

Iron HorseNow on to the wine! We actually tasted quite a few wines at Iron Horse. My favorite sparkling was their 2008 Wedding Cuvee ($38). It’s 85% Pinot and 15% Chardonnay and goes through 3 years of entirage. It is a dry sparkling with hints of strawberry and green apple. It has a crisp refreshing flavor with a slight earthiness to it.

My 2nd favorite sparkling was the 2007 Brut X ($50). This one is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% chardonnay and has 4 years of entirage. It’s extremely dry and has a nice minerality too it. It’s a wine that would go nicely with oysters.

In addition to the 5 sparkling wines we tasted we also got to taste a few still wines including a Rose and a Pinot Noir.

The 2011 Rose de Pinot Noir ($20) was one of my favorite wines we tasted here. It reminded me of a French Rose even though its color was much darker. I got strawberry on the nose and it had a nice light almost tropical flavor to it. It would make a perfect pre-dinner wine on a warm summer night.

The 2011 Estate Pinot at $50 a bottle is a little more pricey but very good. This nose reminded me of cherries and roses. It had good structure and flavor with soft tannins and the cherry definitely came through on the palate.

This was probably my favorite winery we visited, mainly because the tour was so interesting and they had a lot of good wine to boot! I would definitely say this winery is worth a stop if you’re ever out in Sonoma.


Posted on November 30, 2012, in Reviews, sparkling Wine, Wine Tasting, Wine Tours and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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