Iron Horse Vineyards

2005 Ocean Reserve

Chardonnay •Green Valley

California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley

Offer Expired:Nov 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


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Mission Codename: I Am Giving… I Am Thankful

Operative: Agent Sparkle & Agent Sass

Objective: Find a sparkling wine that we can all be thankful for.

Mission Status: Accomplished

Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2005 Ocean Reserve

Winemaker: David Munksgard


Iron Horse Vineyards, so say named for the train stop in Sonoma’s Green Valley, is famous for adhering to the strict methode champenoise on its classic and delicious sparking gems. Sonoma County Green Valley AVA is located on the western edge of the Russian River Valley and is separately designated. Its cooler climate and distinct sandy soil is ideal for sparkling wine as is exemplified in today’s featured wine. Today’s selection is 100% Chardonnay, like a Blanc de Blancs, literally ‘white of whites’, made famous in Champagne is a sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Too often drunk young, these classic sparkling wines need time to develop their full aroma and flavor characteristics.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Crystal clear pale straw yellow with pale edges. When poured a fine mouse lingers for a moment giving way to tiny restrained bubbles that gracefully swirl to the surface of the wine.

Smell – Clean and pure fruit notes of tart citrus and granny smith apples with a hint of toasty vanilla and a very subtle green and smoke component begs for a sip.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this wine’s restrained effervescence in its looks deceives as the second you take a sip this wine excitedly dances over the palate. Racy acidity and soft textured minerality enhances the elegant mouth fee.

Taste – Like the nose, this classic sparkler has pure and crisp but delicate notes of tart green apple and citrus, including subtle notes of Meyer lemon and ripe Key lime and tart Granny Smith Apple, hover over notes of vanilla toast, a touch of green herb.

Finish – This sparkling wine finishes extremely clean, smooth and crisp, lingering for at least a minute begging for another sip.

Conclusion – The 2005 Iron Horse Vineyards Ocean Reserve is a fantastic sparking wine that easily rivals some of our favorite Premier Cru Champagne. Beautiful in the glass with graceful bubbles and a light golden color, approachable aromas and palate that is beyond delight. Clean and crisp flavors screams finesse and elegance. This wine is perfect for all your holiday celebrations or simply a quiet romantic evening in front of a roaring fire. Pair with any fresh seafood, but we were tempted to shuck a few oysters with this fantastic wine.

Agent Sass’ Tasting Notes:

With the holidays now here, a classy bottle of bubbly goes a long way! This limited selection from Iron Horse winery is both beautifully pale in color, and sparkles so radiantly with its tiny effervescent bubbles. One needn’t break the bank for some stylish New Year’s celebrations to be had, as this crisp and elegant wine matches up to the best of the best! With a subtle hint of vanilla hitting the tongue, this sparkling Chardonnay will have each and every guest delighted, as its tingling and festive appeal, coupled with its smooth finish, allow all to experience the full loveliness of what a sparkling wine should truly be about! Without question, Iron Horse has produced an exceptional sparkling wine, and the flavors (which come alive inside the mouth), exude pure elegance! (see below for Agent Sass’ complete bio.)

Mission Report:


AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

DAVID MUNKSGARD: Iron Horse 2005 Ocean Reserve is a limited production vintage Blanc de Blancs created in partnership with National Geographic with a unique dosage designed by Washington D.C. chef Barton Seaver, Esquire 2009 Chef of the year, now a National Geographic Fellow and champion of sustainable seafood. The flavors are bright, crisp, and exciting, expressing Iron Horse’s proximity to the ocean. It really speaks to how the ocean affects the special taste and quality of our Sparklings. Only 1,000 cases were produced and we now have under 200 cases remaining.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

DAVID: Oysters! Raw, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell. There’s a recipe for smoked oyster stuffing for Thanksgiving, as well as other mouth water suggestions, to pair with Ocean Reserve on the National Geographic website:

RED: In your opinion, what makes your growing region so special?

DAVID: Our special growing region is called Green Valley. It is the coolest, foggiest part of the Russian River. Our special growing region is called Green Valley. It is the coolest, foggiest part of the Russian River. There is a direct relationship between the ocean and our special micro-climate at Iron Horse … especially the fog, which come to us from the gap in coast range (the Petaluma Gap) and allows us to make Sparking Wines on this level of finesse.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Green Valley in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.

About Agent Sass:

Agent Sass, currently a resident of New England, is a bond girl to the Nth degree! Speaking multiple languages, feasting on exotic game meats, drinking exclusively red wines – but for the occasional bubbly or Zind Humbrecht white – and having an affinity for leather trousers and “high fashion” shoes; Agent Sass produced an edgy wine etiquette DVD: She has enjoyed wine with her dinner nightly, since age 10, and taught extemporaneous speaking to college students prior to today. While drinking copious reds, Agent Sass raises very pampered Cocker Spaniels and prepares all of their gourmet food from scratch. Despite her luscious crush on Malbecs, her favorite wine is tied between Ghost Horse Cabernet & Screaming Eagle Cabernet – still a delicious “menage a trois” for Sass, while she determines which it is, that truly hits the spot best for her!

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

This special cuvee was designed by Iron Horse Winemaker David Munskgard and National Geographic’s Barton Seaver, a Washington D.C. chef, Esquire’s 2009 Chef of the Year, now a National Geographic Fellow and a champion of sustainable seafood with a cookbook coming out in the spring called “For Cod and Country”. Early supporters of Ocean Reserve include Chef Eric Ripert at le Bernardin in New York, Chef Rick Moonen at RM Seafood in Las Vegas and select Whole Foods stores across the country.

About This Wine:

Ocean Reserve is a special, limited edition Sparkling Wine created in partnership with National Geographic to benefit the ocean. For every bottle you purchase, Iron Horse will donate $4 to establish marine protected areas and reduce overfishing around the world. The vintage is 2005, 100% Chardonnay, aged four plus years. The finishing element, the dosage, makes it unique.

Food Pairing: Created expressly to pair with sustainable seafood, from grilled clams with chervil butter, oysters with smoked paprika and peach, to mackerel with fig and orange salsa. There are a number of recipes on the National Geographic Society website to help you kick start your own ocean inspiration.


All of our Chardonnay is handled one lot at a time. Only as the grapes arrive at the winery do we decide
how to treat them. Sometimes it is straight to the press as whole clusters, for certain lots, we simply destem, while other times a cold soak might be necessary. Frequent lees stirring contributes to the full and creamy mouth-feel while 25% of the blend was cold fermented in stainless steel to retain esters, i.e. brightness, minerality and exotic fruit elements.

About The Winery:

Iron Horse is one of Sonoma County’s most prestigious, small, independent, estate, family owned wineries. The founding partners, Audrey and Barry Sterling first saw it in the pouring rain in February 1976. Driving down Ross Station Road, they were sure they were lost until they crested the knoll and the view opened up to 300 acres of gentle rolling hills and a wall of trees behind that looked like Camelot to them. Incurable romantics, and having extraordinary vision, they bought the property in just two weeks.

In those days, Iron Horse was the most westerly vineyard in Sonoma County. Even the agricultural extension agents from US Davis recommended they look further east as this vineyard was prone to frost as late as June 1st, well after bud-break in the spring and jeopardizing the crop. But having lived in France, the Sterlings knew the cool, foggy climate was exactly what they were looking for to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And, as a native San Franciscan, Audrey Sterling had spent part of her summers on the Russian River and was familiar with the area.

There were 110 acres in vine at the time, originally planted by Forrest Tancer when he was working for Rodney Strong. Forrest and the Sterlings became partners, upgraded the vineyard, engineered an elaborate frost protection system, built the winery and produced their first vintage of Estate Chardonnay in 1978. The winery officially opened in 1979 with the first vintage of Estate Pinot Noir on Barry Sterling’s 50th birthday. The first vintage for the Sparkling Wines was 1980.

The name Iron Horse came from a train that stopped at Ross Station at the turn of the 20th Century. The logo, the rampant horse on a weathervane, came from an actual weathervane that was unearthed when they were leveling the ground to build the winery.

Precision Winegrowing:

At Iron Horse “Estate Bottled” means that the winemaking begins in the vineyard. Our location in Green Valley represents the very best soil, climate and aspects for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Our goal is to grow the best winegrapes we should be growing through what we call “precision winegrowing.” All pruning, canopy
management, irrigation and cover crop decisions are determined on a block-by-block (and sometimes even vine-by-
vine) basis, considering both the vintage at hand and the long-term needs of the land.

For Sparkling and Still Wine, Precision Harvesting is Key: Our only rule is to make the best wines we can. We wait
until harvest to decide sparkling or still, as the only difference is the brix level (or the amount of sugar in the grapes, less for sparklings, more for still). Then winemaker David Munksgard considers berry size (bigger is better for sparklings, smaller for still), the health of the canopy, clone selection, even small details such as the relative dampness of the cover crop can make a difference. If necessary, parts of a single block may be picked on different days.

Technical Analysis:

Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley

Blend: 100% Chardonnay

Alcohol: 13.5% v/v

Total Production: 1000 Cases

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