Iron Horse Vineyards
2005 Ultra Brut
Pinot Noir - Chardonnay •Estate Bottled
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: 2011? Bring it!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Find a sparkling wine that we can all be thankful for.
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Ultra Brut
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 exceptional selection is a low-sugar masterpiece made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay estate grapes.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Palest yellow, with hues that summon memories of peach flesh. The wine presents an endless rush of tiny bubbles that gather at the surface, then move outward to the edge of the glass – to form a ring of clustered beads.
Smell – Yeasty and shy at first, then aromas of green apple, mild citrus, Asian pear and dried white flowers emerge. After a while, additional aromas of flint, soft chalk and fresh Hawthorne flower join in.
Feel – On entry, the mousse blooms, sending a vibrant rush of fine bubbles around the entire palate. After a moment, a softly tangy dryness gradually encroaches, drying first the lips and then the cheeks. Bright acidity and limestone mineral contribute to the already opulent mouthfeel.
Taste – Yellow pear, green apple, yellow apple and crisp zest offer a vibrant and lively flavor profile. These bright flavors are soon followed by limestone, toasted almond and toasted hazelnut, with an added hint of key lime at the very end.
Finish – This elegant bubbly finishes ultra clean, with bright fruits that gradually yield to zesty citrus, minerals and a tart key lime note at its tail.
Conclusion – An astoundingly fantastic sparkling wine, the 2005 Iron Horse Ultra Brut is an obvious choice for your New Year’s celebrations. With an elegant and lush feel, delicious flavors and balanced aromatics, this wine combines a classy elegance with raucous fun! Pair with raw seafoods, like sashimi, oysters or hard cheeses and smoked meats. Enjoy with your romantic partner or with friends and family as the clock strikes 2011!
AGENT RED: Hi, David. I know how busy you are, so I want to thank you for sspending a few moments with us, today. Please tell me a little bit about Iron Horse’s 2005 Ultra Brut. We love it!
DAVID MUNKSGARD: Thanks, Red. Our 2005 Ultra Brut is a very small production sparkler that we make for true bubble crazed fanatics (well, like me).
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVID: This wine is ultra everything; ultra dry, ultra expressive and ultra elegant. Chill this baby down and serve it with all the usual suspects like, oysters, caviar, smoked fish, sushi and smoked or cured meats.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Green Valley region so special?
DAVID: It’s all about this very special place we call Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Once an inland sea, our soils are sandy-loam. This sparse soil provides little nutrient to our vines leaving us with smaller easier to manage vines. The foggy, chilly nights and moderately warm days produce bright flavors and tingly acidity so critical to our style of bubbly.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVID:We had a bit of a late harvest this year, so some primary fermentations still bubble along, as well as my malo-lactic fermentations of Pinot Noir for our red program.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine.
DAVID: You bet!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Green Valley in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points – Wine Spectactor
4 1/2 Stars – The Santa Rosa Press Democrat
About This Wine:
Ultra Brut means ultra dry, ultra expressive, ultra elegant. The dosage is under 0.5% residual sugar – barely perceptible, but adds just the right amount of “polish”.
By nose: Yeast, ripe red apple and tangerine. By mouth: Filbert nut, creamy mouth-feel at the mid-palate with a touch of burnt orange peel at the finish. Serve with anything raw, including oysters, caviar, sushi and sashimi, cured and smoked fish, cured and smoked ham.
Artisanal Winemaking: Hand harvested in the early morning, our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are gently pressed as whole clusters yielding base wines of great delicacy. The juice ferments slowly at 62° to 65° f retaining vibrant fruit esters. In blending this wine we chose Pinot Noir and Chardonnay lots that were a bit shy by nose but have lean and angular elements by mouth. What was once shy now exhibits wonderful complexity and creaminess that comes from four plus years of aging on the yeast. The dosage for this wine is a mere 5 ml of Blanc de Noirs LEX.
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 the same block may be picked on different days.
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.
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.
Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Blend: 75% Pinot Noir 25% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.5% v/v
Acidity: .90 g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 0.49 g/100ml
Malolactic Fermentation: None
Barrels: 0% Barrel Fermented
Harvest Dates: August 18 – September 17, 2005
Date Bottled: May 2006
Release Date: 1st disgorging, October 2009
Total Production: 500 Cases