Iron Horse Vineyards
2005 T-bar-T Bdx-3
Red Blend •T-bar-T Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley
What We Say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Iron Horse Winery.
Yesterday we experienced a small technical problem at the beginning of the day and some folks may have missed out. Because this wine is so great, the decision to repeat it today was an easy one. If you missed out, here is a rare second chance!
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT: Bordeaux-style Blends are a favorite of our Operatives. Today we present a category killer that is certain to please you deeply
SAVINGS ALERT: Clever Operatives will earn a Free Ground Shipping award when they order 6 or more bottles – and enter this code at checkout: IRONSPY
Mission Codename: Secret Formula, “Bdx-3”
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Investigate reports that Iron Horse Winery’s Top Secret Blend, codenamed Bdx-3, is causing our Operatives to stop drinking any other wines. If true, analyze the wine to see what makes the wine so special. If possible, develop an antidote so that our Operatives can enjoy the wine – without becoming one-wine Wine Spies.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Iron Horse Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 T-T Vineyard Bdx-3
Winemaker: David Munksgard
Backgrounder: Intelligence reports have been pouring in from our Operatives around the country, about Iron Horse Winery’s Bdx-3. Once they taste the wine, they seemingly stop drinking anything else. A strange calm seems to befall them and they become happy and satisfied. Wine Spies Operatives love Bordeaux style blends, to be sure, and historically such blends have been the most popular wines that we have brought to you. Today we send Agent Red, deep undercover, to infiltrate the Iron Horse Winery. His mission: Unlock the secret formula behind the mysteriously named T-T Vineyards Bdx-3 – and prevent our Operatives from becoming brainwashed!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark garnet, with deeply concentrated color through and through. The wine has a deep garnet to purply-black core, a springy surface that moves and moves after swirling and thick, slow legs that move slowly sown the glass
Smell – Full intensity of deep aromatic dark fruits, dark berry, over ripe raspberry, soft spices, cigar box, mild pipe tobacco and cassis
Feel – Full-bodied, round and initially wet at the front of the palate – then mouth-coating and almost chewy and slightly dry with solid tannins that fade revealing more great flavors
Taste – Juicy, ripe and delicious, with deep blackberries and cherries balanced against soft earthen flavors of subtle wild mushroom and mild oak, followed by a resurgence of bright fruit and softest whisps of mocha and spice
Finish – A great long and clean finish that ramp down smoothly and continues to reveal new flavors as it tapers off
Conclusion – This is THE killer Bordeaux style blend! Long on deep flavor, terrific feel and lush aromatics, this wine is one of the best blends in recent memory. This is saying a LOT, since we have featured some pretty terrific blends here in the last few months. Today’s wine is one of those special one that delivers that unidentifiable something extra. Whether to attribute this special quality to the winery’s precision farming techniques, or the wisdom and experience of their winemaker, we cannot say. What we do know is that this wine is well worthy of your immediate attention!
“This is a serious matter, darn it! If our Operatives get hooked on Iron Horse’s Bdx-3, if they don’t drink any other wines, we’ll lose our funding. We’ll be shut down!”
Agent White was on another one of his diatribes. I waited patiently, knowing that I’d get a word in. Eventually.
I had tasted the 2004 Bdx-3 [ed. note: 92 Points, Wine Enthusiast, and while I would certainly classify it as on of my favorite Bordeaux-style blends, I couldn’t imagine that anyone could get so addicted to a single wine that the would forsake all others.
“Look, the data confirms it. Check these reports. Look at the sheer volume of requests flooding in from our Operatives for Iron Horse’s 2005 Bdx-3! They don’t want anything else! You have to infiltrate Iron Horse and see what they are putting in that wine.”
“Okay,” I said. “First I’ll take a look at the reports,” I replied. “If anything looks hinky, I’ll infiltrate the winery.”
This seemed to calm White down.
I looked. And was shocked.
Some of our finest Operatives were sending in field alerts, filled with praise and kudos and even demands that we supply them with 2005 Bdx-3. Especially now that supplies of the 2004 vintage of the wine are dwindling. Besides, many reports confirm, the 2005 is better.
I agreed to take mission to penetrate the winery. I packed my fake I.D., my field wine test kit, a specially crafted resume resume, my disguise – and was off immediately.
Fortunately, there was an opening for “Tasting Room Assistant” at the Iron Horse Winery and, with my industry connections, I managed to get an immediate interview.
Winery owner, Joy Sterling, was warm and welcoming. The interview went very well and I was introduced around to others on staff. Everyone was jovial and just plain nice. No cause for alarm. Or was there?
Joy took me back to her office and asked me to wait there for a few minutes. While I waited, I busied myself with fixing my faux mustache, which had come loose at one corner. I hope that she had not noticed!.
Joy returned and said, “Well, Jack Rouge, you have the job! Everyone really liked you. Can you start today?”
I was after the 3:30 closing time, but I agreed, presuming that I would undergo some sort of training. I was lead down to the tasting room where, oddly, the entire staff seemed to be bellied up to the tasting bar.
There, on the top of the bar, sat a lone bottle. I recognized it instantly as the 2005 Bdx-3. Next to the bottle, a single glass, half-filled with the red liquid.
“All of us start here with a celebratory sip of our Bdx-3,” a smiling young man said to me. “Go on, try. Cheers!”
A shout of “Cheers!” rose up from the rest.
Knowing that there was no faking it, I had confidence in my experience and ability as a Wine Spy. I knew that I would be fine. How could any harm come from a simple taste of wine?
I grabbed the glass, raised it and toasted them. Then I sipped. Great wine… SUPERB wine, sure, but no rapturous feelings or euphoria. I will say this, though: I’ll never drink another wine as long as I live!
Agent White Reporting: Agent Red has since been undergoing radical treatment to free him from his addiction to Iron Horse’s Bdx-3 and, we are happy to report, he is making fine progress. I did try to warn him, but he was sloppy. He should have analyzed the wine before drinking it.
Meanwhile, a detailed analysis is underway as you read this. Use great caution and, unless you want to become totally enamored by a wine, avoid this one at all costs!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Iron Horse Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
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Winemaker’s Tasting Notes:
Bdx-3 is a supple blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. It is regal in color – a nearly black, purple beauty. The first smell recalls traditional cigar box qualities with intense, concentrated berry liqueur. The flavors are earthy with wild berry and cassis; the structure is firm and elegant.
Roasted garlic crostini, French onion soup, black bean soup, blackened duck breast, grilled rib-eye steak, pot roast, meatloaf with roasted carrots, St. Jorge cheese and any of the triple creams from Cowgirl Creamery.
The grapes for this wine come from the T-bar-T Vineyard in the northeast corner of the Alexander Valley. The property sits in the foothills rising to an elevation of 800 feet. It is very steep and rugged, yielding fabulous, luscious fruit.
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 farming is a fact-based wine growing concept that integrates the latest viticultural practices, technology such as GIS/GPS mapping and CAD computer models – focusing on smaller and more tightly delineated vineyard blocks by soil type, aspect and elevation, and time honored love of the land. All pruning, canopy management, irrigation, cover crop and harvesting 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. We use the best tools technology provides and up to date viticulture – balanced by our 30 years of experience and thriving passion.
Hand picked grapes are de-stemmed into stainless steel tanks where they are cold-soaked for seven days. Before fermentation is complete, the new wine is pressed gently from the skins and transferred to French and American oak barrels. Fermentation goes to completion in the barrels where the wine is aged until blending and
Barrels: French and American oak
Alcohol: 14.4% v/v
Blend: 67% CS, 23% CF, 10% PV
Acidity: 0.76 g/100ml
Malolactic Fermentation: 100%
Date Bottled: April 2007
Release Date: May 2007
Residual Sugar: Dry
Total Production: 1451 cases
Suggested Retail Price: $38/bottle