Iron Horse Vineyards
2002 Blanc de Blancs
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
TOP SECRET AWARD INTEL:
Our covert operatives just learned that Wine Enthusiast Magazine will name this fantastic bubbly Editor’s Choice, and give it a score of 95 Points, in their upcoming December issue! Don’t ask us how we learned this. We could tell you, but, you know…
SUPERIOR SPARKLER ALERT!
Today’s wine is so fantastic that we issued this special alert. With the pending 95 point rating, you can be assured that this is your last chance to get your hands on this remarkable wine.
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Mission Codename: Into the Great White
Operative: Agent Sparkle (& Agent White)
Objective: Visit Iron Horse Vineyards and return with an exceptional sparkling wine for our operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2002 Blanc de Blancs
Winemaker: David Munksgard
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.
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 selection.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Clear, pale and clean with fine bead effervescents and delicate mouse.
Smell – Clean and pure fruit notes of pears and apples with a hint of citrus backed on toasty notes and a very subtle nutty quality.
Feel – Creamy and dry with good crisp acidity and a distinct stone minerality that is also rich and smooth and delicate on the palate with good effervescents that dances across your palate.
Taste – Like the nose, this classic sparkler has crisp but delicate notes of ripe and tart green apples, pears and a hint of citrus, almost lemon, balanced over notes of buttery toast, a touch of oak, yeast and a hint of nuttiness.
Finish – This sparkling wine finishes clean, crisp and lingers just long enough to inspire another sip.
Conclusion -A wonderful wine from from the undisputed king of Sonoma County sparkling wines, Iron Horse Vineyards! This bubbly beauty is long on elegance, with a tender feel that starts off soft at the tip, but then the bubbles go into high gear at the mid-palate! Soft and flavorful at the back of the mouth, the wine finishes with a tart minerality that is wet and delicious.
“This is a serious matter, darn it! If our Operatives get hooked on Iron Horse’s Blanc de Blancs, 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 2002 Blanc de Blancs [ed. note: Soon to be awarded 95 Points & Editor’s Choice, Wine Enthusiast, and while I would certainly classify it as one of my favorite California sparkling wines, 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 2002 Blanc de Blancs! 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 2002 Blanc de Blancs. Especially now that supplies of the 2002 vintage of the wine are dwindling.
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 their Blanc de Blancs. Next to the bottle, a single glass, half-filled with the pale fine beaded bubbly liquid.
“All of us start here with a celebratory sip of our Blanc de Blancs,” 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 sparkler, sure, but no rapturous feelings or euphoria. I will say this, though: I’ll never drink another bubbly as long as I live!
Agent White Reporting: Agent Sparkle has since been undergoing radical treatment to free her from his addiction to Iron Horse’s Blanc de Blancs and, we are happy to report, she is making fine progress. I did try to warn her, but she was sloppy. She 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 sparkling wine, avoid this one at all costs!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Wine Enthusiast gave the 2001 vintage 93 points and named it a Cellar Selection. The 1998 vintage was awarded 90 points by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat gave it four stars. As far as track record, Wine & Spirits gave the previous vintage a 91-point rating. Wine Enthusiast awarded it 92 points.
About This Sparkling Wine:
The most elegant and sophisticated of the Iron Horse cuvées, made from 100% Chardonnay, this vintage is aged an average of six years on the yeast. It is ethereal – like drinking a cloud. It seems to effervesce away in your mouth and tastes like, among other flavors, a perfectly browned, lightly buttered slice of sourdough toast.
In blending this wine we chose three different lots of Chadonnay, each bringing something distinctive to the blend. Hand harvested in the chill of early morning, our Chardonnay is gently pressed as whole clusters. The juice slowly fements in stainless steel tanks at 62° to 65°f, retaining the bright aromas and flavors in the wine. The dosage for the 2002 Blanc de Blancs is 7ml Blanc de Blancs LEX with 2ml Estate Chardonnay
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.
Tasting Notes & Food Pairings:
On the nose, sourdough toast followed by ripe pear, grapefruit, tangerine and Green Valley apples; in the mouth, creamy entry, with mid-palate touches of citrus, ripe pear and farm fresh apple fruit and a crisp, long finish. A fantastic food wine; match with Tomales Bay Oysters and Apple Mignonette, Gruyere Cheese Gougere, Cold Poached Spot Prawns with Citrus Vinaigrette, Roasted Dungeness Crab with Chiles and Thyme, Meyer Lemon Risotto, Pan Seared Black Cod with Beurre Blanc, Poached Chicken with Leeks, Raw Milk Parmesano Reggiano, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Green Mango with Lime and White Pepper and Sea Salt.
Harvest Dates: September 3-5, 2002
Date Bottled: May 2003
Release Date: 1st disgorging, February 2008
Total Production: 1,400 Cases
Suggested Retail Price: $38.00
Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.0% v/v
Acidity: .80 g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 0.61 g/100ml
Malolactic Fermentation: None
*Barrels: * 15% Barrel Fermented