Iron Horse Vineyards

2005 Estate Chardonnay

Chardonnay •Green Valley AVA

California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley

Offer Expired:Jan 03, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say

2008 Wine Intrigue Award Winner: Agent White’s Top Selection


Operatives appreciate really great Chardonnay, and Agent White is very picky. This adds up to a guarantee of quality for today’s great Chardonnay!


Clever Operatives will earn a Free Ground Shipping award when they order 6 or more bottles, but only if they use this coupon code at checkout: SPYSONOMA

Mission Codename: Horse Sense

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Recover a stash of Iron Horse’s revered Estate Chardonnay – before they run out

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2005 Iron Horse Estate Chardonnay

Winemaker: David Munksgard

Backgrounder: Our Operatives love Iron Horse wines. We’ve featured Iron Horse here before, and our Operatives responded by snapping up their wines in record numbers. For today’s selection, we sent Agent White to Iron horse Vineyards to secure a cache of their world renowned 2005 Estate Chardonnay, a wine that the notoriously difficult to please spy calls, “A velvety winner!”. Read White’s detailed tasting notes and mission report below

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Glistening pale stray to golden yellow in color, with a springy surface and fat, widely-spaced legs that sink slowly down the glass

Smell – Beautifully bright, sharp and clean, this wine imparts fresh fruit aromas of green apple, pear, starfruit, caramel, subtle toasted coconut, vanilla and fresh citrus leaves

Feel – Velvety and silky smooth, this wine is not the buttery chard that turns me off. Rather, there is a smoothness and a roundness that glide beautifully across the palate. The wine starts cool and fresh, then gets slightly grippy at the mid

Taste – Sweet and tart with delicious golden apple and tropical fruits leading off. Thar be oak here, but it is subtle after some time in the air. Follow-on flavors candied walnut and pear, with slight pineapple couple with a medium acidity that adds to the wines complexity

Finish – This wine finishes long and flavorful, with a smooth and creamy feel and a fresh and fruity quality

Conclusion – A truly wonderful wine! And since you know how hard I can be on Chardonnay, you know that’s high praise indeed. I guess that I should have expected such a great wine to come from our friends at Iron Horse but, admittedly, I was surprised. This wine, with its silky-smooth feel and deep, delicious flavors also remind me that Chardonnay doe not have to be boring. Instead, this is a bright wine of some complexity. Three cheers for Iron Horse, who release this special wine to our Operatives while the hot weather persists… It’s a perfect late-summer compliment to your Top Secret gatherings.

Mission Report:

“Agent Red thinks he can tell me where to find great white Chardonnay? We’ll see about that!”

And so began my rant when Agent Red, my supposed Joint Station Chief had the nerve to assign me the mission to today’s winery.

Okay, I admit it, when it comes to Chardonnay, I am a snob! I do try to keep an open mind with all of the wines that I sample, but there is something about Chardonnay that makes me outright leery. Perhaps that’s because most Chards are flat, flabby and way too buttery.

At least this would be an easy mission. Because we infiltrated Iron Horse in the past, I could have just called the winery to arrange a tasting. In order to make my visit interesting, however, I went in, posing as a French wine journalist. This turned out to be a bad idea, as winery CEO, Joy Sterling, who grew up in France, showed up in the tasting room the day I visited!

Putting on my best Pariaian accent, I began my tasting – beginning with their whites. Just as a I made it to today’s wine, Joy entered the tasting room. In French, she said to me, “Welcome, friend. What brings you from France?”

I blanched, but tried to maintain my composure. I tried my hardest to answer in colloquial Parisian, but guess that I failed, as Joy smiled, leaned over the bar and said, “Agent White, I presume?”

I deflated somewhat, but managed a wan smile in return. “Busted,” I replied.

We had a laugh and Joy invited me to take my time with my tasting. I was glad that the pressure was off, and that I had an extended amount of time to spend with today’s superb wine.

Later, I arranged with Joy to procure an allotment of today’s great wine.

If you really love great Chardonnay – or if you don’t believe that such a thing exists – this is a wine to try! Velvet-smooth, but not butterball, delicious and very flavorful, without being cloying, this wine has garnered my respect. And, as Agent Red will tell you (perhaps a little too redily), that’s a miracle.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Iron Horse Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

A detailed Iron Horse Vineyards block map can be seen in this Top Secret document

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

93 Points – Wine & Spirits

92.5 Points – Ken’s Wine Guide

90 Points – Wine Enthusiast

About This Wine:

Our concentration on Estate Chardonnay is bearing delicious fruit. We are successfully adding new layers and complexity to our Estate bottling without resorting to more oak and ML. For us, malolactic fermentation is simply an acid balancing tool – not a stylistic component, and we feel very strongly about keeping the oak beautifully integrated in the wine.

By nose; grilled banana, pear, light citrus and almond. By mouth luscious on the palate, Green apple, pears and at the finish marmalade. Pair with corn soup, Rainbow trout, Sole, Halibut with mushrooms and asparagus, Salmon, Steamed lobster, Lemon roast chicken with jasmine rice, Veal chop, anything with a cream sauce, Goat cheese and walnuts.

2005 Estate Chardonnay is a blend of four different clones, UCD 4, Old Wente, Stony Hill and Rued, from seven distinct blocks, and from one of the best vintages seen in Green Valley.


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:

Harvest Dates: September 26 – October 9, 2005

Date Bottled: September 2006 & March 2007

Release Date: September 2007

Total Production: 11,067 Cases

Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley

Blend: 100% Chardonnay

Alcohol: 14.1% v/v

Acidity: .85 g/100ml

Residual Sugar: 0.2 g/100ml

pH: 3.14

Malolactic Fermentation: None

Barrels: 75% fermented in French Oak

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