What We Say 2004 Russian Cuvée
MOTHER’S DAY ALERT!
Order today’s spectacular sparkling wine for Mom, and we’ll ship it on Monday, in time to surprise her with the best gift you could give her – the gift of *bubbles!*
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
Today’s wine is deserving of this special alert. We issue these alerts whenever we feature a really standout wine. Today’s Murphy Meritage is an outstanding wine.
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Mission Codename: Love thy Mother
Operative: Agent Sparkle
Objective: Revisit Iron Horse Vineyards and return with an exceptional sparkling wine – just in time for Mother’s Day delivery
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Russian Cuvée
Winemaker: David Munksgard
Backgrounder: Originally designed for the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings that ending the Cold War, today’s wine bubbly from our friends at Iron Horse is a true delight – and our very favorite sparkling wine from Iron Horse to date! Grown on their gorgeous estate, this wine is a sweetly distinctive treat that Mom will love. Just make sure to get a bottle for yourself, as well!
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 – Beautiful straw yellow, with an energetic effervescence that shows thick colums of bubbles – without the use of an etched glass
Smell – Soft aromas of fresh green melon, hazelnut, yeasty fresh bread dough, honeysuckle, and vanilla bean
Feel – This bubbly begins with a soft rush of tiny bubbles at the front of the palate, then feels creamy and lush – and slightly round – at the mid, with crisp acidity leading to a great finish
Taste – Delicious and juicy with a bright freshness that shows off with beautifully balanced sweet and slightly tart flavors of subtle sweet creamy honey, golden apple, tender pear and subtle golden apple
Finish – Initially wet and mouth watering, with sweet flavors that ramp up quickly and then taper off slowly moving from sweet to gently tart and slightly creamy
Conclusion – As stated above, this sparkling wine is our very favorite from our old friends at Iron Horse Vineyards. With more sweetness that other bubbly we have shown, this wine has beautifully balanced fruit flavors that go from sweet to tart, but not overly tart. This is a fun but elegant wine that that we find ourselves sipping and sipping, all the while raving about this quality or that. This wine possess a ton of character and flavors that will please fans of the finest sparklers. A testament to winemaker David Munksgard’s tender care – in the vineyard and throughout the winemkeing process – this bubbly is certain to please everyone, even Mom.
Below is a recap of our original mission when wwe tasted Iron Horse’s Blanc de Blancs.
“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 Green Valley in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Iron Horse Vineyards
Awards & Accolades:
New vintage, not yet reviewed. Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2003 vintage 92 points and Wine Enthusiast awarded it 90 points. The 2001 vintage was awarded a 90-point rating in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Wine & Spirits named it a “Wine of the Month” in December, 2005 with a 90 point rating.
About This Wine:
Russian Cuvée commemorates the style of sparklings we made for the historic Reagan – Gorbachev summit meetings, which ended the Cold War. Although “sweeter” than the Classic vintage Brut, the higher dosage doesn’t come across as sweet, but does make the wine richer.
Tasting Notes & Food Pairings: By nose; Toasted hazelnut and ripe red apple. By mouth; Golden apple, a rich creamy mouth-feel followed by a moderately long finish with a touch of Meyer lemon. A perfect aperitif by itself and a great cocktail , simply add a few pomegranate seeds to the flute. Pair with rich foods such a foi gras, as well as sweet and sour sauces and anything prepared with exotic spices, including curries and chilies.
Winemaking: Hand harvested in the chilly fog of 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 three plus years of aging on the yeast. The dosage for this wine is 18 ml of Special LEX, (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir.
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.
Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Blend: 68% Pinot Noir 32% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.0% v/v
Acidity: .73 g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 1.4 g/100ml
Malolactic Fermentation: None
Harvest Dates: August 10 – August 24, 2004
Date Bottled: May 2005
Release Date: 1st disgorging, Soon
Total Production: 1,100 Cases