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Iron Horse

Champagne, Drinks, Sparkling Wine

5 Amazing Organic Sparklers for Earth Day

April 17, 2013
wildflowers_vineyard_recaredo

Isn’t that a pretty picture? It’s from the 100% pesticide and herbicide-free vineyards of Cavas Recaredo in Spain. Earth Day is approaching, and I’m looking forward to celebrating at the Iron Horse Vineyards’ Green Valley Earth Day Party.  Since I last wrote about organic champagne or sparkling wine for Earth Day, there has been a large increase in the number of organic wines on the market, and that applies to bubbly as well.

While some people aren’t convinced that wines made from organically raised grapes taste any different, I swear I always pick up an extraordinary level of clarity in these wines. It feels like drinking a liquid crystal, if that makes any sense. And of course, the fact that the grapes aren’t sprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides means that it’s better for the workers who have to tend those grapes as well as Mother Earth.  Here are some great organic champagnes and sparkling wines to uncork this weekend or anytime:

recaredo brut nature 2006 label

Cavas Recaredo  – One of the most distinctive wineries I visited in the Penedes region of Spain was Recaredo, which has produced cava since 1924. Ton Mata, the lead winemaker and owner, took me on a tour of the lovely natural vineyards with rusty red soil studded with mineral deposits where he grows the xarello, parellada and macabeo grapes according to biodynamic methods. Biodynamic is a more exacting standard than certified organic, meaning that the growers work in harmony with nature and their practices help nourish the soil. He’s also a believer in long-aging of his xarello-dominant wines and the brut nature style, in which no sugary dosage is added at the end. It doesn’t get much more biutiful than this when it comes to Catalan sparkling wine.  About $38.

mionetto kind cocktails

Mionetto Prosecco Organic D.O.C. – Just like the other high-quality proseccos it makes, Mionetto’s organic brut  has floral aromas and bright, fresh flavors of golden apple and citrus. It’s made from organically grown grapes, and vinified separately in the winery. The materials that go into the bottle, label and shipping package are all recycled. Click here for a recipe for my Kind Cocktail from Alicia Silverstone’s San Diego book party with Mionetto Organic.  About $15.

Fleury Brut Rose

Fleury Organic Champagne – While you’re toasting Mother Earth, be sure to raise a glass Fleury, the first producer in Champagne, France to plant organic vineyards. Actually, the Fleury vineyards have been 100% biodynamic since 1992. Whether you like lean blanc de blancs, juicy rosé or richer blanc de noirs, Fleury makes it it in a crisp, pure and organic champagne. I’m sure they’d appreciate a like on the Fleury Champagne Facebook page.  About $40 to $50, depending on the wine.

 

Korbel OrganicBrutLarge1

Korbel Organic Brut Non-Vintage – When the largest producer of sparkling wine in the U.S. starts making an organic cuvée, you know it’s much more than a niche trend. Korbel’s Organic Brut is clean and tastes of bright citrus, green apple and white peaches. The blend of French colombard, chardonnay and sangiovese grapes was made with the same method used in Champagne, France. About $12.

tarantas sparkling rose

Tarantas Sparkling Rosé – While Spain is known as the land of cava, there are other styles of sparkling wine made there. This sparkling rosé from family-owned Tarantas fits the latter category, since it’s made from certified organic bobal grapes that were grown in the hills near Valencia, Spain. While this wine isn’t sweet at all, it has flavors and aromas of strawberry and red currant. It pairs with all sorts of Spanish foods from jamon to paella, and apparently the bobal grape (aka carignane d’espagne) has super-high levels of the antioxidant resveratrol, as if you needed another reason to try a bottle.  About $15

 

Bubbly Events, Sparkling Wine

Iron Horse Harvest 2012 – Join the Party

September 18, 2012
iron_horse_party_trifle_tray

You couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect day than Sunday when Iron Horse Vineyards celebrated the 2012 harvest. It was a sunny 80 degree day, with hardly a cloud in the sky — I even spotted a young deer lurking near a twisted oak as I drove up the 101.

What I love about Iron Horse is that it’s one of the few places that you can have a rustic and natural experience, all the while sipping an exquisite glass of méthode champenoise sparkling wine.

Sometimes pictures tell a story better than words… so here are some images that capture the effervescence of Sunday’s party.

After parking under oak trees, we walked up a pathway lined with zinnias in decorate bubbly bottles.

At the end of the walk, guests were greeted with an Iron Harvest harvest cocktail of fresh pinot noir juice in the 2007 Brut X.

After noshing at Chef Ciara Meany’s bruschetta bar filled with grilled Costeaux French Bakery ciabatta, heirloom tomates from Barry Sterling’s garden, pesto, grilled bacon and other seasonal toppings, we sat down at two long tables set in a V-shape. Joy Sterling, president of Iron Horse, praised her brother Lawrence for his work running the winery, toasted her parents on the occasions of their 60th anniversary and thanked friends and Corral Club members for coming.

 

I loved the simple place settings topped with sprigs of lavender, the plates that look like this season’s fashionable jacquard prints and the Laguiole-inspired cutlery.

The first course was a lovely salad of fresh field greens — again from the estate garden — topped with pickled radishes, roasted sweet corn and Laura Chenel goat cheese followed by a delicious grilled quail stuffed with Swiss chard and sausage.

Dessert was a petite cup of trifle layered with late summer apples, vanilla cream and amaretti crumbles paired with a glass of Russian Cuvée.

Pop Culture

Drink American Bubbly, Just Like the Obamas

March 15, 2012

There’s not much chance that I’ll ever have a wardrobe as cool as Michele Obama’s, or get to take the trips they do or meet the people that want to rub shoulders with POTUS and FLOTUS.

But, I can drink the same wines the Obamas do. That’s the cool thing about wine and food; it’s aspirational and accessible all at once. I think that’s why we’re all curious to know celebrities and other people who can eat and drink anything are enjoying at special events, like the White House State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Since everybody’s living the vida locavore these days, White House Wine Steward Daniel Shanks makes his selections from among domestic wines. The official wine list wasn’t released by the White House, but according to a report by Jon Bonné in the SF Chronicle’s Inside Scoop, two American sparkling wines were featured at the Cameron dinner.

U.S. Sparkling wines by Iron Horse and Thibaut-Janisson were featured at the White House British state dinner.

Both are great methodé champenoise sparkling wines that I’ve tasted before. The NV Thibaut-Janisson Monticello Brut (about $29), crafted in Virginia is a crisp, elegant wine would complement dishes like the halibut in a crisp potato crust. The 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Green Valley Russian Cuvée (about $38) from Sonoma is a subtly fruitier style that was poured with the steamed lemon pudding dessert.

Both wines have been served at the White House before and would be equally welcome at your house. Incidentally, Iron Horse has gotten a lot of inside -the-beltway exposure lately. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and visiting Chinese VP Xi Jinping toasted with the 2007 Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée during his visit last month.

Here’s a fun video of the White House chefs preparing for the dinner; it’s narrated by Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford.

Drinks, Lifestyle, Pop Culture, Sparkling Wine

Toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse’s Chinese Cuvée

February 9, 2012

Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée was created to celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

It’s early February, and we’re about two weeks into the Year of the Dragon. According to the Chinese astrological charts, dragons are ambitious and dominant, passionate, creative and prefer to live by their own rules — know anyone like that? Many Chinese families plan to have children this year, because it’s the most auspicious year for a baby to be born.

Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma is especially excited about their new Year of the Dragon baby, a very limited bottling called the Chinese Cuvée. Created for export to China, only a lucky in the US few will get to taste this new wine.

Come toast the Year of the Dragon with Iron Horse President Joy Sterling and taste the new cuvée at a dim sum and party from 2 to 5 p.m., Saturday Feb. 11 at Press Club. After the party, head outside to view the Chinese New Year Parade, which dates back to 1860 and is one of the last illuminated Chinese New Year parades. Sponsored by Southwest Airlines, it starts at 5:30 p.m. and passes near Press Club.

Sterling says their winery has a historic connection to China. “The Clintons served Iron Horse at the State Dinner for President Jiang Zemin at the White House in 1997,” she said.

That history led Chinese wine importer Jaguar Wines to approach Iron Horse about making a special cuvée for export to China. The wine’s gold and red label has both English and Chinese and is adorned with a dragon on a fan at the bottle’s neck.

“My family and I are very proud that we have created a top quality American wine that is now an export success story,” Sterling says.

The number 8 is considered especially lucky in Chinese culture, so 8’s were attached to the Chinese Cuvée wherever possible. Of the 1,000 cases made, 880 were shipped to China and the remaining ones are available here in the U.S. The bottle sells for $98 — in numerology, the sum of the digits is 17, which in turn add up to make 8.

The wine is predominantly Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage. Its dosage — the final mix of wine and sugar added to sparkling wine to determine the level of sweetness — was designed to make it perfect for pairing with soy, chilies and other savory flavors in Chinese cuisine.

“It never ceases to amaze me that four milliliters can so dramatically change a wine,” says Iron Horse Winemaker David Munksgard. “Dosage can affect color, aroma, weight, finish. It is like the seasoning in cooking. We had Chinese cuisine in mind with the Chinese Cuvée.”

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Sparkling Grape Harvest in Sonoma & the Tiziano Cocktail Recipe

September 20, 2011

Pinot noir grapes for sparkling wine are being harvested at Iron Horse Vineyards in west Sonoma County. 

The sparkling grape harvest is under way in Sonoma wine country, and of course that means it’s time for harvest parties.

Saturday was the Flavors of Fall Festival at Korbel Winery in Guerneville, which is the largest sparkling wine producer in the United States. The history of the winery dates back more than 100 years when three brothers from Bohemia started a farm in Guernville. They found that nothing grew that well, except for wine grapes. They made their first vintage of sparkling wine in 1882, using grapes that were readily available locally and the same fermentation method as used in Champagne region of France.

If you’ve never been to Korbel, you’ll find it’s a very picturesque property that spreads out among majestic redwood trees. The garden tour takes guests behind a ornate wrought iron gate that’s usually locked and into pathways lined with creeping hydrangea, heirloom roses, elderberry, dahlias, anemone and a variety of other exotic plants. The garden is also a magnet for butterflies; deep sapphire blue swallowtails flitted about. One of the most impressive sights are the ancient redwoods, some of which are more than 1,000 years old.

This stand of redwoods at Korbel Winery in Guerneville is said to be over 1,000 years old.

The winery also offers a range of sparkling wines that can’t be found easily in the market. Since I was signing copies of The Bubbly Bar in the tasting room, I had time to taste some wine. My favorites were the 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine which was dry at just 1.0 dosage, creamy on the palate and full of golden apple and citrus flavors. I was also really impressed with the refreshing Sparkling Riesling made from fruit sourced in Mendocino County. It’s pleasantly off-dry at 3.6 percent sugar with a notes of stone fruit, slatey minerality and good acid structure.

I woke up Sunday to another sunny and hot day in west Sonoma county and the harvest party at Iron Horse Vineyards for members of the Corral Club. We walked up a pathway lined with hand-painted wine bottles holding zinnias from the Sterlings’ garden. Lunch started with duck egg omelets, local sausage and creamy golden cheese with I am the Ocean Reserve. We walked through the tomato, squash and pumpkin patches and hiked up the hill to the tasting room overlooking Green Valley while others line danced. Then the feast began lunch with grilled local lamb, spicy turkey tacos and a jumble of tomatoes along with a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

We started the party with the Tiziano, a wine country cocktail made with fresh pressed grape juice and sparkling wine. If you decide to try this delicious and simple cocktail, juice your own grapes or buy some high-quality bottled grape juice like the Vignette Wine Country Sodas. Here’s the Tiziano recipe:

With fresh pressed grape juice and sparkling wine, Tiziano is a favorite harvest time cocktail at grape harvest time.

Tiziano Cocktail

15 to 20 red grapes for 3 ounces fresh-pressed red grape juice, plus 2 extra grapes

3 to 4 ounces brut sparkling wine

One red grape, for garnish

One green grape, for garnish

Puree grapes in a blender. Strain puree through a sieve into a champagne flute. Discard grape pulp. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with the red and green grape threaded on  a long bamboo skewer.

Variation: This cocktail takes on a whole different hue and flavor when made with green grapes or an aromatic variety like the Muscat.