Iron Horse Vineyards
2007 UnOaked Chardonnay
Chardonnay • Thomas Road Vineyard - Green Valley AVA
California: Russian River Valley (Sonoma)
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT
Our Operatives appreciate really great Chardonnay, and Agent Whiteis very discerning. This adds up to a guarantee of quality for today’s great Chardonnay!
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Mission Codename: No Oakey-Pokey
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Iron Horse Vineyards and secure an allotment of the perfect summer refresher, their 2007 UnOaked Chardonnay
Recover a stash of Iron Horse’s revered Estate Chardonnay – before they run out
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Iron Horse Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 UnOaked 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 Red to Iron horse Vineyards to secure a cache of their fantastic 2007 UnOaked Chardonnay, a wine that delivers the feel of oak, without the sometimes harsh flavors of oak
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Bright golden hued, with glinting platinum edges. Lively when swirled, culminating in a cascade of skinny legs that march steadily down the glass.
Smell – Gorgeous and lush with fragrant green apple, gentle orange peel, soft spice and pineapple with soft and flinty minerals.
Feel – Velvet-smooth, gliding across the entire palate. After a few moments, the wine becomes slightly grippy and complex with a slightly angular feel that accentuates the flavors of the wine.
Taste – Delicious and bold, brightly crisp with complex fruit flavors and a flinty minerality that gives the wine additional dimension. The wine leads with tart apple and yellow grapefruit and gives way to mixed citrus, pineapple and soft spice. As the wine warms, additional flavors of starfruit and white flowers emerge.
Finish – Ultra-long and creamy with flavors that start high and tart, then tail off sweet, mineral and softly spiced.
Conclusion – Delicious and aromatic with a great feel. When I blind tasted this wine, I assumed that it was oaked, given the silky feel. There is no oak taste present on the palate, just clean and fresh fruit, minerals and spice. Tasted extra cold, the wine presents very well. As it warms, though, flavors and aromatics increase almost exponentially. This is a great wine for those that love the feel of an oaked Chardonnay, without the often overpowering flavor that oak can impart. A perfect Summer sipper, this wine is wonderful on its own, and fantastic with food.
“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 Parisian 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 readily), 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:
“Exceptional” – Dan Berger Vintage Experiences
89 Points – Wine Enthusiast
About This Wine:
Already creating a buzz, high-end, bright, crisp, mineraly, richly fruity, unoaked Chardonnays are emerging as a new category, which already has Robert Parker’s attention. The field is not crowded now and it is great to be ahead of the curve.
It is harder to make Chardonnay without oak then with. The grapes for the 2007 UnOaked primarily come from our Thomas Road Vineyard. This particular block is planted to UCD Clone 4, ideally suited for bright, mineral-dominated, yet rich Chardonnay.
Food Pairing: Fantastic with salads, spring, fresh vegetables, Picholine olives, anchovies and cured meats, eclectic, exotic, fusion, pan Asian, East-meets-West cuisines that have difficulty carrying oak.
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.
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.
Appellation: Green Valley of Russian River Valley
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.8% v/v
Acidity: .58 g/100ml
Residual Sugar: 0.16 g/100ml
Malolactic Fermentation: None
Harvest Dates: September 7,8 & 21st, 2007
Date Bottled: August 2008
Release Date: November 2008
Total Production: 2,162 Cases