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Iron Horse Vineyards
By Kylene Keith

What is it about sparkling wine that evokes such an aura of prestige and elegance? Is it the picturesque region of Champagne itself where the wine was first invented? Is it the noble place it holds in society as the chosen beverage of the wealthy? Or is it simply those irresistible bubbles that float up from the bottom of the Champagne flute and awaken your palate to not only a fantastic taste, but also a mesmerizing sensory experience?

Some may argue that Champagne, France is the only place in the world where sparkling wine can achieve true excellence, but we continue to find more and more reasons to disagree. Iron Horse Vineyards is one such reason. On the crest of a knoll on Ross Station Road in Sonoma County, they are producing sparkling wines that rival the highest quality wines of Champagne. Once a railroad stop for which it was named, the site was re-discovered by Sonoma Winemaster, Rodney Strong. He found the location with its unique climate and location ideal for vineyards.

Iron Horse Winemaker, Forrest Tancer, was hired by Mr. Strong in 1971 to plan and develop the vineyards.Barry and Audrey Sterling had searched for a winery site in Europe for seven years. Upon their return to the United States, they resumed their quest in Sonoma County. In spite of first viewing Iron Horse in a driving rainstorm and the partially developed condition of the property, the Sterlings quickly recognized it was precisely what they had sought for so long. As the former Vineyard Manager, Forrest Tancer took them around the property. They instantly appreciated his viticultural knowledge, his dedication to the land and his desire to see Iron Horse developed into a premier California vineyard. Within a few weeks in early 1976, the purchase of Iron Horse was made and Forrest Tancer agreed to continue as Vineyard Manager, eventually becoming a partner in the winery and then a son-in-law.

The Sterlings and Forrest formed a partnership to build the winery at Iron Horse in 1979. They use grapes exclusively from the Iron Horse Vineyards and from Forrest's family estate, the T-bar-T Ranch in the Alexander Valley, just 30 miles away. Two hundred forty-four acres of producing vines constitute the Iron Horse Estates, the Thomas Road Vineyard and T-bar-T Ranch. Ninety-nine acres of Chardonnay and eighty-five acres of Pinot Noir are in Sonoma County's Green Valley. Sixty acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Merlot, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc are in Sonoma's Alexander Valley.

Marketing Director and Partner, Joy Sterling, joined Iron Horse in 1985. Joy and Forrest were married in 1990. That same year Laurence Sterling, his wife Terry and their children moved to Iron Horse. Iron Horse is truly a family affair. Laurence is Director of Public Affairs and Terry designs most of the winery's labels. The family lives on their land giving daily care and attention to their vineyards, thus assuring the highest quality wines.

Iron Horse Vineyard Wines

  • 1997 Classic Vintage Brut
  • 1998 Good Luck Cuvée
  • 1994 Blanc de Blancs
  • 1996 Brut Rosé
  • 1998 Wedding Cuvée
  • 1992 Brut LD
  • 1997 Russian Cuvée
  • 2001 T Bar T Viognier
  • 2001 T Bar T Cuvée R
  • 2000 Estate Chardonnay
  • 1997 Cuvée Joy Chardonnay
  • 2001 Rosato Di Sangiovese
  • 2000 Estate Pinot Noir
  • 2000 Corral Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • 2000 Thomas Road Pinot Noir
  • 1998 T Bar T Sangiovese
  • 1998 T Bar T Cabernet Blend One
  • 1998 T Bar T Cabernet Blend Two
  • 1999 T Bar T Merlot
  • 1999 T Bar T Cabernet Franc
  • 1999 T Bar T Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1999 T Bar T Benchmark

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