Category Archives: Sparkling Wine & Champagne

Iron Horse Vineyards | Sebastopol, CA

Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol, CA was by far my biggest wine related surprise of the year.  I mean this in the best possible way for a couple different reasons.

Iron Horse Ranch & Vineyards

Iron Horse Ranch & Vineyards

I love Champagne, but I tend to stay away from California Sparkling Wines.  While there are some standouts, I find many of them too sweet and lacking the tiny, delicate Methode Champenoise bubbles found in many of the best Champagnes.

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

That being said, I received my December issue of Wine Enthusiast which featured their top 100 wine picks of 2014 – The Enthusiast 100 – and noticed a bottle of 2010 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee on the cover.  The Wedding Cuvee was the number ten wine of the year and received a score of 95.  I knew I’d be spending New Year’s in the Russian River area and when I realized Iron Horse was a quick drive from where I was staying, I had to check them out.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine - The Enthusiast 100 of 2014

Wine Enthusiast Magazine – The Enthusiast 100 of 2014 with Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee on the cover

I visited Iron Horse Vineyards without doing any prior research, so based solely on their prestigious reputation and rave reviews, I was expecting a large winery…something a bit fancy with perfectly manicured grounds and a corporate feel.  Their sparkling wines have been served at the White House for five consecutive Presidential Administrations starting with Reagan for crying out loud.

Instead what I discovered was the complete opposite and I absolutely loved it.

As you approach Iron Horse Vineyards, the paved narrow road you’ve been navigating suddenly becomes an even narrower gravel road.  The entry to the property is flanked by two weathered stone markers with the recognizable bucking Iron Horse logo on each.

Unpaved drive to Iron Horse Vineyards

Unpaved drive to Iron Horse Vineyards

Entry to Iron Horse Vineyards

Entry to Iron Horse Vineyards

We finally arrived at the winery parking lot to find a totally unassuming, rustic set of barn-style buildings perched on a gorgeous piece of land with million dollar views all around.

Looking out towards the parking lot at Iron Horse Vineyards

Looking out towards the parking lot at Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

The gorgeous view from Iron Horse Vineyards

The gorgeous view from Iron Horse Vineyards

Views from Iron Horse Vineyards

Views of Napa in the distance from Iron Horse Vineyards

The tasting area at Iron Horse is essentially an outdoor bar crafted out of wood planks propped on wine barrels.  The entire vibe was casual and friendly without an ounce of pretension.  Just perfect.

Iron Horse Vineyards outdoor tasting bar

Iron Horse Vineyards outdoor tasting bar

Iron Horse Vineyards tasting bar

Iron Horse Vineyards tasting bar

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

We were greeted by Lisa who walked us through a tasting of five different Sparkling Wines, all of which were outstanding…beautifully balanced with superfine effervescence.  Those who don’t like bubbles have the option of a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir flight as well.

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards tasting bar

Iron Horse Vineyards tasting flights

Iron Horse Vineyards tasting flights

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Vineyards

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee

An empty bottle of 2003 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee

We visited Iron Horse on New Year’s Eve and got to watch all the cellar workers choose a bottle to take home to ring in 2015.  I got a real sense of family from everyone in the tasting room, which was such a breath of fresh air.  We managed to narrow our choices to three bottles (a crisp ’10 Oceans Reserve, a bottle of the now famous Wedding Cuvee, and an ’07 Brut Rose).

Cellar workers at Iron Horse Vineyards picking out a sparkling wine to ring in 2015

Cellar workers at Iron Horse Vineyards picking out a sparkling wine to ring in 2015

I’m so glad I had a chance to visit Iron Horse Vineyards.  My expectations were completely shattered in the best possible way.  Instead of finding another corporate winery, I discovered a laid-back, family owned winery that produces outstanding, estate bottled, world-class California Sparkling Wine. I can’t recommend Iron Horse enough and can’t wait to return…

IRON HORSE VINEYARDS
9786 Ross Station Road
Sebastopol, CA  95472
Phone:  (707) 887-1507
Email: info@ironhorsevineyards.com
Tasting room hours: 10AM – 4:30PM seven days a week

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Lovers of artisanal, local food & wine in Santa Barbara recently had their prayers answered with the opening of the Santa Barbara Public Market.

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

From the outside, the large yet unassuming building that houses the Santa Barbara Public Market (a former Vons grocery store) could easily be missed.  However, inside lies a bright, clean, modern marketplace that is truly a culinary playground.

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Purveyors include: Belcampo Meat Co., Crazy Good Bread Co., The Culture Counter, Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar, Enjoy Cupcakes, Foragers Pantry, Flagstone Pantry, Green Star Coffee, Il Fustino Oils & Vinegars, JuiceWell, Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, The Pasta Shoppe, Wine + Beer, and Santa Monica Seafood.

Take a look inside…

Santa Barbara Public Market

The Pasta Shoppe – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Culture Counter – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Culture Counter – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Monica Seafood – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Monica Seafood – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Belcampo Meat Co. – Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Santa Barbara Public Market

Enjoy Cupcakes – Santa Barbara Public Market

The Santa Barbara Public Market doors open at 7 AM daily, though hours may differ for each shop.  Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in Santa Barbara…

Click here to visit the Santa Barbara Public Market website.

SANTA BARBARA PUBLIC MARKET
38 West Victoria (at Chapala)
Santa Barbara, CA  93101
Phone:  (805) 770-7702

Regular Hours:
7AM – 10:30PM Monday through Thursday
7AM – 11PM Friday & Saturday
8AM – 10PM Sunday

Sparkling Wines for the New Year – Vertuze & Louis Bouillot Sparkling Rosé

With all the celebrating that goes on at this time of year, I find myself enjoying a lot more sparkling wine and champagne than I usually do.

Since I have less time to travel to wine country over the holidays, I’ve been exploring the world of sparkling wine at home with friends and family. I recently tried a couple of bottles of sparkling Rosé that I thought were excellent and deserving of attention right before we ring in the New Year.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rose

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

The first bottle I tried was a brut sparkling Rosé by Vertuze. It is produced in the Arroyo Grande Valley in California’s Central Coast from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Made in the traditional French méthode champenoise, the Vertuze Rosé had a very pale pink hue and a nice touch of sweetness.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

For those who are unfamiliar, the méthode champenoise is the oldest and most traditional way of making sparkling wine. It involves a long, detailed process which includes blending wine (typically some combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) followed by a fermentation period that requires a secondary in-bottle fermentation that can last up to 6 years.

True Champagne comes exclusively from the Champagne region of France while bubbly from anywhere else in the world is referred to as sparkling wine.

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé

Back to Vertuze. Though I typically enjoy a drier sparkling wine, the Vertuze sparkling Rosé was nicely balanced, very easy to drink, and easy on the wallet at about $19 per bottle. I could see this being a hit for sparkling wine drinkers with a wide variety of palates.

The second bottle I tried was a brut Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé called “Perle d’Aurore” by Louis Bouillot. Cremant de Bourgogne is the appellation (or defined geographical area) for the Rosé and white sparkling wines of Burgundy in France.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

The Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. On the palate, it started with lots of strawberry, but finished drier than the Vertuze with a slightly finer effervescence and a nice minerality. I could see this appealing to sparkling wine drinkers who prefer less sweetness. Also crafted in the méthode champenoise, the Louis Bouillot Cremant du Bourgone “Perle d’Aurore” Rosé was a steal at $14.

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé "Perle d'Aurore"

Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Sparkling Rosé “Perle d’Aurore”

Grab a bottle (or several bottles) of Vertuze Brut Sparkling Rosé and Louis Bouillot “Perle d’Aurore” Sparkling Rosé for your next holiday party. I guarantee either sparkler will be a hit. Cheers & Happy New Year!