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Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Winery Profile: Iron Horse Vineyards

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 27th, 2012

Iron Horse

Entrance to Iron Horse Vineyards

In preparing JJ Buckley’s Champagne Report, we wrestled with the decision to keep the focus on wines from that famous region, or open it up and include other sparklers, especially those from California. In the end, we decided to restrain ourselves, but not without some measure of protest from long-time friend Joy Sterling, proprietor of one of California’s iconic producers of sparkling wines, Iron Horse Vineyards. So as I wrapped up work on our latest report, I took the opportunity to dig deeper into our local fizz market in order to gain some perspective.

Sparkling wine has a long tradition in California, with Korbel having the distinction of being the first winery to produce bubbly back in the 1880s. And like the wineries that produced still wine in the pre-Prohibition heyday, the state was also blessed with many sparkling wine producers. But the arrival and aftermath of Prohibition along with a federal tax scheme that appraises sparkling wine at three times the rate of still wine left few domestic producers making bubbly between 1930 and 1970.    (more…)

Marin: Wealthy in Wine

Marin: Wealthy in Wine

Post by Chuck Hayward | June 13th, 2011

Major wine tastings usually follow one of two basic formats. One focuses on a single variety, as with ZAP or the upcoming Pinot Days. The other centers on geography, like those hosted by the Wines of Spain or the Sonoma County Vintners Association tasting to be held in San Francisco in July. The problem with some of these bigger geography-based events (the Sonoma tasting will cover 12 different subregions) is that there is so much to take in, everything runs together and wines start blending into each other.

Marin County Wine Celebration: Small But Substantial

That was not the case with 7th Annual Marin County Wine Celebration—one of the more unique tastings I’ve had the fortune to attend. In order to raise funds for the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), an organization dedicated to preserving land for agricultural purposes in the county, an assortment of pinot noirs (and a rare white here and there) were poured by 14 wineries. Most were fairly new with a few pouring their first-ever efforts. To witness the gradual progress being made in this small growing region is truly exciting.

Historic Escalle's Winery - 771 Magnolia in Larkspur, CA

While Marin County wines are newcomers to the current wine scene, the area itself boasts a significant history, largely forgotten until the latest plantings began to take root. Though it was very likely that Spanish settlers planted grapes when they founded the mission in San Rafael in the early 1800s, grape growing really gained momentum in the late 1800s. Back then, Escalle Winery, where the tasting was held in Larkspur, was a frequent tourist destination for San Franciscans on weekend getaways of wine drinking and picnics in the estate’s gardens. Other vineyards were located in San Rafael and Fairfax on hills along today’s “Golden Mile.” (more…)