In what has to be the only “outdoor” tasting room in the Western Hemisphere, tasting at Iron Horse Vineyards is a truly unique experience. Imagine driving to a remote location, down a secluded unpaved trail, up the side of a hill, to reach the top where you are treated to a 360 degree expansive view of vineyards nestled into rolling hills which give way to a green valley floor. Welcome to paradise Iron Horse style. It is the Green Valley appellation of Russian River Valley at it’s finest with a fantastic winery at it’s finest too!
As you walk from the parking area you see what looks like a plank sitting on top of wine barrels housed in a cabana style protective covering. When you get right up to this “structure” you realize that this IS the tasting room. Turn around and you have a Thomas McKnight like picture postcard view of the Green Valley.
For more information go to sf gate’s fine article.
What makes this such a great tasting room? First the staff is extremely friendly. We began our tasting with Dawnelise and she was both exuberant and knowledgeable about the wines and the region. When Dawnelise was busy with new customers, Aaron or one of his cohorts filled in without a hitch. The attitude is so friendly and based on pleasing the customer. The staff is clad in shorts and beach wear which lends to the festive atmosphere. This atmosphere of casual elegance takes over the tasting crowd too. People tend to chat and compare their thoughts on the wine, staff, and the view. We met some wonderful people and we believe it was due to the staff’s efforts to maintain such a fun and positive ambiance.
Gorgeous topography, festive ambiance, a friendly and knowledgeable staff are not the only great features of this tasting experience: the wine ain’t half bad either! To be more exact the wine is exceptional in most cases. Here are a view examples of the buzz Iron Horse is creating:
Chef Charlie Palmer’s top pick is Iron Horse. “The Green Valley literally blossoms in the spring,” he says, “Nothing beats sipping Iron Horse and looking down into the vineyards.” Palmer owns nine restaurants, including Aureole in New York and Las Vegas and Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Bobby Flay, Chef, Restauranteur, Cookbook Author, TV Personality
“Whenever I’m grilling fish with spicy flavors or slow-roasting chicken crusted with fresh herbs, I always reach for Iron Horse Chardonnay. It’s a perfect partner for the foods I like to cook.”
The following are the 3 wine flights offered the day we tasted at Iron Horse:
Sparkling Flight: 2001 Blanc de Blancs-$37; 2002 Classic Vintage Brut-$31; 2002 Russian Cuvee-$31; and the 2004 Wedding Cuvee-$37
Seasonal Flight: 2005 Viognier-$25; 2005 Un-Oaked Chardonnay-$26; 2004 Estate Chardonnay-$27; 2006 Rosato di Sangiovese-$13; 2005 Estate Pinot Noir-$36; and the beautiful 2004 BDX Meritage-3-$3.
Reserve/Library Flight: 2006 Cuvee R-$26; 2003 Estate Chardonnay-$30; 2006 Rose de Pinot Noir-$16; 2003 Benchmark-$100; and the 2005 Late Harvest Viognier-$26.
The first two flights have a tasting fee of $10 each; the Reserve/Library Flight tasting fee is $15. But wait! We were never charged a tasting fee. In fact we had so many wonderful discussions going on simultaneously with each staff member, that they began offering us wines not on the flight list. When we finally concluded our tasting, both satisfied and a bit tipped, we purchased one bottle and we were never asked to pay a tasting fee.
We made friends with staff, fellow tasters, and overall our afternoon at Iron Horse Vineyards was the highlight of our weekend.