Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol, Sonoma County

By Published On: June 27th, 2024

A Tasting Combines Delicious Wines, Stunning Views, and the Fun of Sipping Their Sparklers in a Friendly Setting

This family-owned winery is located in the Green Valley AVA of Sonoma County, a cool, foggy area with the ideal climate and soil for the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes that create the spectacular Iron Horse wines. Named for a railroad stop that once crossed the property, Iron Horse is known for sparkling wines that have been served at the White House since the Reagan administration. 

Guests enjoying sparkling wine. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

Visitors arrive at the Iron Horse property after a drive along a curving one lane road, perhaps much as Audrey and Barry Sterling did on a rainy afternoon in 1976 when they discovered the property that would become their winery. Today, the stunning valley is filled with vineyards and gardens, and the winery features rustic redwood barn-style buildings, a welcome sign, flower-filled wine barrels, and umbrella-topped tables that beckon visitors to relax and enjoy Iron Horse wines.

Vineyard view. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

Visiting Iron Horse

Wine Tasting with a View

At their hilltop “tasting room,” set outdoors to take advantage of panoramic views across Sonoma County to Mount St. Helena, guests enjoy a stunning setting for wine tastings. Sparkling wines, chardonnay, and pinot noir are served while guests gaze at hills lined with grapevines, the source of the wines they are tasting. 

The tasting experience is available by appointment from 10:00 am until the last tasting at 3:00 pm at a cost of $35 (complimentary for wine club members). The maximum group size is six guests. 

Summer Sparkling Magnum Experience

This sparkling wine tasting is a unique opportunity to taste four different magnums of the winery’s most highly rated cuvées in a seated tasting in their charming outdoor space. Guests will learn why magnums are the optimum size for bubbly while they enjoy perfectly paired snacks. For a special treat, guests can pre-order Tsar Nicoulai Reserve Caviar by the half ounce with chips ($75).

Magnum Tasting. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

This tasting is available Saturdays and Sundays from May 25 to September 1, at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm for parties of up to eight guests. The cost is $85 per person, and reservations are required. Due to limited seating, non-tasting guests are not permitted. Guests have the option to book a “private” table for six ($600) or for eight ($800) or they can enjoy the tasting at a communal table. Guests receive a 20% discount on all magnums purchased.

Pouring Sparkling Wine. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

Outdoor Picnic Area

Enjoy the views along with Iron Horse wines at picnic tables overlooking the beautiful estate vineyards. Bring a picnic lunch, and select two bottles to enjoy along with your meal. There’s a two hour limit per table and a two bottle minimum, with advance reservations required. The table reservation fee is $50 on weekends (Friday-Sunday) and $25 on weekdays. Wine club members receive one complimentary table. 

The Wines of Iron Horse

Sparkling Wines

Iron Horse sparkling wines, made at their Sonoma County estate and produced per Méthode Champenoise guidelines, are renowned for their quality. Iron Horse sparklers have been served at the White House for six presidential administrations.

Pouring Sparkling Wine. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

Current releases include the 2020 Spring Rosé, a special limited edition cuvée and the Year of the Dragon 2020, a vintage Blanc de Blancs. The 2019 Reflection Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay, the Brut Rosé 2019 is mostly Chardonnay with the addition of Pinot Noir, and the 2019 Harvest Moon is made with estate-grown Chardonnay grapes.

Iron Horse “giving wines” include the Resilience 2019, a pale pink vintage rosé, supports the Sonoma County Resilience Fund and Maui Strong to support each community’s disaster recovery. Gratitude 2019, a vintage Blanc de Noirs, provides support for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. 

Iron Horse magnums include the 2015 Stargazing Cuvée, Joy! 2006, and Brut LD Magnum 2014, aged nine years en tirage. The winery’s flagship bubbly is the 2020 Classic Vintage Brut, with flavors that are “unmistakably Sonoma County, Russian River, Green Valley, and most distinctly Iron Horse,” according to the winery’s notes.

Chardonnay

Five chardonnay wines are on the list of Iron Horse current releases. The Audrey Chardonnay 2020, named for Iron Horse co-founder Audrey Sterling, is proudly poured at the White House. The 2020 Heart of the Vineyard Chardonnay is a blend from favorite blocks of chardonnay grapes. 

Native Yeast Chardonnay 2020 is said to show mineral characteristics of a cool climate.

Heritage Chardonnay 2020 is a “creamy, lush Chardonnay with vibrant citrus-melon notes.” The 2022 Estate Chardonnay, formerly known as “UnOaked,” maintains the crisp acidity and purity of its Green Valley fruit.

Pinot Noir

The Iron Horse current releases include six Pinot Noirs, including the limited production “Q” Pinot Noir 2019, a single vineyard/single clone bottling. The highly rated 2019 Gold Ridge Pinot Noir is Iron Horse’s signature version of the varietal, a blend from four blocks on the estate. The 2019 Deer Gate Pinot Noir is light bodied and complex.

Gold Ridge Pinot Noir. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

The limited edition 2018 Home Block Pinot Noir is made from grapes from the most sheltered vineyard block. Grapes for the 2020 Corral Pinot Noir come from three different vineyard blocks, and the North Block Pinot Noir 2019 is described as “beautifully integrated, refined, and elegant.”

Sustainability and Conservation

Iron Horse is committed to the future of their vineyards, winery, gardens, and community as evidenced by their conservation measures. They use recycled water in their vineyards, and they have been certified as sustainable and regenerative by Sonoma County Wine Growers. They are engaged in a major salmon habitat restoration project on their section of Green Valley Creek. 

Vineyard View. Photo Courtesy: Iron Horse Vineyards.

The winery considers the long-term needs of the land along with growing high quality grapes, and they combine the latest technology with their years of experience. They plant cover crops to control erosion and use grape prunings to mulch the soil. 

In addition, Iron Horse ships in recycled cardboard boxes, uses natural corks, and chooses lighter glass bottles. They recycle glass, cardboard, paper, and plastic bottles. 

A Family Owned and Operated Winery

When you visit, you’ll see that Green Valley was well named, with miles of verdant shades in the distance. You’ll learn that three generations of the family live on the Iron Horse property and you’ll understand their love of the land. It’s an opportunity, even if brief, to appreciate it along with them.

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