Wine of the Week;2008 Iron Horse Brut

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2008 Iron Horse Vineyards Classic Vintage Brut.

The Winery

Iron Horse Vineyards is a small, independent, estate, family owned wineries located in cool, foggy Green Valley in western Sonoma County. The founding partners, Audrey and Barry Sterling first saw it in the pouring rain in February 1976. Driving down Ross Station Road, they were sure they were lost until they crested the knoll and the view opened up to 300 acres of gentle rolling hills and a wall of trees behind that looked like Camelot to them. Incurable romantics, and having extraordinary vision, they bought the property in just two weeks.

Iron Horse is truly a family affair. Audrey and Barry’s daughter Joy Sterling is the CEO and lives at the foot of the vineyard.  The Sterlings’ son Laurence, his wife Terry and their children moved to Iron Horse in 1990 and built their home on the far southwest corner of the property. Laurence is Director of Operations. Audrey and Barry are retired, but still reside at the heart of the estate in the original Victorian built in 1876

Iron Horse is best known for their sparkling wines, but they also produce elegant estate-bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Green Valley in the coolest, foggiest part of the Russian River Valley, just 13 miles from the Pacific as the crow flies. There are approximately 160 acres in vine, planted exclusively to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – with gentle, rolling hills, and a spectacular view from the winery clear across Sonoma County to Mount St. Helena.  The land was once under water many millions of years ago, and the soils is full of marine sediment and fossil. In this regard the area is similar to Chablis and Champagne in France. And the soils are perfectly suited to growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which dominate the AVA.

The Iron Horse name came from a train that cut across the property in the 1890s. The logo, the rampant horse on a weather vane, came from a 19th century weather vane found while clearing away the rubble to build the winery.

Whenever, we’re in Sonoma County Iron Horse is on our short list of “must visit” wineries. It’s a beautiful property, with what is essentially an outdoor tasting room.   We love to grab of glass of bubbly, or one of their still wines, and sit on one of the benches that overlook the property, and simply savor the view.   Drop by on a Sunday if you can, the Oyster Girls will be serving up Tomales Bay oysters shucked to order raw or barbecued.

The Wine

Fruit for the base wine was hand-harvested.  It’s a blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% that was aged, sur lie for over almost four years.  The dosage includes 2007 Rued Clone Chardonnay and 2010 Thomas Road Pinot Noir.

Retail – $38; Alcohol – 13.5%; Production – 2,300 cases; Disgorged – April 2013

Wine of the Week; 2008 Iron Horse Vineyard Classic  Vintage Brut

My tasting notes follow:

Very pale straw color with very active pin prick sized bubbles, and brioche, citrus zest, and a bit of hazelnut aromas. On the palate it sports a delicate mousse, explosive freshness, and tart apple, citrus, and ginger flavors, with an appealing minerality I’ve come to associate with Green Valley fruit. Lengthy satisfying finish.  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A-:  An outstanding bottle of sparkling wine that world class!

Pair with: Raw oysters with mignonette or course!  But this is a the quintessential sparkling wine for food. Why not try with  Buttermilk fried chicken and biscuits, or a savory Mushroom and Gruyere Cheesecake!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Bubbly – Bisol Desiderio Jeio Cuvée Rosé

My wife and I make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort, to the end of the workweek.  She get’s to drink, and enjoy the bubbly, while I get to drink, enjoy and blog about it!  This week’s sparkling wine is the Bisol Desiderio Jeio Cuvée Rosé

The Winery

Bisol Desiderio Jeio Cuvée Rosé is produced under the Desiderio Jeio label by the Bisol Family. The Bisol family also produces prosecco under the Bisol label.

The Bisol family had deep roots in the heart of the Prosecco and Cartizze production zone (considered to be the “Grand Cru of Prosecco).  In the 1920s Desidiero (affectionately referred to as “Jeio” by his wife) Bisol, son of Eliseo Bisol established a winery on land the family had occupied since the 16th century. His sons now run the company, which specializes in prosecco, the light sparkling wine made from the Glera grape.

“Champagne is the king of the bubble,” Mr. Bisol says. “But prosecco maybe can be considered the small prince.”

Bisol produces prosecco in many styles and price ranges, as well as a sparkling brut rosé from pinot nero (known elsewhere as pinot noir), still whites and reds from local varietals, and grappa, the Italian brandy made from pomace.

The Wine

I found this unique sparkling wine at the Wine Mine. It’s unique sparkling wine in that it’s made from Pinot Nero (Noir) and Merlot – a grape not typically associated with Italian wines.

A short maceration on the skins of Merlot and Pinot Noir with the juice gives this sparkling wine an intense pink color.

My tasting notes follow

Delicate pink color with tiny dispersed bubbles with low-key raspberry  and rose aromas. On the palate it’s fresh, lively and dry with a creamy mousse followed by strawberry, raspberry, and mineral flavors. Short clean finish.  - 86pts

Rating: Recommended! I’d buy this one again, and it’s definitely worth trying and represents very good value – especially for a sparkling Rosé, which tend to be priced higher than their non-Rose siblings.

Pair with: Seafood dishes and delicate foods

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > Italy> Veneto
  • Grape varieties: 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Merlot
  • Production method: Charmat 
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $12.99
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: Now – 2014
  • >>Find this wine<<

Wine purchased for review

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Top 20 Sparkling Wines Under $20!

Over the past couple of years I’ve made it a point to blog about sparkling wines. For a time I blogged about a different sparkling wine on a weekly basis (At one point I tried 30 different sparkling wines over a 30 week period!).  Though I’ve gotten away from it in recent months, it’s not because I stopped drinking sparkling wines (I still drink bubbly pretty much on a weekly basis; I don’t wait for a special occasion and neither should you!), rather it’s because after a year and a half of trying more than my fair share of sparkling wines from around the world, I’ve found many I enjoy that have become repeat purchases.

While I love Champagne, it’s more expensive (entry-level examples start at around $30) than its sparkling wine brethren (I did find one for under $19.99, but didn’t care for it enough to purchase it again).  There are just too many other sparkling wines i enjoy more (especially since I’m footing the bill;-)…

Please allow me a moment on the Sparkling Wine soapbox..

  • Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne, the real stuff only comes from the Champagne region of France
  • Sparking wines are great wines – drink as you would other wines (i.e. don’t limit your consumption to special occasions), including trying different styles (White, Rosé, Red, Blanc-de-blancs, Blanc-de-noirs, Brut, Extra-Dry, etc.)
  • Sparkling wines are under-appreciated food friendly wines – If I’m not sure about a food a wine pairing, you can bet I’ll reach for a bottle of bubbly!  Besides being the only wine that’s socially acceptable to have with any meal, sparkling wine is one of the few wines that can take you from appetizers to dessert!

Ok…now that that’s off my chest…

Champagne Glasses

Image couresy of Grape Sense – Glass Half Full

Your best bets for finding quality for the price sparkling wines under $20 are to:

  • Here in the U.S. – look for sales on most major California labels, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Roederer are in wide distribution and frequently significantly discounted. At least one of those brands is on sale at my local grocery store every week for less than $20 ( and often less than $15…)
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with as Champagne-like character, look for Cava from Spain, or  Crémant from France (Crémant de Bourgogne, Limoux, Alsace, and Loire). They’re produced using the same method as Champagne, so you’ll get a more yeasty character,and save some coin.
  • If you prefer sparkling wine with fruitier aromas and flavors, and you’re not hung up on the method of production, look for Prosecco from Italy.
  • Sparkling wine is made the world over, so you can find good value in sparkling wines from South Africa, Australia and even South America.

Here are my Top 20 sparkling wines under $20 (click on the bold italicized links for my more detailed blog posts from my T.G.I.F. series of weekly sparkling wine tastings) It’s a diverse list geographically, and stylistically. There is with bubbly from Argentina, Australia, California, Spain, Italy, and South Africa. And there is Brut, Rose, Blanc de Noir, and even a dessert sparkling wine. Many can be found at grocery stores, or large beverage retailers like BevMo, and Costco. Others may be more challenging to find, but are definitely worth seeking out.

  1. Taltarni Brut Tache - (Australia)  Lovely pale salmon color with floral, stone fruit (peaches/apricots), and fresh-baked scone aromas. On the palate, approaching medium-bodied, with a creamy mousse with watermelon, red berry, and a bit of hazelnut flavors. Dry with a light fruitiness, good acidity, and a clean medium long finish. >>Find this wine<<
  2. Schramsberg Mirabelle North Coast Brut Rosé - (California) Delicate pink color with strawberry and bread dough aromas.  On the palate, moderately creamy mousse, good acidity, focused, fruity, yet dry, and lively, with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of citrus, and spice flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  3. 2011 Raventos i Blanc L’Heure Blanc Brut Reserva - (Spain)  Very light straw yellow color with plenty of tiny bubbles, white flower, yeast, apple aromas. On the palate, a wonderful creamy mousse uncommon at this price point, dry, and approaching medium-bodied with apple, and a hint on citrus flavors. Medium finish >>Find this wine<<
  4. Törley Doux Tokaji (Hungary) The only dessert bubbly in the bunch – Pale straw yellow color with lots of pin prick sized bubbles and brioche, apricot, mineral and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it shows a creamy mousse, and is sweet but nicely balanced very good acidity with apricot, peach, and vanilla flavors. Made from Furmint grapes. 11% alcohol >>Find this wine<<
  5. Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - (California) - Light golden straw color with plentiful, persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with soft texture, zippy acidity, between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla flavors.
  6. El Xamfra Cava Mercat Brut Nature - (Spain)Pale straw yellow color with lot of bubbles, and floral, stone fruit, citrus and slight sweet yeast aromas. On the palate, it has a surprisingly explosive mousse, and approached medium-bodied with stone fruit, citrus, and toasted nut flavors. Medium finish. 11.5% alcohol. Zero dosage. A great value! >>Find this wine<<
  7. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - (California) - Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  8. Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat - (Spain) Cherry red color with a frothy mousse showing tiny dispersed bubbles with yeast and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry owing to zero dosage (no added sugar) with fresh cherry, raspberry, and a hint of mineral flavors. This Rosé is a blend of Trepat and Garnacha. >>Find this wine<<
  9. 2012 Antech “Cuvée Eugénie” Crémant de Limoux - (France) Light straw color with brioche, Fuji apple, and floral aromas.  On the palate, crisp with zippy acidity, a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet green apple, pear, and a bit of citrus flavors.  Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  10. François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Brut (France) Light straw yellow color with lots of tiny bubbles, and brioche, and apple aromas. On the palate, it has a delicate mousse, is off-dry with apple and mineral flavors. 100% Chenin Blanc >>Find this wine<<
  11. Graham Beck Brut Rosé - (South Africa) Watermelon pink color with a hint of silver with aromas of yeast, and raspberries.  On the palate, a creamy mousse, fruity, yet dry, with crisp acidity and raspberries, cherries flavors, with a slight mineral overtone, and a hint of citrus on the back palate.  Short-medium finish. Great QPR! >>Find this wine<<
  12. La Marca Prosecco - (Italy) Very pale straw yellow color with white flowers, stone fruit, and a whiff of tangerine aromas. It shows an active stream of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and fresh with a creamy mousse and peach, and tangerine flavors. Medium finish. >>Find this wine<<
  13. Deligeroy Crémant de Loire Brut - (France) Pale yellow color with a bit of bronze tinge and brioche pear, raspberry, and mineral aromas. On the palate it was light-bodied,and between dry, and off-dry with good acidity, and a prickly mousse with pear, raspberry, and mineral flavors. A Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. >>Find this wine<<
  14. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence - (California) Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  15. Gruet Blanc de Noirs - (New Mexico)  Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles with brioche and apple aromas. On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse, balanced with pear, sweet baking spice, vanilla, and nuanced citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  16. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut(California) – Very light straw color with persistent bead of smallish bubbles, and fresh bread, apple, citrus,and a bit of ginger aromas.  On the palate, it shows a moderately creamy mousse, with apple, pear, and citrus flavors. >>Find this wine<<
  17. Reginato “Celestina” Rosé of Malbec - (Argentina) - Intense strawberry red color with intermittent stream of tiny bubbles with baked bread and ripe cherry aromas. On the palate, fruity, yet pleasingly more dry, than off-dry with an explosive, creamy mousse, and with delicate almost imperceptible tannins, with flavors of cherries, raspberries, and a hint of spice. >>Find this wine<<
  18. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva - (Spain) Light straw color with fine bead of bubbles with bread dough and lemon-lime citrus aromas.  On the palate, light bodied, with moderately creamy mousse with green apple, and tart citrus flavors. Short finish. This one is “everyday” sparkler for me.  It’s a great value at $9/bottle! >>Find this wine<<
  19.  Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut(France) Very pale straw yellow color with toasty pear, citrus and hint of spice aromas and tiny bubbles. On the palate it’s fresh and fruity with pear, fuji apple, a vanilla, and sweet baking spice flavors.  Wonderful QPR @$10! Available at Trader Joe’s
  20. Korbel Natural - (California) Pale golden-yellow color with yeast ,red fruit, and apple aromas.  On the palate light bodied, crisp, between dry and off-dry.  Straight-forward with cherry, apple, minerals, and a touch of honey flavors.  Short-medium finish. >>Find this wine<< 

What are your favorite sparkling wines under $20? I’d love to give them a try!

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