Join Joy Sterling on a stroll through the vineyards and gardens of California's Iron Horse Vineyards, into her kitchen and to her table. Filled with charming anecdotes, a year's worth of news from the grapevine, and imaginative menus and recipes, this is a delightful window into her life as wine lover, epicure, philosopher, and hostess. Vintage Feasting February 14. The vineyards are asleep. Our Valentine's Day feast is fresh, cracked Dungeness crab soup cooked with Fumé Blanc, served with garlic mayonnaise and bubbly.... In settings suffused with the scents of Giverny-like gardens, Joy shares secrets of tasting and cooking with wine, reveals her own experiments with menus and vintages, and explains why certain pairings of food and wine endure. And she exults in life's surprises, like the magical cluster of rare morels that appeared one day under a century-old Douglas fir and became an exotic ragout. Whether it's savoring the intense aromas of crushed violets in a young Cabernet Sauvignon; recalling a culinary adventure at Paul Bocuse's restaurant; drinking in the Provence scents of zinnias and lavenders; or concocting a Halloween dinner of turban squash, Vintage Feasting is a treasure of fascinating lore, succulent menus, memorable wines -- and a zest for enjoying life that leaves us refreshed, delighted, and inspired anew.
Chapter One: Lay of the Land Iron Horse is a marriage of two vineyards -- my family's property in Green Valley and Forrest's T-bar-T ranch in Alexander Valley. My parents and Forrest founded the winery in 1978. The grapes from the two estates come into the one winery and are bottled under the Iron Horse label. The weather is coolest to the west, due to coastal fog, and becomes warmer as you head north and inland. It's about 20 miles to Forrest's property and about 10 degrees warmer than it is at home. The two vineyards are as different as night and day. Even the grapes are not interchangeable. We grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at the home vineyard and Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sangiovese at T-bar-T. We couldn't get Cabernet to ripen properly at Iron Horse because of our cool climate, and Pinot Noir would probably explode from the heat at T-bar-T. This climate variation is what allows us to make such a broad range of wines. We now have 250 acres in vine. We are completely estate bottled, which means we use our own grapes exclusively, producing about 40,000 cases of wine a year. We used to tease Forrest that we could only be as big as however many acres he could walk. Now he has to run. No two years are alike in the vineyards. Standing behind the winery, looking at the lay of the land, you can see why one side of a hill will yield a completely different taste than the other because of its exposure to the sun, the way the water sheds, or the way the fog settles. Blocks A, B, and C at the foot of the property are often our favorites for still Chardonnay because they lie on a west-facing incline and receive the last rays of sunlight at the end of the day. Different soil types run in bands or ribbons all around the property. What surprises me is how the same section of vineyard will taste different from one year to the next -- not just in a good vintage versus a bad one but in two equally fine years. They're just different in the same way that a bed of flowers doesn't replicate itself petal for petal each time it blooms.