It’s hard to imagine two more different winery visits than Mumm Napa and Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma, but it’s their very differences that make them must visits when you go wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma. Both are beautiful, you really learn something and, best of all, you get to drink great bubbly.
Iron Horse is the classic family winery estate - a labor of love for the Sterling family. Producing small quantities of wines from their estate vineyards in the cool Green Valley, they shower attention and passion on their wines. Visitors are often greeted by Sterling family members themselves and their tasting room staff are so well trained you often feel the same passion from them that you do from the Sterlings themselves.
While Iron Horse produces outstanding chardonnay and pinot noir, the star of the show can’t help but be their wonderful sparkling wines. Guests are served at their warm and charmingly rustic open air tasting bar surrounded by the rolling bucolic vineyards that gave birth to the wines you’re tasting. Here you have the opportunity to taste several sparkling wines with different dosage and you’ll find the difference that a small change in the dosage can make in the final wine amazing. By the way, Iron Horse has introduced a new sparking wine called Ultra Brut, which is bone dry, with a racy citrus and crispness laid over a rich, creamy wine with a long toasty finish. This is a wine worth seeking out.
Mumm Napa is anything but a small family estate and instead represents the corporate end of the wine world, which dominates Champagne method sparkling wines. Their tasting room is the model of efficiency, but a warm and delightful efficiency it is and guests are really educated on the what and why of their sparkling wines. There’s no jammed tasting bar here, but visitors are seated on their beautiful patio, featuring stunning views of the Napa Valley, where they are personally served flights of wines along with charming and intelligent commentary from the tasting room staff. The highlight here is a flight showing the distinctive impact of aging en tirage.
Too many tasting rooms these days are mostly cocktail bars and souvenir shops, but these two really teach you something, best of all the fun, bubbly and beautiful views are included.
Pictured above: the beautiful patio at Mumm Napa.