Both the Kautz family name and Ironstone Vineyards are familiar to me, as they are to many residents in and around Lodi where I associate the Kautz name with farming and viticulture. The sprawling Ironstone winery, located in the Sierra Foothills town of Murphys, is a destination winery. In addition to wine tasting and the wine cave there is a deli, museum, entertainment venue and extensive gardens. Ironstone Vineyards is also a popular wedding location.
While I’m familiar with the winery name and venue in general, I’m not very familiar with the wines made by Ironstone Vineyards. We recently received a generous collection of tasting samples to acquaint ourselves with the wines made by Ironstone Vineyards. This will be a bit of a marathon tasting, so hold on to your wine glass.
An Introduction to Ironstone Vineyards
Ironstone Vineyards makes wine from grapes sourced from the Lodi AVA as well as the sprawling Sierra Foothills AVA. In addition to wines made under their Ironstone Vineyards label the Kautz family also makes: Drifting Wines, Granite Hill, Kautz & Kramer, Leaping Horse, Obsession, and Stone Valley. That’s a lot of labels and a lot of wine.
Quintessential Wines, the US Distributor of Ironstone Wines, provides this background:
The Kautz family settled in Lodi, CA in 1926 and founded their first winery, Bear Creek, in 1968 – the same year they planted their first vineyards. Over the next 20 years, the family expanded its vineyard holdings to more than 5,000 acres of vineyards in the Sierra Foothills and Lodi. Today, the second generation of the Kautz Family to make wine operates a state-of-the-art winery that produces acclaimed wines in the Sierra Foothills town of Murphy, in the heart of California’s scenic Gold Rush Country.Quintessential Wines
Ironstone wines are now distributed to all 50 states and around the world. For a look at how the next generation of Kautz family members have continued the work started by their parents, John and Gail Kautz, please see this comprehensive article by Randy Caparoso from the Lodi Wines website.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Chenin Blanc, California — medium yellow in the glass with aromas of oat hay and ripe melons. Melon flavors are joined by citrusy flavors and acidity with a hint of white flowers in the background. 12.5% abv. SRP $11.99
This is a delightful wine for the price. The Kautz family planted their first Chenin Blanc in Lodi and this wine is sourced from family vineyards in the Sloughhouse sub-AVA of Lodi, and from vineyards further west in the San Joaquin Delta.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi — medium yellow in the glass with aromas and flavors of oat hay, dried herbs and gravelly minerality. Citrus pith lingers on the finish. 13% abv. SRP $13.99
Not overtly grassy, this Sauvignon Blanc will please you if you’re not a fan of gooseberry-flavored SBs. Sauvignon Blanc is grown in the Mokelumne River sub-AVA of Lodi.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Chardonnay, Lodi — light yellow in the glass with initial aromas of struck match, which blow off, followed by melon and citrus. Tropical fruit flavors of melon, banana and pineapple are supported by good acidity and a bit of roundness in the mouth. 13.5% abv. SRP $13.99
Vineyard locations in the Mokelumne River and Sloughhouse AVAs take advantage of different soil and climate conditions, which contribute complexity to the flavor profile of this Chardonnay.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Franc, Sierra Foothills — dense ruby in the glass with aromas of plumb, blackberries, dusty earth and cedar. Blackberry, tobacco, dusty earth and cedar flavors are supported by firm, grippy tannins. The body is medium+ and the finish at least medium in length. 14.5% abv. SRP $24.99
If you think of Cabernet Franc as lightweight Cabernet Sauvignon then this wine will shatter that impression. It is not a shy wine. Give it some time to unwind and then pair it with a grilled rib eye.
Cabernet Franc (85%) is blended with 8% Petite Sirah, 4% Zinfandel, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The grapes are grown in the winery’s Hay Station Ranch Vineyard located at 2400 feet above sea level in the Sierra Foothills AVA. Oak aging takes place in a French and American oak.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi — medium ruby in the glass with a lovely, perfumed blackberry nose. Flavors of blackberries, ripe raspberries, damp earth and cedar finish with drying tannins and a bit of warmth. Juicy acidity keeps the flavors light in this medium-bodied Zinfandel. 15% abv. SRP $24.99
Oh, the aromas in this Old Vine Zinfandel. Just wow! The Zinfandel vines are between 60 and 80 years old and are planted in the Mokelumne River AVA, home to many of the remaining Old Vine Zinfandel in Lodi. Aging takes place in French oak.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Merlot, Lodi —medium ruby in the glass with aromas of blackberries, dried herbs, smoke and vanilla. Flavors lead with vanilla along with dried hay, plums and blackberries. Drying tannins linger on the finish along with fruit flavors. 14.5% abv. SRP $11.99
Merlot is sourced from several locations within the Lodi AVA. 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc are blended with the Merlot. The wine spends two months aging in new French oak.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Pinot Noir, Lodi — translucent ruby in the glass with aromas of raspberries and smoke. Cherry and raspberry flavors combine with damp earth and vanilla. Tannins are smooth and the body is on the light side of medium. 13.5% abv. SRP $13.99
Pinot Noir is sourced from a family vineyard located in the western portion of the Lodi AVA closest to cooling breezes from the San Joaquin Delta. The Pinot Noir was aged in new French oak for 3 months.
2016 Obsession Symphony, California — light yellow in the glass with generous, perfumed aromas of white flowers and spices. The flavor profile follows with white flowers, perfume and citrus pith along with a bit of sweetness. 12% abv. SRP $11.99
If you mistake the aromas and flavors of this wine for Muscat that’s because Muscat of Alexandria is one of the parents of the Symphony grape variety, along with Grenache Gris. Symphony was created by Dr. Harold Olmo at University of California, Davis in 1948. The Kautz family have a large planting of this variety, primarily in the Mokelumne River AVA.
The Symphony variety is practically synonymous with the Kautz family and Ironstone Vineyards to me. It is the first Ironstone wine I became familiar with years ago.
2016 Obsession Red Blend, California — medium ruby in the glass with aromas of blackberries, alfalfa hay, crushed flower stems and vanilla. Vanilla flavors lead along with blackberries and dusty earth. Tannins are smooth but drying and linger on the finish. 13.5% abv. SRP $ 14.99
The blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Zinfandel and 10% Petite Sirah is grown in various family vineyards in the Lodi AVA and Sierra Foothills AVA. Aging takes place in new French oak for 3 months.
A Half Marathon
2017 Leaping Horse Pinot Grigio, California — pale yellow in the glass with aromas and flavors of dried hay and citrus. This wine is light in color, weight in the mouth with a straightforward flavor profile. 12.5% abv. SRP $13.99
80% Pinot Grigio is blended with 5% Viognier, 5% Chardonnay, 5% Symphony and 5% Chenin Blanc.
2017 Leaping Horse Chardonnay, California — light yellow in the glass with aromas that follow with similar, light flavors of melon, banana and pineapple. Nice acidity makes for an easy sipping white wine. 13.5% abv. SRP $ 9.99
10% Viognier is blended with Chardonnay.
2017 Leaping Horse Cabernet Sauvignon, California —medium ruby in the glass with aromas and flavors of plums and dusty earth. Tannins are drying and well integrated with the flavors which are a bit shy of medium in length. 13.5% abv. SRP$ 9.99
80% Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Syrah.
2016 Leaping Horse Red Blend, California — medium ruby in the glass with aromas of plums and mix berries. The flavor profile follows the aromas with the addition of dusty earth and cedar. Tannins are drying and well integrated with the flavors. 13.5% abv. SRP $9.99
46% Zinfandel is blended with 40% Merlot and 14% Petit Sirah.
This wide range of wines from Ironstone Vineyards is very affordable and will please a wide variety of palates. Even at the top price range of $24.99 for the Reserve Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel these wines are a very good buy.
The most memorable wines in this group for me are the Reserve Cabernet Franc, no shrinking violet here, and the Chenin Blanc, which was surprisingly flavorful. The Obsession Symphony is memorable because its aromas and flavors are so floral and complex.