Kent Rathbun’s Abacus restaurant hosts Joy Sterling and Iron Horse winery

hawaiian opah with watercress, potato salad, scallion/lemon aioli

grilled nectarine on a sashimi scallop

california roll with ginger, plum, crab

Iron Horse Winery's Joy Sterling and Abacus' Donna Tanner (l>r)

Last week, Iron Horse Winery owner Joy Sterling rolled through town, stopping at Kent Rathbun’s Abacus to share a few bottles of her sparkling Wedding Cuvee, Chardonnays and Pinots with a couple dozen fans, including Phil and Janet Cobb (founders of Mi Piaci, among others), Noel Petrin (corporate wine director of Cru wine bar, among others) and me.

“I don’t have to introduce myself to anybody here,” Sterling told us, raising a glass to toast, “because I think I know everybody here.”

Three generations of Sterling’s family lives on the Iron Horse estate land in Sonoma, and most are in some way involved in the winery.

“I’m proud to say this is the fifth U.S. Presidential Administration to serve our wines in the White House,” said Sterling of her Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, a tradition that began when Ronald Reagan hosted the Russians. “We like to think our wines helped end the Cold War.”

Iron Horse rests in the Green Valley AVA of Sonoma, a tiny parcel of land known for its dense fog, cool climate and mineral-laden soil.

Those characteristics are best captured in Iron Horse’s unoaked Chardonnay, where there’s no oak to mask poor viticultural practices. Instead, Sterling says, “You taste the fog, the earth, a little lime and bit of tarragon” but no whiff of oaky vanilla, toast or woodsy spice.

Her oaked Chardonnay, though was no slouch: big and juicy, a fruit-forward Chardonnay with lime, green apple, food-friendly acidity and a rich mouthfeel. Rathbun and chef Aaron Staudenmaier ably  paired the Chardonnay with gilled Hawaiian Opah, watercress and a smear of aioli brightened with grilled scallions and lemon. Iron Horse’s Pinot Noir was equally food-friendly, a wine that reminded me of ruby red grapefruit, rose petals and white pepper — and a stellar match for crispy seared duck breast rubbed with coriander and a taco stuffed with tender roasted duck leg meat.