Barry Sterling, Cofounder of Iron Horse Vineyards, Dies at 90

Barry Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards
Courtesy Joy Sterling

A pioneer of sparkling wine in Sonoma County, Barry Sterling, the cofounder of Iron Horse Vineyards, died Sunday, July 26, 2020, at the age of 90. His family was by his side.

“We feel very lucky that we were all able to be home with him,” says daughter Joy Sterling, partner and CEO of Iron Horse, in a shared written statement.

A Los Angeles native who graduated Stanford Law School with future Supreme Court justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor, Sterling assisted the U.S. Department of Defense legal staff during the McCarthy Senate hearings. He married Audrey Shapiro Sterling in 1952; they were due to celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary this August.

The Sterlings raised their three children, Joy, Laurence and Terry, in Los Angeles and later Paris. Their time in France inspired the family to one day produce estate wine.

That journey began in 1976, when the Sterlings happened upon the 300-acre Iron Horse estate, its vineyard only partially completed.

Though warned against planting in this pocket of the Russian River Valley, the Sterlings persisted and helped to make the area, which would come to be known as Green Valley, an official appellation in 1983. The family emphasized the importance of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to making sparkling wine.

Iron Horse would open officially in 1979 on Sterling’s 50th birthday, with the first vintage of sparkling wine coming a year later. Soon, its Blanc de Blancs was being served at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings.

The family also makes a special Ocean Reserve cuvée, created in partnership with National Geographic, to support ocean conservation, as well as a Rainbow Cuvée bottling to celebrate gay pride and a vintage Brut called Gratitude that benefits the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

Sterling is survived by his wife Audrey, three children, many grandchildren, a great-grandson and others. There will be no funeral services. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for a donation to be made to Hospice of Petaluma or a charity of choice.

Published on July 27, 2020
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