Californian sparkling wine pioneer Barry Sterling dies

Barry Sterling, a pioneer of the Californian sparkling wine industry and the co-founder of Iron Horse Vineyards, has died at the age of 90.

Barry Sterling. Image: Iron Horse Vineyards

Sterling passed away after a long illness at his home on Sunday, according to a family statement.

Lawyer turned vintner Sterling, along with his wife Audrey, bought the Iron Horse estate in 1976 at a time when planting in Sonoma County was still advised against due to the risk of frost. While also producing cool climate still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Iron Horse became known for its sparkling wine, and along with LVMH’s Domaine Chandon, was one of the pioneers of high quality fizz.

Sterling’s sparkling wines have been served at the White House during six consecutive presidential terms, from Ronald Reagan to present incumbent Donald Trump.

Born on 25 October 1929 in Los Angeles, Sterling was a graduate of Stanford University. He served as part of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in Washington D.C., and assisted the US Department of Defense’s legal staff during the McCarthy Senate hearings.

He later went on to open a corporate law firm in Los Angeles, and along with his wife, was also a founding member of the Los Angeles Music Center and the Los Angeles Art Museum.

It was during his time in France in the 1960s that he caught the wine bug, and was inspired to pursue his own project after correctly guessing an obscure wine from Cahors in a blind tasting competition.

After officially opening the Iron Horse winery on his 50th birthday in 1979, Barry and Audrey were instrumental in the creation of the Green Valley AVA, a sub-region of Russian River Valley, where their winery is located.

He is survived by his wife of almost 68 years, Audrey; children Joy, Lauren and Terry; grandchildren Justine, Mike, Barrie and Joseph; and great grandson Calvin.

In her tribute, Joy Sterling described her father as a “handsome and charming raconteur, master gardener, loving husband, and great father”.

One Response to “Californian sparkling wine pioneer Barry Sterling dies”

  1. William says:

    I only met him a couple of times but he made me feel he’d known me for years.
    I never really thought about going to France until a brief conversation while I was driving him to client in LA.
    A very cool guy who made really good wine.
    Thanks to Barry for making the world a little better and my condolences to the family.

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