Asm. Jim Wood Adjourns the Assembly in Memory of Barry Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards

Monday, August 3, 2020

SACRAMENTO--Today on the Assembly Floor I will rise to adjourn in the memory of Barry Sterling, co-founder of Iron Horse Vineyards.

Barry followed his dreams until he left this world on July 26, surrounded by family. A life well lived, he passed at age 90.

His dream took an indirect route. He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952 in the same class as future Supreme Court justices and friends William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor.

That same year, he passed the bar, married his wife Audrey and began his career with the Army. The newlyweds moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and then to Washington, D.C. Two years later, the couple moved to Los Angeles, and Sterling opened his own law firm. But then the fork in the road, spurred by their travels to Europe and his love and appreciation of wine, they moved to France in 1967, leading to the dream of living on a vineyard and making wine.

In 1976, in a driving rainstorm, he and Audrey viewed a 19th-century Carpenter Gothic house near Sebastopol. There were vines planted, owned by Rodney Strong, but no winery. They fell in love with the property and, after tasting wines made from the grapes, he knew this was where his dream would begin. Despite what the experts told him about the climate being too chilly for the chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, he purchased the property anyway and opened Iron Horse Vineyards in 1979.

Iron Horse wines have been served at formal dinners by six presidents, including a summit meeting between former President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in1985.

Barry was also a patron of the arts, political activist, art collector, philanthropist, world traveler and master gardener. He served on the board of the San Francisco Symphony and was a lifetime trustee of the Leakey Foundation.

In addition to pourings in high places, Iron Horse also bottles a special cuvee with National Geographic called Ocean Reserve, which supports ocean conservation, and a vintage brut called Gratitude that benefits the Redwood Empire Food Bank.

He and Audrey would have celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary this month. In a 2014 interview, Barry said “Our life is great. We’ve had a very good run. Everyone who knows us knows we’ve had a hell of a good time.”

Barry is survived by his wife, Audrey, children, Joy, Laurence and Terry, four grandchildren, one great-grandson, and five nieces and nephews.

I was pleased to get to know Barry and am honored to adjourn in his memory today.

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