|Home||About Us||Our Wines||Culinary||Come Visit||Events||Newsletter|
|Join our Club||Shop for Wine|
Audrey Sterling is the grande dame, warm hostess and soothing presence who makes everything naturally elegant at Iron Horse. She is a native-born San Franciscan. After meeting at Stanford University, she married Barry Sterling and moved to Washington, D.C., where he served as a lawyer at the Pentagon and her interest in the political system first developed. As she began entertaining business associates for Barry, she found her horizons so broadened by her guests that she developed a life-long pleasure for being a hostess.
Soon a daughter, Joy, and son, Laurence, were born and Audrey embraced parenting. When the family returned to Southern California, Audrey's considerable energy was devoted to the children, remodeling their homes, and being the supportive wife and hostess of a hard-working young lawyer.
In 1963 she accepted an appointment by then Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown to serve as a California Fair Employment Practice Commissioner. It was the first time she had worked outside the home and the first time she felt what she said mattered. She describes it as the most challenging and frustrating experience of her life, yet she spent almost four years working to eliminate discrimination in employment and housing.
In 1967, Barry joined the Paris office of a law firm, opening another new world to Audrey. She studied French by teaching her teacher English. Joining the American Women's Club in Paris brought an opportunity to visit every art museum in the city. A founder of the Los Angeles Art Museum and the Los Angeles Music Center, Audrey delighted in the weekly visits and was one of only four club members to complete the program out of the 80 who started.
The Sterlings continued to entertain for business and pleasure, building an international circle of friends. They also traveled constantly during their stay in Europe-always including the children to enrich their lives-through Spain, Italy, East Africa, North Africa, Germany, Holland, Russia, the Scandinavian countries and throughout France. They took art trips, visiting homes of authors, painters, sculptors, and stopping in antique shops, galleries and restaurants.
Audrey had always loved wine, and Barry was stocking a wine cellar. With groups of friends, they would hire a bus and tour the various wine regions. Possessing eclectic taste, she began to accumulate the furnishings which make their home a visual feast. "I'm a collector, not for the activity, because I don't confine myself to one period, but because I love beautiful things, whether very old or new," she explains.
When Barry opened an office in London, they bought the almost 300-year-old Queen Anne home of Mrs. Patrick Campbell, a great actress and friend of George Bernard Shaw. Although basically "unchangeable" as part of the National Trust, it nevertheless received Audrey's restorative touch, as did at least 17 other homes throughout their marriage, to provide what she and Barry felt was a "perfect" environment for themselves and their guests.
In their quest for perfection, they began looking for the ideal homesite, "a place to call our own forever where we could have the satisfaction of seeing the full circle-of making something and enjoying it-like a vineyard." From 1967 into the 1970s, they searched France. Finally in 1974 the Sterlings returned "home" to California and in 1976 they found Iron Horse. They first saw it in a driving rainstorm with the vineyard development only partially completed and the 19th century carpenter gothic house leaning dramatically to one side. Nevertheless, after a taste of wines made from Iron Horse grapes, they knew the search was ended and a dream begun.
With help from the former vineyard manager, Audrey developed and ran Iron Horse while Barry, joining her on long weekends, continued his Southern California law practice for the next 10 years until he completely retired from the law. In those early years, Audrey called Barry her "cash crop" - something every winery needs! Never an idle observer, Audrey did whatever was needed at the bare-bones operation as they restored the vineyards, built the winery, built the offices and began to travel and promote the wines. She had never sold a product before in her life, but she plunged in, learning as she went.
At the same time, she began renovation of the 1876 redwood Victorian house. A seasoned veteran after so many previous homes, Audrey advised the amused construction crew that they had nine months for the renovation-that a house should take no longer to create than a baby. It was pulled apart, restored, and put back in place. Right on schedule, Audrey moved in amidst the sawdust and the house was miraculously completed shortly thereafter.
"Flowers are my passion," says Audrey with such emphasis you immediately understand the necessity of all the greenhouses at Iron Horse and Barry's stepped gardens around the Victorian. Another continuing passion is obviously people. Spontaneous, warm and giving, Audrey is always entertaining-luncheons for the winery's wholesalers, retail store and restaurant owners, receptions for writers and artists, fund-raisers, and parties for 300 or more without hesitation-making each guest feel welcome. She is the most celebrated hostess in Sonoma County.
As an early member of the board of Sonoma Wineries Association, Audrey negotiated bringing the San Francisco Symphony in its only annual North Bay performances to add to the celebration of the association's annual Showcase. For several years, Audrey was chair of that event. She also served on the boards of the Sonoma-Marin Fair, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the Advisory Council for the Sonoma State School of Wine Business and the Advisory Council for the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. She and Barry were among the founding members of the AIWF.