David Munksgard is Iron Horse Vineyard's winemaker. He joined Iron Horse in February 1996, bringing with him 16 years of experience in producing premium sparkling and still wine in California's Russian River Valley and New York's Finger Lakes region.
David's winemaking training began with the completion of his BS in Enology from California State University, Fresno. His actual "winemaking for hire" started while he was still a student at the University when the professor in charge of the school's pilot winery went on sabbatical for a year. To his surprise and delight, they gave the responsibility to him.
"It was great; I had my own office, I got to make wine and help other students with their winemaking projects, and they paid me well."
"The winemaking school at Fresno is in a class of its own," notes David, "The training goes well beyond the theoretical-you actually go out and pick grapes and make wine. My first year there, I made a dozen different wines on my own. Now the program is even better, with the school winery actually being an operating commercial winery; there is no other program like this."
David's first employer after his graduation in 1980 was Chateau St. Jean Sparkling Wines in a facility just three miles down the road from Iron Horse. That is where David and Iron Horse founding winemaker Forrest Tancer first met. "We both got into sparkling the same year, 1980; and I know we agree that we and the California sparkling industry have come a very long way since then."
By 1989 David had nine vintages of sparkling wine under his belt and he longed for new challenges; ones that involved still wines and new scenery. In the spring of 1989 he accepted a challenging position in the Finger Lakes of New York. There he made some nationally-awarded methode champenoise sparkling wine, as well as some fine Rieslings.
David regards his Finger Lakes experience as formative. "In that sometimes-harsh climate, you are forced to employ every bit of your enological training; to use every trick in the book, and to come up with a few of your own. I believe I'm a much better winemaker because of that experience."
David is quick to note that as much as he enjoyed and grew from the experience, he and his family are delighted to reside in Sonoma County.
David and Page, his wife of 25 years, have two sons: Vincent, a teacher and Sterling, a college student. Page is a school teacher.
Of his winemaker position at Iron Horse, "I'm doing everything I've always wanted to do. I'm working with estate-grown grapes; I'm making still and sparkling wines; I'm working for and with some very fine people all of whom are driven by one single goal-to make wonderful wines that we can all be proud of. As to what my job is here, it was made quite clear that simply maintaining the current quality of Iron Horse wines is not enough. As Joy Sterling put it, ’it’s time to raise the bar'."