A Winery to Remember

In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies bought a run-down winery on the mountainside above St. Helena. Just seven years later, in 1972, Schramsberg found itself on the world stage when their Blanc de Blancs Sparkling was used for President Nixon’s “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai – and the wines have been served at official state functions by every U.S. Presidential administration since then!

Despite such early fame, the Davies’ kept their focus on the quality and potential of Schramsberg and of Napa Valley. Jack worked tirelessly for the establishment of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve and continued to support agricultural land preservation throughout his time as head of the winery. Today, under their son Hugh, Schramsberg continues to prioritize environmental stewardship. Many of their vineyards and those of their long-standing farming partners – coastal vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino – are certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic. The winery has installed a solar array (eliminating 372,712 pounds of CO2 annually) and is both Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming Certified. They are also working to preserve the 155 acres of forest around the Diamond Mountain Estate.

This level of care and commitment translates seamlessly to their wines. Most viticultural practices are still carried out by hand and extreme care is taken with grape selection to get the best from each harvest – fruit for the 2018 vintage was sourced from 66 vineyard sites with 121 different blocks. Unique among California sparkling producers, Schramsberg ferments 25% of its juice in oak barrels to produce a richer, more luscious style of wine. The winery draws from a library of reserve base wines that are barrel-aged for up to 10 years and all wines undergo long aging periods on lees after second fermentation to achieve complex flavours and texture, with their top cuvées aging up to a decade before release.

Jack and Jamie bought a winery in 1965 and they also started a legacy, one that is sure to last for a very long time.

Schramsberg NV ‘Mirabelle’ Rosé Brut, North Coast
Retail: $56.95 / btl (6btl/cs)

Schramsberg  2018Blanc de Blancs, North Coast
Retail: $64.95 / btl (6btl/cs) – Limited availability!

Schramsberg 2018 Blanc de Noirs, North Coast
Retail: $64.95 / btl (6btl/cs) – Limited availability!

Schramsberg 2018 Brut Rosé, North Coast
Retail: $69.95 / btl (6btl/cs) – Limited availability!

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The Wines

Schramsberg NV ‘Mirabelle’ Rosé Brut, North Coast
In the spring following the fall harvest, base wines are individually evaluated and blended. Pinot Noir lots, including a few fermented with skin contact, provide brightness of berry fruit and body, while Chardonnay lots lend length and zest to the palate. The wine undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle and rests on lees for approximately two years before its release.93 points – Wine Enthusiast, November 2019
“This medium-bodied, elegant wine blends red-apple and red-cherry aromas with a nervy, brisk texture and flavors tinged with cinnamon…It feels smooth and brisk at the same time and has great overall balance.”

Schramsberg 2018 Blanc de Blancs, North Coast
100% Chardonnay from vineyard plots in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino. Small lots of barrel fermented wines, some of which complete malolactic fermentation, are added to the stainless-steel fermented wines to create added complexity in the blended base wine. After undergoing a second fermentation in bottle, the wine then ages on its lees for about two years prior to disgorgement.

93 points – Wine Spectator, April 2022
“Sumptuous yet vibrant and fresh, displaying elegantly layered Meyer lemon, star fruit and fresh ginger flavors that turn steely on the long finish.”

Schramsberg 2018 Blanc de Noirs, North Coast
The key to producing this Blanc de Noirs is sourcing Pinot Noir grapes from a varied selection of cool-climate vineyards. Pinot Noir from low-yielding Sonoma and Marin coastal vineyards combine with fruit from Carneros and Anderson Valley, to develop a sparkling wine with a breadth of fruitful aroma and flavour. Select Chardonnay lots are then added, to give zest and backbone to the blend.

92 Points – Wine Spectator, June 2022
“Vibrant and compelling, with a steely structure buoyed by expressive peach and apple flavors, which take on jasmine, tangerine and fresh ginger accents that linger on the supple finish. Drink now.”

Schramsberg 2018 Brut Rosé, North Coast
The character of this wine is most strongly influenced by bright, flavourful Pinot Noir grown along the coast from southern Mendocino County to northern Marin County. A few small lots of Pinot Noir are fermented in contact with their skins to add depth and subtle colour to this vibrant sparkling wine. Chardonnay gives spice, structure and length on the palate. Following second fermentation the wine is aged on its yeast lees two years, just enough to achieve refined effervescence and toastiness without diminishing its refreshing, vibrant appeal.

92 Points – Best of Year – Wine Enthusiast, November 2021
“Lively, pure raspberry and red-cherry flavors infuse this elegant wine with life while a tangy balance and fine-grained bubbles make it refreshing and substantive on the palate. The red fruits carry through nicely to the finish.”

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About Schramsberg

Richard Nixon put this winery on the map (no, he didn’t break in). Serving Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs to Chinese Premier, Chou En Lai in 1972’s ‘Toast to Peace’ forged a new relationship between the winery and Whitehouse and launched this historic estate into the consciousness of the nation.

The Estate was established in 1861 by Jacob Schram, who hired unemployed Chinese railway labourers to dig (by hand) a mile of caves into Diamond Mountain. Schram built an international reputation for his table wines, but the winery failed during Prohibition, and fell into disrepair. In 1965, Jamie & Jack Davies bought and restored the estate, committed to crafting Traditional Method sparkling wines. They were the first in California to make Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Brut Rosé, and a ‘Tête de Cuvée’ – remaining arguably the finest producer of sparkling wines in the U.S. and rivaling many of the top bottlings of their heritage French counterpart: Champagne. Jack died in 1998, and Jamie ten years later, but their son, Hugh is the president of the company and oversees winemaking, ensuring that his parents’ vision lives on for another generation.

Schramsberg’s estate vineyards at the winery on Diamond Mountain were replanted to Bordeaux red varieties in 1994, as the north end of the Napa Valley is too warm for high-quality sparkling wine production. Chardonnay & Pinot Noir comes from cooler climates — about 80 small vineyards in Anderson Valley, Carneros, Marin and Sonoma Coast, averaging under 3 acres each — that give appropriate ripeness (low) and acidity levels (high) for premium sparkling wine. And while the wine’s style is rooted in French tradition, Schramsberg is forging a quintessential Californian footprint: Pinot Meunier, used largely in Champagne due to its relatively easier and more cost-effective production than Pinot Noir, does not need to be used in California, since Pinot Noir can be ripened beautifully and consistently year after year.

The high proportion of Pinot Noir as well as the process of barrel-fermenting about half of the base wine have been combined to create a voluptuous, rich and racy house style at Schramsberg. The vintage sparklers are aged on the lees for a minimum of three years, and the Reserve and J. Schram cuvées spend a minimum of six years sur lie before being riddled and disgorged by hand.

The J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon, introduced with the 2001 vintage is an impressive red, reflective of the volcanic soils of the Diamond Mountain estate. Now including a range of Pinot Noir bottlings, J. Davies has a dedicated winery and tasting room in St. Helena.


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