About a year ago, my wife Sonja and I had the opportunity to visit Schramsberg, the second oldest winery in the Napa Valley, founded at the foot of Diamond Mountain in 1862 by Jacob Schram. I had been inspired to visit by what had been written about the winery, its legacy, and the Davies Family who had resurrected it so many years ago in James Conaway’s books on the Napa Valley. Jack and Jamie Davies constitute a second generation of pioneers in California wine country; founding a winery devoted to sparkling wines in up-Valley Napa in 1965 more than constitutes a risk, but it is one they were rewarded for, and their legacy lives on today in one of the finest wineries I’ve been privileged enough to visit. During that visit, the intricate series of caves and the extraordinary wines inspired us, and made Sonja and I fans of Schramsberg for life.
Last week, it was my responsibility to present on the Napa Valley to a small group of wine lovers, and I knew precisely what I wanted to build my presentation around. A well-chilled bottle of rare Napa sparkling wine from one of Napa’s oldest estates was the perfect centerpiece for teaching a group of wine lovers about America’s most famous wine region. I selected a Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, chilled it well, and struck off for the meeting place.
Served by President Nixon in Beijing at the “Toast to Peace” in 1972, this is perhaps one of the first wines to prove that Napa can make more than just great Cabernet. The Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs is a nicely complicated offering that balances the subtle presence of bread and brie notes with the dense, persistent bubbles of a good Champagne. Green apple notes linger, along with an ensemble of brilliant fresh fruit flavors ranging from apricots to pineapples and more. On the whole, this is a complex and sophisticated sparkling wine that will please both casual wine drinkers as well as more experienced connoisseurs. It was a smash hit amongst the writers and sommeliers with whom I shared it this past weekend, and for good reason. In the $40 range, it drinks like an excellent bottle of Champagne, making it a terrific value and an alternative to the more common sparklers on the market. I highly recommend this wine.