SCHRAMSBERG VINEYARDS, Calistoga, Napa
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’; and Schramsberg remains arguably the finest producer of sparkling wines in America. Jack died in 1998, and Jamie in 2008. Their son Hugh is president and oversees winemaking.
Schramsberg’s estate vineyards at the winery on Diamond Mountain were replanted to Bordeaux red varietals in 1994, as Chardonnay & Pinot Noir for sparkling was sourced 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) & acidity levels (high) for premium quality sparkling wine. Roughly half of the base wine is barrel-fermented. The vintage sparklers are aged on the lees for 3 years, and the Reserve and J Schram spend a minimum of 6 years 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.