Schramsberg Sparkling Wine Tasting with Special Guest Hugh Davies

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 07:30 PM

This Event has been read: 551 times.

"One glass of champagne and I smile,
Two and I grin,
But three I'm ever so ready to sin."

Anistatia R Miller, author of Champagne Cocktails

 

The month of March is just a big party here at Wine Watch and we drink a lot of Champagne but we also like sparkling wines that are made in the same fashion aka the method champenoise.  Our favorite domestic producer of this magical elixir is from Napa Valley although the grapes for their bubbles are from anywhere but Napa today as Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon country.  The Davies family is one of the few that figured out how to make GREAT sparkling wines and compete with big brands that have 100X the advertising budget that they do….It’s the American way WORK HARDER! 

The Davies family has hosted thousands of wine tastings to showcase their quality stands up to the great Champagne houses of France.  I remember the first ones that I attended where the founders Jack and Jamie worked tirelessly to promote the Schramsberg brand and I was glad to see their son Hugh take over the winery instead of them selling out to some big name like so many of their neighbors in Napa Valley have over the last few decades.

We have hosted many events with Huge over the years and I will never forget the releases of both J. Schram sparklers when we blind tasted these American sparkling wines against the best of Champagne.  Schramsberg came in 1st place with their Rose and 3rd place with the Brut among the industry professionals on these prospective tastings events! 

The only way to prove that you are among the best is to be judged with them and that is why we have the utmost respect for Schramsberg!  The Davies family have always been willing to put their reputation on the line by letting their wines speak for themselves and by putting them up to the real test this proves they belong among the world’s greatest wine producers.

So, when I got the word that our good friend Hugh Davies was in town from Schramsberg Winery I wanted another chance to showcase why this is the greatest sparkling wine producer in the USA. 

Join us was we welcome Hugh to his first tasting at Wine Watch Wine Bar on Wednesday March 22nd for a tasting of all three J. Schram sparkling wines as they continue to push the envelope of quality for domestic sparkling wines.  The last time Hugh was here it was 2016 and although we have hosted many tastings together over the years, he has never been to the Wine Bar.  This will be a special night!  The fee for this tasting which includes dinner is $295 + tax for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.


Timeline  Description automatically generated
Sparkling Wines - Schramsberg Vineyards

Schramsberg California Sparkling Wine tasting
with Special Guest Hugh Davies
Wednesday, March 22nd
7:30 PM

NV Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut, California, USA
2019 Schramsberg Blanc De Blancs, North Coast, USA
2019 Schramsberg Blanc De Noirs, North Coast, USA
2018 Schramsberg Brut Rose, North Coast, USA
2013 Schramsberg J. Schram Blancs, California, USA
2013 Schramsberg J. Schram 'Noirs' Brut, California, USA
2014 Schramsberg J. Schram Brut Rose, North Coast, USA
2019 Davies Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA
2019 J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain, Napa, USA
2018 Schramsberg Cremant Demi Sec, Napa County, USA

Menu
Shoestring Truffle Parmesan Fries with Bacon Dust
Baby Octopus Carpaccio with Candied Lemon, Mint and Rose Petal Aioli
Evil Jungle Prince Shrimp with Spicy Coconut Curry Sauce
Pork Belly with Orange Marmalade BBQ served over Masoor Dal and Mushroom Succotash
Lychee Nut Sorbet garnished with Chocolate Bacon

The fee for this tasting which includes Dinner is $295 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail andy@winewatch.com.   Please let us know when you make your reservation if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies and chef Toni will be happy to take care of you.

A bit about Schramsberg Winery:

When Jack Davies left his comfortable position with Ducommun Inc.  over 50 years ago, he put the world of commodities behind him.   With an absolute aversion to ordinary products, he turned his attention to creating a product with individuality.   A self-proclaimed "wine fanatic," he found that individuality in California sparkling wine.  Davies parlayed his 15 year business experience, ranging from packaging to aerospace technology, and applied his marketing and production sense to the creation of a unique sparkling wine which today enjoys a worldwide reputation.  Jamie Davies, Jack's wife and business partner, traded in her successful career as co-owner of the Hansen Peterman art gallery in San Francisco to apply her knowledge of design to the startup winery.  Together they left the "good" life behind and found the "great" life as they developed the United States' first American-owned and American-produced premium vintage sparkling wine.  Over the years Schramsberg has been toasted by Kings, Queens, Presidents, and Heads of State everywhere.

 Nestled in the northern Napa Valley and dating back to 1862, Schramsberg is America's oldest mountainside winery.  The Davies started their winery with a connoisseur's taste for drinking wine, but no knowledge or experience in making it.  Backed by friends and business associates and drawing on their life savings, they purchased a defunct vineyard and estate in 1965.  As soon as they saw the property, both Jack and Jamie knew it was for them.  "We started literally from scratch - as in scratch the earth with your own hands and plant vines," Jack Davies explained. "When we first moved to Schramsberg, the community was so skeptical about our prospects, that they started a rumor claiming we had planted our first vines upside down."  With the assistance of friendly local vintners, Jack and Jamie did indeed plant the first five acres with their own hands.  Today those original five acres have expanded to sixty and now produce Schramsberg's finest grapes including chardonnay, pinot noir, and other classic French varieties.   In the early years, when the grape press broke down, Jamie went so far as to crush the grapes with her own feet.  As amateur vintners, both were faced with their share of disasters in the first few years.  "There were a couple of times when I nearly killed myself because of my ignorance.  Once I passed out from epoxy fumes while working inside a storage tank, repainting its interior wall," explains Jack Davies.  "In another episode, I nearly got myself blown to pieces while cleaning used barrels with a burning sulphur wick to sterilize the barrels. I washed the insides with hot water unaware that I had caused the alcohol to vaporize.  When I actually used the burning wick to clean the barrel, I inadvertently turned it into a bomb," added Jack.

Today Schramsberg produces a full line of sparkling wines that amount to about 40,000 cases annually.  These include five principal vintage-dated cuvées:  A Blanc de Blancs (primarily chardonnay with some pinot blanc); a Blanc de Noirs (typically made from pinot noir with as much as 30% chardonnay); a Cuvée de Pinot Brut Rosé (a very dry rosé made from gamay and pinot noir); a Crémant Demi-Sec (a medium-sweet, low effervescence wine made from flora and finished with about 3% residual sugar); and a Reserve (this bottling is aged at least five years on the yeast; the other bottlings see about two to three years en tirage).

 Jack and Jamie Davies are steeped in more tradition of the Napa Valley than anybody else alive today.  When they bought Schramsberg, they purchased an estate that had once before been a major player on the California stage.  The original owner, Jacob Schram, produced world class wines during California's golden era in the 1880's.  Robert Louis Stevenson once visited the vineyard and was inspired to write that the Schram wines were "pleasant music for the mind."  To honor that tradition, Schramsberg released in 1993 its first prestige cuvée, the 1987 J. Schram.  It was designed to rival the top prestige cuvées of France.  At the time of its debut, it was the most ambitiously-priced sparkling wine ever produced in the United States.  Although of undeniable high quality, the J. Schram cuvée still does not compete at the top level of French Champagnes.  In fact, the best wines we have tasted from Schramsberg have been several of the late-disgorged cuvées released to commemorate special occasions.  Particularly impressive was the "30th Anniversary" bottling - a 1984 Blanc de Noirs that spent almost ten years on the yeast!!

 Jack and Jamie were not content to revive a once-famous winery that had blazed quality trails nearly a century before; they wanted to do something special and unique - to be the first to produce world-class méthode champenoise wines in California.  Among many innovations, Jack and Jamie were the first to use chardonnay in their blends; the first to use pinot noir in the classic tradition in Blanc de Noirs; the first to make a reserve with over four years aging on the yeast; the first too introduce late-disgorged cuvées; and numerous other firsts.  Jack Davies was also responsible for several innovations in the production of sparkling wine.  He revived the underground tunnel method of aging wine and dug new tunnels at a time when other vintners thought the technique was not feasible.  He also developed a vacuum suction method of moving grapes from delivery truck to wine press.   This gentle process actually reduces the shredding damage to the grapes caused by traditional pressing and helps to eliminate the tannins responsible for bitterness in wine.

There were many skeptics in Schramsberg's early days, but Jack and Jamie went hard about it and toiled in obscurity until one winter day in January of 1972 the entire world watched as Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon toasted Chairman Mao Tse Tung and Chou en Lai in one of the most historic and astonishing events of the 20th century.  The toast was made with Schramsberg sparkling wine.  From that day until the present, Schramsberg has been one of the pacesetters and has inspired well over fifty producers (more than a few of them French) to make a go at it of producing California sparkling wine.  The winery has also been a university training ground for some of California's best sparkling winemakers.  Harold Osborne, the winemaker for Kristone, an impressive new producer in Santa Barbara once worked at Schramsberg; Greg Fowler of Mumm Napa Valley also made wine there in the early 1980's.  Alan Tenscher, winemaker in the early 1990's, is now the head winemaker of the Franciscan Estate winery group. The influence of Schramsberg and its proprietors has been enormous during the last three decades.  The most appropriate words used to describe the Schramsberg legacy were made in a toast to Jack and Jamie Davies on the occasion of their 25th anniversary in 1991.  This is what was said on that evening:  "Some producers will earn a paragraph in the history of sparkling wines in California.  The coming of the French will need a page.  But it will merit a chapter to spell out what Jack and Jamie Davis have done here."

The work was never done alone. Throughout the years Jack and Jamie gathered a strong and able staff to help them run the expanding business. Members of the Schramsberg team tend to stay; many employees have been with the winery for more than twenty years. In 1996, Hugh, the Davies' youngest son, joined the winery full time, adding his talent to the winemaking staff. To every ones great sorrow, Schramsberg lost Jack Davies in the spring of 1998. Jamie carried on with the support of her family, the dedicated staff, and the legion of friends she made during the Schramsberg odyssey until her death in the spring of 2008.  Now, Hugh Davies, with the support of his own family and friends, continues the work and carries on the dream his parents, Jack and Jamie, started together.

 

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