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50 Vintages

Vintner Hugh Davies celebrates Schramsberg Vineyard’s 50th Anniversary.  

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

It saddens me to see so many California, family wineries being sold to publicly traded beverage companies. Thus 50 years of Schramsberg vintages are truly  something to celebrate. Congratulations to the Davies family, who has kept Schramsberg in their possession and control since Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the Napa Valley property in the 1960s. The Davies reestablished the Schramsberg property, while establishing America’s first sparkling wine house in 1965, the year their son and current vintner and winemaker, Hugh was born. 

Schramsberg was originally founded by Jacob Schram in 1862. The Schramsberg caves are one of Napa Valley’s oldest. Chinese laborers dug into the hillside’s volcanic rock to build caves for aging and storing wine in the 1800s. Throughout prohibition, the Depression, WWII and afterwards Schramsberg declined until it was rescued and renovated by the Davies. It had previously operated for 50 years leading up to prohibition. America's first commercially produced Chardonnay-based sparkling wine, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs was produced in 1965. And the 1969 vintage of this wine was taken by President Nixon to Beijing for his Toast to Peace with the Chinese leaders in The Great Hall. Schramsberg sparkling wines have been served by each White House Administration since that time.

Seven styles of Schramsberg's sparklers are produced using Méthode Champenoise at this California Historical Landmark on Napa Valley's Diamond Mountain. Today, a second generation of the Davies family, Hugh Davies, carries on his parents' tradition of crafting world-class sparkling wines. “Speaking for my family and the team at the winery, we feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to carry on with this winery and the vision that my parents set out. As you know well, Jan, we are passionate about our craft, always excited to take on the next vintage, building upon the experience and relationships developed over 50 years,” Davies describes. Among the sparklers is the Blanc de Blancs, which was the first wine Schramsberg produced in 1965 and was America’s first commercially produced Chardonnay-based brut sparkling wine. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2012 is dry and boasts crisp notes of lime, grapefruit, and green apple with a lovely and persistent effervescence. Blanc de Noir’s name (white from black) refers to the Pinot Noir grapes in this medium-body sparkling wine. A synthesis of cherry, tangerine, strawberry, dough and almond intermingle in this crisp and complex wine. Crémant is French for “creamy” and traditionally refers to a wine with light effervescence. Schramsberg pioneered the Blanc de Noirs style in the United States with its first vintage of this wine in 1967. Schramsberg Crémant Demi-sec is a creamy, exotic off-dry sparkling wine with half the pressure of Schramsberg’s other sparkling wines. Schramsberg made California’s first Crémant in 1972. The Davies chose the California grape, Flora (a cross of Sémillon and Gewürztraminer developed at UC Davis) to make this sparkling wine with aging potential, which can be cellared for 20 years. The 2011 Crémant Demi-sec offers bright notes of pineapple, guava, pear, apricot, orange, and mango. 

In addition to their sparkling wines Schramsberg began making their first non- sparkling wine—J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon in 2004, named for Jack Davies. The Diamond Mountain Vineyard that produces the grapes for this wine was replanted in Bordeaux varietals in 1994.  J. Davies was first released in 2004. And Schramsberg now has a red wine making facility in St. Helena.


Published, B-Metro magazine, November 2015

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