Schramsberg has an excellent tour to match its excellent sparkling wines, and I’d recommend making it part of a visit to Napa (reservations mandatory, $25 for tour and tasting; no tasting without a tour, even if you just want to taste again). It’s the second oldest winery in Napa, dating back to 1862. Only Charles Krug is older, and Beringer was founded shortly after. Interestingly enough, these wineries were founded by German immigrants, and produced rieslings and gewurtzaminers, and the like (the French and Italian winemakers came a bit later). Schramsberg closed down production for the most part during Prohibition, but was revived in the 60’s by the Davies family. They were the first American winemakers to produce methode champenoise sparkling wine. Since then, Schramsberg has regularly been served at the White House, and in 1972 the 1969 Blanc de Blancs was served at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, between President Richard Nixon and Premier Chow En-lai.
Our friendly tour guide told us this before leading us into the wine caves built into the hillside that the winery is built on. There are two miles of caves that contain two million bottles of sparkling wine. The only awkward part of the tour was when we were told that after the transcontinental railroad was completed, the Chinese workers on their way home were “invited” up to Schramsberg… to build the 2 miles of caves. That took 18 years. What an invitation.
The above is a cast of the Schram family seal (the original winery founding family). There are three of them. In olden days, two of them had been lost by Jacob Schram during a poker game to Beringer from Beringer winery, but the wineries recently staged a fixed poker game so that Schramsberg could win them back.
Anyway, we were eventually led into a tasting room with tables and chairs, and four glasses set at each. We tasted three sparkling ones and one cab, and they were all fantastic. Our guide also talked a bit about tasting wines, and said that it’s best to let white wines roll down from the tip of your tongue and down its sides to get the most out of the flavor. For me, each sparkling wine was closely associated with a fruit taste. The 1999 J. Schram was of caramelized apples, the Blanc de Noir was of cherries, and the Blanc de Blanc was of peaches and berries. It was the first time that I considered signing up for the Wine Club, in which you perks and 2 bottles (inc one J. Schram or Prestige) shipped to you 4 times a year for $90/shipment. It seems so worth it for the quality, but I’m still mulling it over… and probably will for a while. 🙂