Monday, May 17, 2010

Schramsberg Sparkling Wine

The open door let out a rush of cold air, drawing us in surer than any siren's song.  The AC slowly cooled our heat addled brains into rational thought and we began to notice the photos on the wall.  Nixon, Brezhnev, Carter, Princess Di all smiled back at us, glass in hand, toasting.  What filled these glasses besides history?  It was Schramsberg sparkling wine.

Schramsberg's history is impossible to separate from that of Napa Valley's.  In the nascent years of wine making in the area, Schramsberg was there.  The property first produced wines in the 1860's under the leadership of barber/wine maker/German immigrant Jacob Schram.  Some one hundred years later, the Davies bought the rundown property, started making sparkling wines and started making history.

Keeping a sharp eye out for the turn, you leave the heavily traveled Route 29 and head uphill and though the woods.  Grandma isn't there to great you at the top, but the statue of a very happy frog, "Riddlers Night Off", is.  You enter the mercifully air conditioned waiting room and the adventure begins.

A knowledgeable tour guide led us out of the reception area into the caves.  These are honest to goodness, "Be quite, sparkling wine sleeping", caves.  Dark, cool, moss hanging off the wall caves.  Caves filled with thousands of bottles of sparkling wines awaiting their time to shine.

The one thing that really stood out about Schramsberg is that they riddle they're bottles by hand.  In this day of automation, Schramsberg still has a man turn the bottles by hand, slightly angling them up, until all the sediment migrates to the neck of the bottle.  The neck is then frozen and the bottle opened, the frozen plug of dead yeast flying out, leaving the crystal clear sparkling wine behind.  I've met the riddler, and he looks at least 20 years younger than his 62 years.  Maybe there is a new fitness class in here.  Spend an hour turning bottles in a rack then rehydrate with sparkling wine.  I thing that class may be a winner.

Real caves, world leaders and hand riddling does not exactly spell out a recipe for a bargain wine.  The flagship vintage sparkling wines do command a premium price.  A sip or two confirms that this was money well spent.  They also offer non-vintage sparkling wines under $25 for those less important celebrations like say, Tuesday.

In this era of endless self promotion, Schramsberg has quietly been producing some of this country's best sparkling wines.  A visit to the winery is one of Napa's true must do activities.  Who knows, if that political career of yours pans out, it may be your inauguration photo on the wall.

If you do plan on going, you must  reserve a tour time.  The tour costs $40 but I must say is worth it.  You can get all the tour related information at:

1 comment:

s. stockwell said...

We are in love with the Blanc de Noir almost any year will do. This is one of the greatest California wine stories ever. The Davies have made history. Thank you for the great post!