Saturday, October 24, 2009

Calistoga: Schramsberg Vineyards

Champagne is a historic province of France famous for champagne houses like Moët & Chandon (Dom Pérignon), Krug, Vueve Clicquot or Louis Roederer (Cristal). Schramsberg is located in Calistoga, CA and known as America's first house of sparkling wine.

Jacob Schram founded Schramsberg in 1862 after purchasing a large piece of land on the mountainside of Napa Valley. By 1870, Schramsberg had 30,000 vines and hires Chinese laborers to dig Napa's first hillside caves after realizing the summer heat in the area. Although Herman, son of Jacob and Annie Schram, continued to run the winery after their death, phylloxera and Prohibition brought the end of the Schram era.

The winery was later sold off to a number of individuals from the 1910s to 1950s. In 1957, the winery was registered as a historical landmark and in 1965 sold to Jack and Jamie Davies whose family currently owns the winery to this day.

Schramsberg is the first hillside winery in Napa Valley. When you drive up to the property, you are greeted by a long narrow road which will lead you to the top of the hill.

You have arrived when you see this mash-made champagne bottle and other historic cabins and sites.

In 1875, Schram built this Victorian mansion with a veranda that was used to entertain guests.

In between the mansion and the tasting room resides a frog pond which inspired the Schramsberg logo of a frog having a night on the town with a bottle of Schramsberg bubbly.

When the Davies purchased the winery, they didn't want to make any ordinary wine. The goal was to create America's most prestigious sparkling wine to be served for special occasions, special guests, gifts, etc. They intended to create wine with richness and complexity using authentic Méthode Champenoise which is the classic way of producing sparkling wine.

The best way to taste the Schramsberg wines is to take a tour of the winery which includes a tasting of 4-5 different sparkling wines. The tour will give you a thorough history of the winery and takes you through the wine caves.

Schramsberg wines have been served by every subsequent presidential administration. On display are photos and menus when the sparkling wine was served. In 1972 the 1969 Blanc de Blancs was served at the "Toast to Peace" in Beijing, between President Richard Nixon and Premier Chou Enlai (Source: Schramberg Vineyards).

In the wine caves, there are essentially two million bottles stacked from floor to ceiling. This is just one corridor of bottles. You can easily get lost here.

Here's a closer look at the bottles stacked next to each other.

Our tasting took place in the wine caves. Our tour guide Art showed us how to properly open a champagne bottle as well as sharing instructions on how to open a bottle with a saber/sword.

The sparkling wines that we tasted were:
  1. Blanc de Blanc
  2. J. Schram
  3. Brut Rose
  4. J. Davies
Unfortunately, didn't get to meet the master riddler, Ramon Viera, who is tasked to riddle (or turn) 48,000 bottles each day to get the yeast sediment to move down the neck of the bottle so that it can be disgorged when frozen. It takes 30 small turns (about 6 weeks) to complete the process.

After the tour, we were directed to the new tasting room where we can purchase bottles of Schramsberg sparkling wine.

Here is a price list of their current releases (click on image to enlarge).

Schramsberg is an iconic vineyard with a great deal of history. From the lush greenery of the grounds to the millions of bottles stacked floor to ceiling in the wine caves. This winery is one of the best in Napa Valley and should be on your itinerary when visiting the region.

Things to know:
  • The winery offers 5 scheduled tours daily for $35 per person. Tour times are: 10am, 11:30am, 12:30am, 1:30pm and 2:30pm. The length of the tour is a hour and 15 minutes.
  • Reservations in advance are necessary. A credit card is required to hold a reservation.
  • To book a reservation, call 707-942-4558 or book online here.
  • Be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour. Allow time to drive up the hill to the winery.
  • To get to Schramsberg: When driving north on Hwy 29, turn left on Peterson Dr and veer right onto Schramsberg Dr. Look for a small sign directing you to Schramsberg. Download driving instructions here:
  • Sparkling wines range from $20 to upward of $700.
  • The wine caves are chilly so bring a light sweater.
Schramsberg Vineyards
1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga, CA 94515


mlevy said...

Thank you for the wonderful write-up on your visit to the winery. Best wishes!
Matt Levy
PR and Marketing Manager, Schramsberg Vineyards.

antiquities said...

Well written article!!... keep up good work!.. all the best...

Post a Comment