Sparkling wine fit for a President: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs “white from red grapes”
Who doesn’t like the “pop” of the cork of a bubbly bottle and to watch the strings of bubbles rise in the glass to tingle your nose and taste buds with wonderful aromas? It’s all in the glass and this vintage 2007 Californian Schramsberg is no exception. Made predominantly from hand-harvested Pinot Noir grapes, this Blanc de Noirs has a vibrant fruit character. It is a complex, medium-bodied, brut sparkling wine. I taste apple, strawberry, fresh peach and pear with some lemon and grapefruit in the background. The added Chardonnay gives the wine some acidity, length and structure. The palate is generous and has a delicate mousse with tangerine and vanilla flavours. The brioche or yeast aromas add complexity and blend all the elements together in a mature, toasty style that has a medium long, spicy (note of white pepper) finish.
Schramsberg Vineyard was founded by the German, Pfeddersheim born, immigrant Jacob Schram in 1862. Schramsberg is Napa’s second oldest winery; Prussian immigrant Charles Krug planted his vineyard only one year earlier, in 1861. Business flourished and around 1870 Schramsberg had 30,000 vines. In the same period Schram hired surplus Chinese railroad labourers to dig Napa’s first hillside caves for wine-aging and storage. In 1905 Jacob Schram falls ill and dies. His son, Herman struggles on, but the combination of Phylloxera and Prohibition proves deadly and Herman sells the estate in 1912. During the period 1912 and the early 1960s the beautiful Victorian house and the estate are mainly used as a summer home. In 1965 San Francisco socialite Katharine Cebrian, the legendary Mrs. Pringle, sells the property to Jack and Jamie Davies.
The run-down winery on the mountainside above St. Helena proves to be quite a challenge for the Davies, who had the ambition to produce sparkling wines or more specific “America’s most prestigious, select and admired sparkling wines” applying the ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’ or “Méthode Champenoise” the traditional method by which Champagne in France is made. Schramsberg was the first California winery to produce a Blanc de Blancs in 1965, followed by a Blanc de Noirs in 1967. Schramsberg also makes a Reserve, Crémant (using the Flora grape variety, a cross of Sémillon and Gewürztraminer), Brut Rose and a highly regarded Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blancs was served on February 25, 1969 as a “Toast to Peace” at the State dinner hosted by President Richard Nixon for the Premier Zhou En-lai in Beijing, China. In 1976, at the Bicentennial Dinner by President Ford, the White House served Queen Elizabeth II also a Schramsberger Blanc de Blancs, this time from the year 1973. Schramsberg’s vineyards include specially selected sites in the Carneros district of Napa Valley, the Anderson Valley and the Sonoma and Marin coasts. Currently the winery is run by Hugh Davies, the second generation Davies’ vintner.