Pop the cork on America's finest sparkling wines and an award winning Cabernet Sauvignon.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Celebrate the holidays with America's first and finest sparkling wines. All seven styles of Schramsberg's sparklers are produced using Méthode Champenoise at this California Historical Landmark on Napa Valley's Diamond Mountain. Founded by Jacob Schram in 1862, Schramsberg operated for 50 years leading up to prohibition. Throughout prohibition, the Depression, WWII and afterwards Schramsberg declined until it was rescued and renovated in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davies.
America's first commercially produced Chardonnay-based sparkling wine—Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs (white from whites) was produced in 1965. And the1969 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. Today, a second generation of the Davies family, Hugh Davies, carries on his parents' tradition of crafting world-class sparkling wines. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2002 ($32.50) is as smooth as satin, offers bright fruit and a crisp freshness with aromas of lemon and lime and flavors of pineapple, peach and toasted almonds. Sip it alone, or pair with hard or soft cheeses for an aperitif.
Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2003 ($39.50) is a far pop from your mother's pink Champagne. Both complex and dry, this rose has spice, structure and length. Hand picking, gentle handling and pressing produce this wine without skin and seed tannin. It is aged on the yeast and in the bottle. This beautiful wine has strawberry aromas and layers of pear, cranberry and grapefruit. Very food friendly, this wine is at home with everything from mild cheese to chocolate tarts.
A fine sparkling gift makes the holidays brighter. But avoid the obvious—Dom or Clicquot. Instead, wrap a bow around a bottle of Schramsberg's finest Chardonnay based sparkling brut, J. Schram 1999 ($80). Aromas of glazed pineapple, orange marmalade and green apple lead to creamy notes and flavors of citrus and red fruit pastries that linger on mid-palate. Serve as a rich and creamy aperitif or first course pairing with shellfish, caviar, smoked salmon and mild cheeses.
Davies made his own mark on Schramsberg's history with a Cabernet Sauvignon named for his father, J. Davies from J. Davies Vineyards. This wine was first brought to Birmingham by Davies himself in October during his first trip to the Magic City. Estate grown and bottled, J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($70) is 93 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, five percent Malbec and two-percent Merlot. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, clove and a touch of toasty oak with dense tannins lead to a long and textured finish. It is soft enough to enjoy now with red meat and complex enough to cellar for 10 years.
Among its accolades, J. Davies 2002 was one of only three California Cabernets to receive Decanter's Five Star Award from over 125 wines tasted.
Schramsberg also produces vintage dated Blanc de Noirs ($34.50), Crémant Dem-Sec ($36.50), Schramsberg Reserve ($80) and J. Schram Rosé ($120) and two non vintage sparkling wines Mirabelle ($19.75) and Mirabelle Brut Rosé ($24). Schramsberg and/or J. Davies wines can be found at Brock's at Ross Bridge, Overton & Vine, Pleasure Is All Wine, Prairie Fire Grill, V. Richards, Village Wine Market and Vintage Wine Shoppe. Buy a case of your favorite, but don't wait for another holiday to celebrate with Schramsberg.