Why Visit Davies Vineyards?
I am a HUGE fan of all sparkling wine. Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Asti, Pet-Nats, if the wine has bubbles I’m likely into it. Earlier this year, I had been discussing my love of bubbles with a couple I was hosting in the tasting room at Adelaida Vineyards & Winery. This lovely couple told me if I love sparkling wine, then I HAVE TO go to Schramsberg in Napa Valley, that my life would not be complete until doing so. That being said, over my last three visits to Napa Valley I attempted to book an appointment for a cave tour and sparkling tasting at the ever iconic Schramsberg. As I’m not one to plan my trips super far in advance, each time I tried to book the tour with Schramsberg they had no availability for me. I was heartbroken every time. I was dying to taste these bubbles and walk amongst the caves, damnit! So I did what I always do when faced with adversity… I found a loophole. And this loophole was through Davies Vineyards. Allow me to elaborate, but first a little history.
- Red Wines – A tasting of small production Davies Vineyards Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons, plus a Schramsberg sparkling wine. Cost: $50 per person.
- Sparkling Wines – A tasting of four Schramsberg sparkling wines, plus a Davies Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Cost: $60 per person.
- Combination Tasting: For those who want the best of both worlds. A tasting of three small production Schramsberg sparkling wines and three Davies Vineyards Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Cost: $70 per person.
- Basics of Pairings with Cheese – A fun and educational experience covering the basic guidelines of how to pair wines with food. You will learn and experience the textural differences, flavor interactions, fats and acids, tannin and protein combinations, and more. Artisanal cheeses and accoutrements are paired with small lot and reserve sparkling and still wines from Schramsberg and Davies Vineyards. Cost: $95 per person. Group tasting for two to eight people.
Over 150 Years of Napa Valley History
Ok, I have to be honest, I stole that headline from the Davies Vineyards and Schramsberg brochure. But it’s powerful, isn’t it? 150 years and still going strong. So where did all of this winemaking magic begin? With Jacob and Annie Schram.
While both Jacob and Annie were German immigrants, Jacob came from a prominent winemaking family in Germany. He began his American adventure working as a barber in New York City. Jacob saved every penny he earned and eventually made his way to the west coast, landing in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the world. Annie and Jacob met in this beautiful city and bonded over the fact they were from the same hometown. In 1862, they purchased a hillside property in Calistoga for around $1 per acre (SAY WHAT?!) and planted European grape vines. Thus, Schramsberg Vineyards – the second bonded winery in Napa Valley – was born.
The Schrams soon began producing table wine with around 50 acres of bearing vines. In the 1870s and 1880s, Jacob and Annie hired Chinese laborers to hand-dig caves for wine aging and storage into the volcanic rock hillside on their property. The same caves I have been attempting to tour and still plan on touring one day. These hillside caves have no climate control and are naturally an ideal climate for wine storage at 57°F with 80% humidity. By the 1880s, Schramsberg was producing around 10,000 cases per year with distribution as far as New York and London. In 1905, Jacob passed away. His son did not want to carry on with the family business and the Schramsberg property was sold with the commencement of the Prohibition era.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies had a dream of cultivating world-class sparkling wine in the méthode traditionnelle style. So the Davies purchased the obsolete Schramsberg winery property and set to work on its revival. Under the Schramsberg name, the Davies became the first to produce a California Blanc de Blanc in 1965 and a Blanc de Noirs in 1967.
The Davies stumbled upon a bit of luck in 1972 when the Blanc de Blancs was used for President Nixon’s “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. Schramsberg bubbles have since been served by United States Presidential administrations at numerous State functions over the years.
The hard work the Davies put into the Schramsberg property has definitely paid off, as the estate is now a registered California historic landmark. In the 1980s, the Davies family added further tunnels to the existing hillside caves which now cover 34,000 square feet. Today, there can be as many as three million bottles of sparkling wine aging in the caves for anywhere from two to twenty years. That’s a lot of bubbles! What’s even crazier is all of the riddling is done by hand and by a man who has worked at Schramsberg for years – Ramon the Riddler!
The Schramsberg estate now totals 227 acres with 46 acres planted to Bordeaux varietals. The Schrams’ Victorian house, barn, lower winery, and caves remain largely unchanged since their original construction.
Davies Vineyards represents the family’s still wine brand. Over time, the Davies recognized some of their land might be better suited to Bordeaux varieties as opposed to the traditional Method Champenoise grape varieties planted on the estate in 1965. So the Davies Vineyards brand was first conceptualized in 2001 when the Davies produced the J. Davies Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bordeaux replantings on the original estate. The winery began producing site-specific North Coast Pinot Noirs in 2009 followed by non-estate, vineyard designated Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons in 2012.
The Davies Winery was established in St. Helena in 2012 and later, in 2017, the Davies opened the Grayson Building tasting facility there as well. Jack and Jamie Davies’ son Hugh, along with his wife Monique, are now at the head of Schramsberg and Davies Vineyards.
Reservations and Tasting Experiences
Though you cannot tour the Schramsberg caves and property while tasting at the Davies Vineyards Grayson Building tasting facility, you can still savor a variety of phenomenal Schramsberg bubbles along with the Davies still wines. I plan on getting into those caves eventually, but a tasting at Davies Winery in St. Helena was an ideal way to taste some Schramsberg sparklers in the meantime.
Plus, the Grayson Building was gorgeous and the Davies Winery hospitality was truly next level. My friend and I showed up without an appointment, which I would never recommend while in Napa. The staff was kind enough to fit us in for a seated tasting experience. They even took the time to personalize our tasting menu, highlight the wines on the wine list we would be tasting, and we got a full tour of the facility including the production area. Oh, and we were greeted with glasses of the 2012 Schramsberg Brut Rosé. The best kind of welcome!
Davies Winery offers a variety of tasting experiences for you to choose from. Seated Tastings are available for two to six people with three options to choose from for the tasting.
Please note shared tastings are not available. Reservations for seated tastings are required and can be made by calling Davies Winery or by booking online.
Davies Winery also offers a Bubbles & Caviar Brunch experience Friday-Sunday at 10am featuring small production prestige cuvée and classic sparkling wines paired with numerous brunch items. The menu includes Black River Oscietra Royale caviar, a creamy mushroom and Gruyere quiche, and locally smoked salmon. Cost: $130 per person. Reservations available for groups of two to eight people.
An all Cabernet Sauvignon or all Pinot Noir experience is also available for groups of two to eight people. Cost: $75 per person.
Davies Vineyards truly has a tasting experience for everyone. Plus, with stellar hospitality, a beautiful tasting room, and incredibly delicious sparkling wines, I guarantee you’ll leave happier than you came.
I was having way too much fun during my visit to take detailed tasting notes. So here is the tasting notes along with food pairing suggestions provided by Davies Winery for the seated tasting experience with sparkling wines.