One of the other sparkling wines we decided to taste in Napa Valley (already being a fan) was Schramsberg. The winery was originally founded in 1862. It has been a winery for 150 years although it is interesting to note that it was not a winery every year since 1862.
The Schrams were interested in hillside vines rather than valley or farm-like vines which is quite different from the norm in Napa Valley. In 1875, the family was the first to build wine storage in a cave (in the area) and in 2015 the winery celebrated 50 years of sparkling wine.
In 1965, the winery went through a second birth. The new owners loved champagne and sparkling wine and wanted to produce it. However, it is difficult to grow chardonnay or pinot noir in Napa Valley because it is too hot. Cabernet Savingnon grapes, as well as Bordeax, and Malbec grow easily here.
As our guide explained during the tour, Schramsberg sparkling wine was sold to the White House (13 cases) for special events in the Nixon era. The president wanted a domestic option for “champagne.” Barbara Walters apparently talked about the winery on the Today Show for seven minutes.
During the tour we learned that grapes that are low in sugar and high in acidity are best for sparkling wine. Also, who knew but the wire cage on sparkling wines and champagne is not for decoration. The little cage holds the cork in because there is a lot of pressure internally.
The riddling process (bottles are stored inverted and moved ever so slightly over time), which helps to process the yeast needed to interact with the grapes to create bubbles, is usually four to six weeks in length. It can take up to eight to 10 weeks. Sometimes it is done by hand and a person will come through and turn each bottle just slightly every day. Riddling can also be done with a machine. The bottles are put in large cages and moved each day. Mechanically riddled wine isn’t always perfect. Our wine guide explained, “We only walk as fast as the slowest bottle.”
Schramsberg does three sparkling roses: Brut Rose, J Schram Rose, and Querencia Rose. The Querencia Rose is $55 per bottle and the name is a Spanish word that means “Your love of the place you call home.” The proceeds of this wine go to educational foundations that protect farmland for vines. It has a nice pink color. More chardonnay, pinot noir… partially fermented then the skin is removed and the process continues. Winemakers only do a first press so the color comes from that. 10.2% alcohol.