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When immigrant Jacob Schram searched the relatively virgin Napa Valley in the early 1860’s to plant vines, he searched for steep hillsides that he knew from his youth growing up near the Rhine River would yield the highest quality grapes. He found his vineyard site in the foothills south of Calistoga. The wines of Schramsberg would achieve such renown for their quality that author Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired to declare on the veranda of Schram’s home that “wine is bottled poetry.” After Jacob Schram’s death in 1905, the estate was eventually sold but declared an historical landmark in 1957 as the first hillside vineyard in the Napa Valley.
Jack and Jamie Davies continued the winemaking tradition when they acquired the property in 1965, among the first 20th century pioneers to revive Napa Valley’s wine industry after Prohibition ended in 1933. From the start, the Davies planted Chardonnay, and then Pinot Noir, to make the finest sparkling wine under the guidance of legendary consultant André Tchelistcheff. The results of their efforts showed when the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs became the first American wine, sparkling or still, to be served at a state dinner in 1972 during the first Presidential trip to China.
Today, the Davies’ youngest son Hugh leads Schramsberg as one of America’s finest sparkling wine producers, sourcing grapes from cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards in Carneros, Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast to craft a range of wines for every occasion – and they have a “camp” to show you how.
Camp Schramsberg, a 2 ½ day intensive that takes place in fall for harvest and spring for blending, began 10 years ago by Hugh Davies to help consumers discover the source of quality in sparkling wine as well as the versatility of sparkling wines with food. The Camps are filled with educational outdoor and indoor activities from vineyards to cellars, with Davies and childhood friend chef Holly Peterson leading the team.
To reinforce the quality proposition of their wines from gentle press of grapes to mastery of blending of over 200 lots of wine, to long aging on the lees, the itinerary never strays too far from wine tasting. Campers have the opportunity to taste wine from the juice stage to the finished product, such as the vertical of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs from three decades or a progression tasting of base still wine to the finished sparkling wine, and also dry vs. dosage (sweetness) added. Campers also have the opportunity to customize their own wines by adding the final dosage to the blend.
Rounding out a well-balanced itinerary, the Camp is filled with the best of Napa Valley cuisine, prepared or directed by culinary director Holly Peterson, well-known Napa Valley chef and former instructor at the CIA. What sets Holly apart as a food and wine pairing specialist – besides having trained at Michelin starred restaurants in France – is her technical background as an enologist and expert taster, but you wouldn’t know that by her engaging manner.
The food and sparkling wine pairing sessions, as well as most meals, take place at Relais & Chateaux Meadowood Resort which is known for its exceptional food and wine programs and elevated service. The Restaurant at Meadowood recently renewed its three-star Michelin rating (only one of two restaurants west of Chicago with such status) and the resort received the 2012 Best of Wine Tourism award by Great Wine Capitals, a consortium of civic and trade bodies representing classic wine regions from around the world.
In the latest fall program, the three food and sparkling wine pairing sessions explored the affinities of different styles and ages of sparkling wines with “Classic”, “Contemporary” and bolder “Future” food flavors, all in a relaxed and interactive environment. The Camp ends with a light-hearted menu design competition that brings out the creative and ham in everyone.