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Wine Country: Inside The Schramsberg Caves

Simply put, Schramsberg may be the best kept secret in the Napa Valley. As I mentioned earlier today with my visit to Frank’s Family Vineyards, I’m not big on sparkling wines, but what Schramsberg is producing can stand up to or even surpass the best Europe has to offer—and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper too. And the extreme lengths they go to make this stuff gives you a new appreciation for the bubbly.

I’ve got to tell you, much of what the tour guide said in the cave was a blur because there was simply too much to take in regarding the process of making this stuff the traditional way. In addition to hand turning bottles (riddling), Schramsberg also has staff members physically drum the bottles (for some reason I can’t quite recall). They even employ runners seasonally to bring bottles into the caves as quickly as possible before exposure to increasing temperatures causes them to explode. Bottles also explode regularly during the drumming process or while sitting on the shelf in the weeks after bottling. Seriously, with over 3 million ticking time bombs in these caves, they ought to turn working there into a show on the Discovery Channel.

During the tasting we had the opportunity to try Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blanc, J. Schram, Brut Rose (The White House go-to wine since the Nixon administration) and the Schramsberg Reserve. All were excellent, but the difference between the basic Blanc de Blanc and the premium J. Schram and Reserve bottles was vast. Aged five and six years respectively, these sparkling wines were as smooth as silk.

Schramsberg may be best known for their sparkling wines, but these guys also make a kick ass cabernet under the J. Davies label. The 2007 we tasted was amazing.


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