Have you ever been to a wine tasting?
Surely you have. Even if you don’t drink wine, surely you’ve taken friends or relatives when they’ve been in town. Now, think back to these times, and have you ever been underground for any of them? I haven’t. But that’s where we were, underground!!! Having our (ooo-la-la) tastings of sparkling wine at the Schramsberg Vineyards.
On the way to Napa, *J and I tried to book a tour at Schramsberg but it was fully booked but we decided to rock up and see the vineyards anyways. We checked in with reception and she quickly welcomed us, mistaking us for another couple. We assured her we weren’t that couple (or an actual couple) but we’ll take the two spares spots. I guess it was just meant to be.
The tour started just by the frog pond with a history of the Schram and Davies (successors) family (the tour guide was one of the wives of the Davies son). She spoke of the Schrams, the historic Victorian house, the “granny flat” down the road (where her and her family lives) and the Schramsberg frog (brand mascot).
The 10 of us were led through the reception where photos hung as a reminder of the brands’ success before the big entrance into the first tunnel. The Schramsberg caves were dug in the late 1800s by Chinese labourers for aging and storing wine. The caves provides the cool temperatures and high humidity, providing an environment that is ideal in the flavour development of bottled-aged sparkling wines. Rows and rows of bottles lined the walls of the cave and mould hung low from the ceiling. These are the vintage oak barrels used for some of the first sparkling wines. Schramsberg uses old skool techniques that are carried out by hand such as riddling. Riddling is the art of pushing sediments toward the neck of the bottle through placing the bottles on special racks called pupitres and turning them alternatively (direction and angle) once a day. This allows the lees to settle in the neck and to be removed easily once frozen. Once our history and technique lesson was over, we were led down the bottle-lined corridors to a candlelit room where we tasted 4 different types of sparkling wines and 2 (?) reds, each one getting better and better.
The tour cost more than I would usually pay but I highly recommend it on your trip out to Napa. I bought a bottle of the famous Blanc de Blanc to have on my birthday and it went down a treat (more so for the family than me – they drank it all!).
Cave tour are at: 10h00, 11h30, 12h30, 13h30 and 14h30. Tours run for just over an hour and you get notes on the history of the brand, a walk-through in their tunnels and a tasting of 4 sparklings. The cost is USD$ 50 pp and reservations are held in advance by credit card. Bookings in advance are advisorable (we were just very lucky that day).