Friday, October 15, 2010

2005 Blanc de Blancs from Schramsberg

I (try to) follow a golden rule, never to compare sparkling wines from Spain or California with those from Champagne, because they’re not champagnes. Still, we (and I) tend to do so. In most cases, the battle is lost, there’s nothing like real champagne. Yet Schramsberg (and the great sparkling wines from Roederer Estate in Andersson Valley, Mendocino) will fool you at certain times in blind tasting.

The estate itself is old, founded in 1862 by the German immigrant Jacob Schram and his wife Annie Christine. At that time, they planted Riesling and Gewürztraminer on their mountain estate just north of St Helena in Napa Valley. They were truly pioneers in Napa Valley, only their fellow-countryman Charles Krug founded his wine estate a few years earlier. A part from that, there was nothing here! Back in those days, the production from the 20 hectares of vines reached almost 12 000 cases per year, but illness and the pass away of the 75 year old Jacob Schram in the early 1900s, and later on several changes of ownership and finally Prohibition would put and end to that.
In 1965 wines were produced here again, and since the new owners Jack and Jamie Davies just loved sparkling wines, and nobody made that kind of wines in Northern California at the time, they immediately gained a great reputation for their fine wines. Since then, the sparkling wines of Schramsberg have been the most exclusive and well known outside of Champagne.
Although there is a very good red estate wine produced here, the 60 000 to 65 000 cases per year production is almost entirely made up by sparkling wines. Around 2.6 million bottles is kept in the cool cellars, and some of the best wines here are aged up to five toor six years on the lees before disgorgement. The long ageing, the cool vineyard sites and the very focused vinification are the keys to the quality.
The wines of Schramsberg are well worth looking for.

2005 Blanc de Blancs Brut / 90 p
One hundred percent Chardonnay, but sourced from vineyards in various appellations over the north coast, normally between 50-60 percent from the cool Napa Carneros, 22-28 percent from the even cooler Anderson Valley and some five to eight percent from really cool vineyards in Marin County. Approximately 80 percent of the wine has been fermented at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks, that and the cool vineyard sites defines the very dry and crisp taste of this cuvée. The rest was fermented in neutral French oak barrels, which gave the wine a more round texture for a better balance. After slightly more than two years on the lees, the wine was disgorged and given a dosage of 10 grams per liter (just like Dom Pérignon and Cristal). It’s definitely a fine wine, pale in color, light and elegant on the nose with notes of lemon peels and almonds with some depths and a quite complex nuance from the ageing on the lees. On the palate it’s light to medium bodied, dry and fresh with a fine texture and a very dry finish. It’s a perfect aperitif.
Drink it 2010-2017.

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