Schramsberg, Diamond Mountain
Photograph: Richards Lyon
Jamie Davies and her husband Jack came to Napa Valley from the fever of Beverly Hills to make sparkling wine in the French tradition. They had been part of Martin Ray’s sparkling winemaking venture at Mt. Eden Winery, and were now determined to make their own. The Davies founded Schramsberg in 1965, revivified its vineyards with plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, and restored the five wine caves and main house built by Jacob Schram on Diamond Mountain a century before.
With restoration underway, the Davies bought fruit from Charles Krug to make the first commercial sparkling wine of Chardonnay in this country, Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 1965.Throughout Schramsberg’s early years,André Tchelistcheff gave generously of his time and experience. The Blanc de Noirs 1967 was the nation’s first vintage sparkler (its Pinot Noir had come from Louis Martini) and Schramsberg Reserve, bottle aged four years, became the benchmark for American sparkling wine. In 1972 at a State dinner in Beijing, President Nixon and Premier Chou Enlai toasted peace with Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 1969—the first time an American wine was ever served at such an event, either in the White House or abroad.
Jack died in 1998, leaving Jamie to oversee Schramsburg’s operations until she died ten years later. Their son Hugh is now in charge. Sparkling blends are made from 90 different vineyards sites and the Davies’ original plantings on Diamond Mountain have been changed over to Cabernet varieties from which J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon has been made since 2001.
The Davies were oldtime friends of the Lyons’. After Jack’s death, Dick realized he’d better photograph Jamie. Reticent at first, she finally agreed, and Dick photographed her on her front porch, but he wasn’t satisfied and asked for a second sitting. Both subject and artist were somewhat resigned at the appointed time, Dick says, but proud of the result. Jamie died just a few years later and for Dick, “a true Queen of the vineyards was gone.”