National Register of Historic Places in Napa County
Jacob Schram, who was raised in a winemaking region in Germany, participated in the Napa Valley wine boom of the 1860s.
Schram emphasized quality over quantity. He planted his vines far up a hillside on Diamond Mountain to protect them from flooding and frost. The location produced consistently superior grapes.
The dry atmosphere and hot summers in the Napa Valley complicated proper aging. Winemakers need storerooms with a constant low temperature and high humidity. Schram solved this challenge with tunnels dug into the hillside to a depth of about one hundred feet. He employed Chinese laborers who had worked on the Transcontinental Railroad.
In making Schramsberg wine, Schram never supplemented his crop with grapes from other vineyards, and he never sold his crop to other wineries. As early as 1867 Schram was reported to be selling wine for the highest price in California. An 1873 survey of viticulture in Napa County stated that Schram's wines ranked "among the best in the whole state."
Operations remained small so that Schram and his wife Annie could supervise all the activities. In 1875, for example, Schramsberg produced only 8,000 gallons. Nearby Charles Krug made 210,000 gallons.
Like other Napa Valley vineyards, Schramsberg shifted from mission grapes to foreign varieties in the 1870s. By 1890, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Vert had become the most important varieties.
In the 19th century, wines were shipped in barrels or kegs and bottled elsewhere. Distributors in San Francisco or the East Coast routinely mislabeled Napa Valley wine or mixed it with inferior grades. On one trip Schram found eastern wine merchants bottling California wines under foreign labels and unpalatable Ohio wines under California labels.
Schram insured the reputation of his wines by selling directly to consumers such as hotels, restaurants, and clubs in markets like New York and London.
When Jacob Schram died in 1905, his son inherited the property. In 1912, the winery ceased operation and was sold.
In 1965, the property was purchased by Jack and Jamie Davies with the goal of producing "America's most prestigious, select and admired sparkling wine; chosen for special guests, special gifts, pampering one's self and expressing one's taste in unique products."
Jack and Jamie Davies reached their goal quickly and decisively. In 1972, Schramsberg's 1969 Blanc de Blancs was served at the Beijing banquet where Richard Nixon and Chou Enlai drank a toast to Peace.
In 2015, Schramsberg is still operated by the Davies family and is open to the public for tours and tastings.
Source: Adapted from NRHP nomination form submitted in 1998 and Schramsberg website.
Schramsberg Vineyard is also California Historical Landmark 561.