Hugh Davies
TheWineBuzz – November/December 2007

Making sparkling wine is in Hugh Davies’ blood. He was born in 1965, just a month after his parents Jack and Jamie Davies, purchased the Schramsburg Winery in Napa, California.

The Davies set out to make the best possible sparkling wine using French champagne as their benchmark. They succeeded. Schramsberg became one of America’s premier producers of sparkling wine, served at many State dinners, beginning in 1972 when President Nixon offered the historic “Toast to Peace” to Chinese Premier Chou En-lai with Shramsberg’s Blanc de Blancs 1969.

Hugh Davies joined the family firm in 1996 and is today the president of Shramsberg Vineyards.

Drinking bubbly is associated with a special occasion, and I recently participated in one: a vertical tasting of six. J. Schram vintages from 1987 to 2006, and a celebration of the new release of J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 and the Shramsberg Reserve 2000.

Held at the elegant Mesh Restaurant, in West Chester, Ohio, it was indeed a celebration and an education. Host Hugh Davies, sounding part chemist and part poet, described every detail and nuance of wines.

The myth that sparkling wine has a short life was quickly dispelled, evidenced by the tasting itself going back to the 20-year-old ’87, and even the current fresh and vibrant 2000. “Despite waiting seven years, it’s a baby” says Davies. “And it’s nice that it’s a baby, because it’s got some life ahead of it.”

“We’re a little different from the guys in France,” said Davies, “in that we felt we could make a good vintage every year, so there’s no practical reason not to do one.”

The tasting was topped off literally when Davies  deftly opened one of the bottles with a fancy sword. Don’t ask me which vintage; I was mesmerized. I went to bed that evening with visions of the distinctive, beautiful shape of the J. Schram bottle and aromatic thoughts of caramelized toast and apples in my head.