Wine of the Week: Schamsberg Blanc de Blanc 2015 - $34.99
Dwight Casimere | 2/7/2019, noon
All is well in the Napa Valley. The mustard blossoms are in full bloom. The Napa Valley Wine Train sits sleepily on a side track, undergoing refurbishment and routine repairs in anticipation of the onslaught of spring and summer tourists that have made the Valley the number one tourist attraction in California, outside of Disneyland. The devastating fires and recent flooding are mere memories as the tasting rooms break out the latest vintages for the lucky few off-season tourists who get to sidle up to the tasting room bar or grab a seat at the table in one of the many local farm-to-tale wine-themed restaurants along Highway 29.
Even the local burger joint, Taylor's Refresher, now Gott's Roadside (after the local winemaker Joel Gott, the current owner) has a wine list of local pours that go just great with a Blue Cheese Burger and Garlic Fries, two house specialties, rated no. 1 by Robert Parker, the famous wine writer. Heading to the north end of the valley to Calistoga, the trip to Schramsberg, maker of one of the world's top-rated Methode Traditionalle California Sparkling wines (Champagne, if it were produced in France), that is the toast of royalty and just about every modern-day President. The Blanc de Blanc, now featured in the 2015 vintage ($34.99), is one of the finest sparkling wines ever made. This gold-in-the-glass compares to the best champagnes innappearance, aroma and taste and is made with all the care and skill of those produced in Europe.
A behind-the-scenes tour of the extensive caves and underground tasting rooms included a tutorial on the ancient art of hand-riddling, in which the bottles are given a quarter turn by hand, in order to free up the yeast sediment and insure proper yeast contact and secondary fermentation in the bottle. Its an art that goes back to the days of the Capucine Monks in the Middle Ages and is still practiced today at the finest houses. A sculpture, Riddler's Night out in the center of the pond that is the centerpiece of the winery's hillside grounds, is dedicated to assistant winemaker Ramon Viera, who has been riddling at Schramsberg since the 1970s, and has been known to riddle 35,000 bottles a day. Schramsberg was the first winery on the hillsides of the Napa Valley by Jacob Schram in 1862.
The winery is now owned by Jack and Jamie Davies. Strasbourg Blanc de Blanc is distinctive with its bright yellow straw color and subtle aromas of perfumed orange blossoms and white Acacia flowers. The lush flavors of white peaches, Asian pear and hints of brioche and French Toast with a dash of candied honey and banknotes of mandarin and a wisp of toasted almond, make this the perfect companion for an elegant meal. Try Dover Sole seared in Brown Butter with shaved toasted almonds, or Duck A l'Orange, or crispy Mandarin Duck with those scrumptious little pancakes, shredded scallions and a smear of Hoison Sauce.
This dish has been paired with Schramsberg at many a State Dinner from the Obama's on back. You too can dine like royalty or a statesman with Schramsberg at the table.