The grande dame of American sparkling wine, Jamie Davies, has died at the Calistoga estate where she and her late husband, Jack, launched the world-renowned Schramsberg brand more than four decades ago.
The well-liked 73-year-old Napa Valley wine industry pioneer had battled against debilitating Parkinson’s disease in recent years, the Napa Register reported.
Jamie and Jack Davies abandoned the corporate world of Southern California in the mid-1960s, seeking a simpler lifestyle. They took a big risk in purchasing an abandoned 220-acre forested estate on Calistoga’s Diamond Mountain, with the idea of producing the country’s “most prestigious” sparkling wine.
They succeeded. Their initial bottling, a 1965 Blanc de Blancs, marked the first commercial use of Chardonnay in a California sparkling wine, according to the Register.
Similar feats occurred with Blanc de Noirs and Reserve wines, and their innovative spirit earned the Davies recognition throughout the world. Their efforts also earned the respect of renowned Champagne houses, where they were welcomed on numerous visits.
In 1972, the 1969 Blanc de Blancs was served at the “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, over which President Richard Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai presided. Schramsberg wines have been served at state functions by every subsequent administration in the White House.
Over the years, the Davies were committed to environmental causes, not the least of which was the Napa Valley greenbelt, the Ag Preserve which they supported and helped bring about in the late ’60s. In recent years, Jamie Davies launched a new sparkling wine called Querencia, with proceeds earmarked to continue her late husband’s work in agricultural land and wilderness preservation.
Following Jack Davies’ death in 1998, locals expected his widow to sell the esteemed wine estate. However, in the tradition of many widows of Champagne, Jamie Davies soldiered on. Initially, on her own, and later, joined by her son Hugh, she created a blending program that incorporates grapes from 60 vineyards from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties into the production of seven cuvees.