Those of us who love to drink our bubbles — or as Dom Pérignon said, we "are drinking stars” — are not only happy, but thrilled to tour producers of sparkling wine. There just so happens to be a number of sparkling wine producers to visit in Napa County, but the possibility of actually participating in the process of making sparkling wine is something we only dream about, right? Add to that, the fantasy of having the premier sparkling producers as your personal coaches. Well, Camp Schramsberg has made your dreams come true!
Twice a year, in the fall and spring, the folks at Schramsber offer a few lucky guests the unique opportunity to spend three intensive days and evenings exploring all the facets of making and consuming the most prestigious sparkling wine of Napa Valley. By the way, this same brand was selected to seal the deal on the opening of US-China relations under President Nixon, and has since been served at numerous important state dinners for dignitaries and royalty under every US president.
During the Fall Harvest Session in September, your adventure begins with a reception and dinner al fresco in the vineyard grove to introduce you to your fellow guests and the sparkling wines you will be studying. All of the other meals — and many of the seminars and activities — take place on the sprawling grounds of the host property, Meadowood Resort.
After an early morning breakfast and an information session on viticultural practices, it’s off to the vineyard for harvesting, where you will pick grapes by hand — cluster by precious cluster. Next, you will follow those very same grapes through the vinification process. The process includes de-stemming, crushing and primary alcoholic fermentation, just for starters. Then, after sampling some of the base wines that go into the secondary fermentation process (that is part of the sparkling wine protocol), it’s on to a gourmet lunch with plenty of paired bubbly.
Afterwards, you participate in a series of carefully crafted workshops, which highlight important aspects of sparkling wine tasting and food pairing. Double-qualified Chef/Enologist Holly Peterson will guide you through the principles of component tasting to learn how to make the most advantageous pairings.
The next day after breakfast, you will experience a vertical tasting of the base and sparkling wines on through the finished product. You’ll also get to tour the famous Schramsberg Caves, observe a master riddler, and try your own hand at this turn-of-the-bottle process called “riddling.” You will then disgorge, blend, cork and label your own cuvée of sparkling wine to take home!
Before graduation, you’ll learn how to open a wine bottle with a sabre, which is a time-honored ritual started by Napoleon to celebrate his victories! After this intense immersion into the world of sparkling wines à la Schramsberg, we're sure that you will feel victorious too!
As with any great camp experience, you’ll leave with new friends, new skills, and a profound appreciation for the technique, mystery and magic of truly great sparkling wine made in the classic méthode champenoise tradition. Most of all, you’ll have your memories of a once in a lifetime learning adventure and your personally blended bottle of bubbly to share with friends back home.
Dreams can come true, after all!