It was early evening on the close of Labor Day when I parked my car at Schramsberg Vineyards. A five-minute trek up Diamond Mountain led to a clearing where a farmer’s table was set for about 30 dinner guests. Sommeliers, local food-and-beverage managers and out-of-town oenophiles mulled about, making introductions before the start of Camp Schramsberg, a two-day intensive, practical education on sparkling wine and its culinary counterparts. The Camp is offered twice a year, once during harvest time and again in winter; course offerings vary based on time of year.
It was as if a Norman Rockwell scene sprang to life: two dogs and three boys frolicked around the clearing under a golden sunset. One could not help but feel envious of this family’s depiction of yesteryear. The boys gathered with their parents, the Davies, on a small stage between weathered wine barrels and a backdrop of an old oak tree’s wide trunk. In the corner of the stage was a piano topped with a vase haphazardly stuffed with sunflowers and dahlias. Piano tunes would be enjoyed during dinner, shortly after introductions and a welcome by Hugh Davies, owner of Schramsberg Vineyards.
As we sipped from our welcome flute of vibrant Schramsberg 2014 Querencia Brut Rosé, we nibbled on passed hors d’oeuvres of Maine lobster with golden gooseberries, and an apricot drizzled with sesame seeds and whipped Japanese cucumber sauce. This palatable pairing wasn’t a happy accident but rather an introduction to a stellar culinary team led by the uber-talented Enologist/Chef Holly Peterson, owner of Flourish Chocolate and with an impressive list of credentials that includes chef instruction at Sur la Table and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
Holly showed her presence mid-dinner, during a quick break to share her reasoning in choosing a Japanese cucumber sauce. Holly, who began her professional career in oenology shared, “I wanted something different to lock in wine in a different way.” She admitted she made up the recipe for the Japanese sauce.
At the onset of this introduction to the following two days’ experiences, I knew our group would, no doubt, experience an incomparable education on taste.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Meyer lemon is a hybrid of a lemon and Valencia orange?
Once our Camp Schramsberg activities were complete, it was time to present a fabulous menu created by small teams within the large group. This proved fun, yet daunting, but with a food and beverage director on my team, we were headed for success. We paired a 2009 Reserve with Costa Brava Langoustine with heirloom tomato panna cotta and chopped Marconi almonds and ’09 Reserve aerated sabayon. Enough said.
We departed with smiles, new friends and a strong understanding of acidity levels in wine and food and how to remove or add sauces, spices or herbs to pair best with each sparkling wine. We also went home with a Schramsberg-logo’d backpack and a binder of notes and recipes from Meadowood Napa Valley.
NOTE: Although we tasted a few red wines during the opening night reception dinner, red wines were not the focus at Camp Schramsberg. The good news is that in October 2019, Camp Davies will make its debut and focus on the reds, in particular pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon, which the Davies family introduced in 2001.
Fun Fact: In 2017, the Davies Saint Helena tasting room opened with a 6,000 case production of red wines.