by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier + Certified Wine Educator, Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits
Not only does Labor Day mark the unofficial closing of the summer season, more importantly it is a celebration to honor the working people and the contributions that they have made to our country over the years. Our celebrations often include parades, barbeques and most likely beverages in which to toast those who have paved the way for our country at some point in history to be what it is today. With this in mind, we look at a handful of pioneers in the American wine business who are considered icons in the industry based on the contributions they have made to the trade.
The Chappellet family’s romance with Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley started more than four decades ago. When Donn and Molly Chappellet first glimpsed the magnificent view of forests and wildflower-filled meadows from this location, they knew this is where they wanted to be. In 1967, they became the first winery to plant vineyards exclusively on high-elevation hillsides, something that was unheard of at that time. Today, the second generation of the family has taken the reigns from their parents in order to continue their passion of the land and crafting extraordinary, age-worthy wines. Among other pursuits to preserve the natural integrity of the land, their winery is solar-powered with a grey water reclamation plant and the vineyard is certified organic.
While Napa Valley is well known for their high-caliber red wines, Chappellet Chenin Blanc is a white wine worth your investigation. Unlike the de rigueur Chardonnays you typically find from this region, the Chenin Blanc vines were already producing when the Chappellets bought the Pritchard Hill property and they continued to make this historical wine. In 2004, the vines were replanted due to decreasing quality because of the age of the vines and the wine was reintroduced under their ‘Signature’ series. Keeping up with modern winemaking techniques, it is fermented in a combination of neutral French oak barrels, stainless steel barrels and tanks, and a Nomblot concrete “egg. The wine is elegant on the nose with hints of orange blossom, peach and apricot, followed by moderate acidity and lively minerality that carry though to a focused finish—perfect with your freshly caught striper with a stone fruit salsa.
Making wine is not a flash in the pan. It takes time to grow the best vines, create the ultimate blend and age your wine properly in the cellar. Dr. Robert Sinskey came to Napa Valley as an escape his career and life in the big city as an ophthalmologist pioneer. As someone at the leading edge of his own field, he wanted to do the same with the wines that he produced. After some trial and error, enter Rob, Jr. to come on board and assist with the project hands-on while Dr. Sinskey was still running his practice elsewhere. Fast forward to today where Rob, Jr. and his wife Maria, who manages the culinary aspect of the winery operations, have made the winery a must-visit destination when visiting the region, not just for the wine but for the overall European hospitality experience that awaits you.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards POV Red Blend comes from the family vineyard where the Cabernet France, Merlot (and then some) blend could change slightly every year based on the vintage and what Mother Earth provides them from the vines. POV (Point of View) is a wine that you take to dinner to enjoy, not just to impress. The concentrated color matches with the intense aromas of macerated berries, bay leaf, and fennel. Supple tannins fill your mouth as you taste the soft influence from aging in fine oak barrels. This incredibly long wine is just the right match for your barbeque dinner and the time spent lingering after.
When Jack and Jamie Davies discovered the Schramsberg estate in much needed repair in 1965, they immediately set out to produce sparkling wine — specifically, “America’s most prestigious, select and admired sparkling wine; chosen for special guests, special gifts, pampering one’s self and expressing one’s taste in unique products.” Shortly after this endeavor started, their Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs was served by President Nixon at the White House for his “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. The rest is history, as it has been said, as Schramsberg’s sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration since.
This sparkling wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes that are sourced throughout the cooler climates of Northern California. It is made in the same production method as Champagne from France, with the secondary fermentation that creates the lively bubbles occurs in the bottle. The wine is aged on the yeast lees in the bottle for more than two years prior to disgorgement when it is then processed to remove the yeast and settle before being sold in the market. The Blanc de Blancs has bright, fresh aromas of green apple with hints of honey and citrus zest. Freshly sliced peaches, pear, and bright pineapple flavors carry vibrant length on the palate. A must have for toasting anything this holiday weekend!
No matter how you will be celebrating the end of summer, take some time to consider those who have worked hard to create for us what we have today and consider how you can be part of continuing this for generations to come. Cheers to America!