J. Davies Winery is located at the historical Schramsberg Winery in the Diamond Mountain appellation just south of Calistoga. Schramsberg is their sister winery and J Davies is named after Jack Davies, who along with his wife Jamie, founded and restored the modern day Schramsberg. This is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley as it was originally founded in 1862 right during the Civil War. As a result, the earliest hillside vineyards on the property date from 1862, making this one of the first hillside vineyard locations in Napa County. For many years Schramsberg has been noted for their Internationally famous sparkling wines. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay had been planted on their estate for many years but parts of their estate are in fact best for growing red Bordeaux varietals. As a result their grapes for Schramsberg’s sparkling wines are sourced from cool weather generally coastal California locations.
In 1994 the first red wine grapes were planted on the estate. Most wineries after planting vineyards will jump at the chance to take advantage of the first harvest 3 or 4 years after planting. Not so with J. Davies. They waited 7 years before releasing their first commercial vintage in 2001! They were producing wine during this time, just not commercially as it was for their own experimentation and knowledge. In addition, they kept tweaking blocks in the vineyard and layout, types of rootstock, clones and varietals. They especially were interested in finding ways to manage the large tannins and tight structure sometimes characteristic of Diamond Mountain grown fruit. The vineyard is 15 acres with yields fairly low by Napa standards at about 2 tons per acre. Schramsberg’s property is 217 acres of which two historical vineyards are located on site, the original Schram vineyard and the McEachran vineyard first planted in 1878.
Today J Davies produces one wine each year, always a Bordeaux style blend. It is bottled lightly fined and unfiltered for maximum color and flavor. We tried their 2005 vintage which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec & Petite Verdot. It is a very dark inky wine that is unfined and only lightly filtered for maximum color and flavor. This is a medium bodied wine, with a smooth mouth feel, rich in blackberry and cloves with just a touch of toasted oak towards the finish. The tannins are soft and do not overpower. Bordeaux style is what they are shooting for here, not the huge flashy fruit forward wines that you often find in the Napa area. This wine is produced in extremely small quantities and their 2004 vintage sold out very quickly. Depending on quantities, it sometimes is available for tasting at Schramsberg winery (ask during your tour). Based on the release date, J. Davies told us that the best chance of tasting this at the winery is in late fall.