Posted by bruce-bradley on April 7, 2015 at 11:55 AM

I've been fighting a bug for the past several days, which has kept me from feeling creative, so I'm bringing back one of my earlier blogs, originally posted on July 12, 2012--

An Immigrant Barber Makes Good.

In 1852, German-born Jacob Schram arrived in the Napa Valley. At twenty-six years of youth, Jacob had little with him when he arrived, other than his skill as a barber. He immediately began plying that trade, traveling up and down the roads of Napa and cutting hair. One of his clients was winemaker Charles Krug. When Krug learned that Jacob came from a winemaking family in Germany, he urged Jacob to make his own wines.

Taking Krug’s words to heart, Jacob purchased a plot of hillside land just south of the town of Calistoga. In those days hillside land was considered useless, so Jacob was able to get it for next to nothing. He cleared the land himself and planted some grapes, all the while still plying his trade as a traveling barber. From his first vintage, he took samples of his wine to a San Francisco wine merchant named Gottlieb Groezinger. Groezinger became so excited by Jacob’s wines that he went and built his own winery—an enormous brick structure in the town of Yountville, which was completed in 1870.

Jacob, meanwhile, planted more grapes. He hired Chinese laborers to dig what became the Napa Valley’s first wine caves. That gave him two “firsts” —he planted Napa’s first hillside vineyard and dug its first wine cave. Jacob’s wines were very well received, with a good deal of them being shipped to Europe. In 1875 he built a mansion near the winery, which survives to this day.

In 1880 a young Scotsman named Robert Louis Stevenson was residing with his wife and stepson in a cabin that sat just below the Silverado mine, on Mount St. Helena. In his first published work, “The Silverado Squatters” Stevenson describes a visit to Jacob’s winery, where he whiled away the afternoon, sampling Jacob’s wares in what reminded him of “a smuggler’s cave.”

Jacob died in 1905, but the caves, the mansion and the winery he built, Schramsberg, are still there and are available for touring. The huge, brick winery that Gottlieb Groezinger built in 1870 is still there, too. It no longer operates as a winery, but is home to numerous shops, restaurants and art galleries, and is called “V—Marketplace”.

Schramsberg, meanwhile, continues to produce some of the finest sparkling wines that California and the Napa Valley have to offer—

Here are my picks for this week:


2011 Merlot

Vintner’s Reserve

Sonoma County

$8.99 at SPD Market in Nevada City

Subtle aromas of ripe red fruit and vanilla—needed a little time to open up. Middle of the road fruit and acid, definitely not a fruit bomb. Drinkable, but not too exciting.



Founder’s Estate

2012 California

Cabernet Sauvignon

$6.00 at CVS Pharmacy in Grass Valley

Slightly smoky, with red fruit in the nose, rich blackberry and black cherry flavors. Decently balanced.




Cabernet Sauvignon



$8.99 at SPD Market in Nevada City

“337” is favored root stock among Cabernet Sauvignon wine growers—

Blackberry and a little funk in the nose—the funk blows off quickly and leaves the fruit. Cherry-Berry fruit; good mouth feel; nicely balanced.




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1 Comment

Reply Dianna
6:10 PM on April 7, 2015 
Wow Bruce! What an interesting article! I thought that I had read all of your earlier Blogs, but this one got past me. Thanks for sharing re-posting it!