by Fred McMillin
for December 21, 1999


Annie, Fanny and Jamie


Robert Louis Stevenson at Schramsberg (1880)

"Stout, smiling Mrs. [Annie] Schram, who had been to Europe and apparently all about the States for pleasure, entertained Fanny [Mrs. Stevenson] in the veranda, while I tasted...every variety and shade of Schramberger [sic]...The stirring sunlight, and the growing vines, and the vats and bottles in the cavern, made a pleasant music for the mind."

...from Stevenson's Silverado Squatters

What an ideal start for a marriage. The literary giant and Fanny had been married but nine days. Life couldn't be better? HARDLY!

  • Finances—Stevenson had yet to achieve fame and was virtually penniless. Fanny had recently written his father, a wealthy engineer in Scotland, who agreed to help by sending his son 250 pounds a year.
  • Fanny was divorced, with a child, and her wealthy husband would soon cut off all financial support.
  • Housing—The Schram visit was merely an interlude in their hunt for housing. They were searching for an abandoned miners' cabin (rent-free) on Mount St. Helena. They soon found one...the floor was deep in debris, and there was no broom to clean it up.
  • The owner of the local stage line, Bill Spires, summed up the situation this way: I thought him kind of a fool, livin' in that old shack writin' books. I'd have taken more notice of him had I known HE'D BE S0 FAMOUS.

    ...Joan Dutton's They Left Their Mark

    Jamie and Jack Davies

    Jamie and Jack Davies

    Jamie and Jack Davies at Schramsberg

    So much for the early days of Jacob Schram's pioneering winery. The Davies acquired Schramsberg in 1965, and set out to create a world class sparkling wine worthy of the Schram legacy. The breakthrough came seven years later, when author Robert Balzer reported the stunning development that Schramsberg was suddenly inundated with orders. The reason? In Beijing, President Nixon had hosted Premier Chou En-lai with what Time Magazine called "a scarce California label" sparkling wine. It was the 1969 vintage of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs...and President Jamie Davis' latest release of the Blancs is today's wine.

    1996 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
    Napa Valley Champagne
    Composition—Chiefly Chardonnay with some Pinot Blanc
    Sugar—In the Brut range of about 1%
    More Background—This Blanc was the winery's first sparkler--vintage 1965. It also was the first American sparkler to be made solely from Chardonnay.
    Contact—Adrienne Asher-Gepford, (707) 942-4588, FX (707) 942-5943
    Price—$26 range


    My wife and I had the pleasure of discussing the winery's history with Jamie and Jack Davies over lunch not too long before Jack's shocking death last year. Jamie is now the president, and VERY active, as was Annie who ran things when her husband was gone cutting hair.

    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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