What is a California Collectible? Collectible wines are just that: wines that are, in the mind of the collector, worthy of being sought-after and become a prize or symbol of pride. Whether you are an immediate indulger or conscious cellarer (or both), there is no doubt that collectible wines are the pinnacle of the lifestyle of a true oenophile. They strike the perfect balance between value, taste, complexity, character, and ageability.
Some believe that California has a reputation as a place where anyone can prosper and anything can grow. Yet while there are plenty of ambitious winemakers, there are only a few grapes that can produce world-class wines, worthy of being dubbed a “collectible.” Without a doubt, the six wineries celebrated at this year’s l’Eté du Vin have what it takes.
They bring to the table impressive growing and winemaking techniques, intense passion and dedication to the craft, and undoubtedly remarkable products that excite collectors around the world, and The Nashville Wine Auction is thrilled to celebrate them this summer.
One might say that Hugh Davies was born with a wineglass in his hand, and that wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Hugh was born in 1965, the same year that his parents, Jack and Jamie Davies, purchased the abandoned Schramsberg Estate in Calistoga. Hugh grew up amongst the vines, caves, tanks and barrels that make Schramsberg Vineyards what it is today; the premier producer of American sparkling wines. Named President of Schramsberg Vineyards in 2005, Hugh had already spent multiple years as the winemaker and general manager of the winery. He lived and breathed the winery life since he first walked the vineyards as a toddler and later ventured away from home to broaden his experience. He earned a master’s degree in enology from the University of California, Davis, an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine, and honed his skills at Möet et Chandon in Epernay, Petaluma Winery in South Australia, and Mumm Napa Valley. This diverse background provided Hugh with the knowledge and skills to take the reins of Schramsberg and guide it into the future.
Monique Davies is the young, vibrant matriarch of California’s historic Schramsberg sparkling wine house and Davies Vineyards. As the wife of wineries’ vintner, Hugh Davies, Monique follows in the footsteps of Jamie Davies, her late mother-in-law and “Grande Dame” of sparkling wine. Monique carries on the tradition of the Davies’ dedication to family, community, and exceptional wine. Raised in the Napa Valley, Monique left to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Following college, Monique returned home and joined the exclusive Auberge du Soleil in the special events department, where her enthusiasm for wine and entertaining blossomed. Monique continued on to Joseph Phelps Vineyards, where during her 13-year tenure, she rose to the position of western regional sales and marketing manager. As an ambassador for Phelps, she became invaluable as she cultivated a broad knowledge of the wine industry.
In 2004 Monique and Hugh married. In the time since, their shared passion for wine, community and the outdoors have flourished, along with their strong devotion to family. With a striking similarity to Hugh’s childhood, the couple is raising three sons, Emrys, Nelson, and Hugh Jr., on the historic Schramsberg property.
Jasmine Hirsch, General Manager of Hirsch Vineyards was born and bred in balmy California. She attended school in gritty Philadelphia and then garnered six years of business experience in Prague, Amsterdam, and New York. Jasmine came home to Hirsch Vineyards to shine her light and spirit on sales and customer relations, but also to learn the land, the vines, and the wines before stepping into the role of General Manager.
Hirsch Vineyards is recognized as one of the premier Pinot Noir sites in the new world. Located two miles from the Pacific Ocean at 1,600 feet elevation, it is an extreme coastal vineyard with a great diversity of soils, aspects and microclimates. Jasmine’s father, David Hirsch, began planting the vineyard in 1980, making it the oldest premium Pinot Noir planting on the true Sonoma Coast. Since then it has become one of the most sought-after sources for Pinot Noir grapes in California, providing fruit to Littorai, Williams Selyem, Kistler, and many others. In 2002, Hirsch began producing its own estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These are wines of elegance, concentration and site-specificity.
John Conover joined PlumpJack Winery as general manager in January 1999 to oversee the daily operations, provide strategic direction for the newly-established property, steadily increase production from 1,000 cases to 10,000 cases annually, and create the image, awareness and global distribution channels that would ultimately support that level of production.
The critical and fiscal success of PlumpJack Winery ultimately inspired the purchase of a new 54-acre property on Howell Mountain. CADE Winery, founded in 2005 by partners Conover, Gordon Getty and Gavin Newsom, is nestled against dramatic slopes at an elevation of 1800 feet. From the outset of this new endeavor, the partners were committed to building CADE as the first Gold LEED-certified estate winery. “No one had ever attempted this, even the contractors, so the responsibility fell to us to develop a completely original plan,” says Conover.
With CADE’s success mirroring that of PlumpJack’s, the three partners were open to a third winery when the opportunity to purchase an historic property in Stags Leap was presented in the fall of 2011. Soon thereafter, in February 2012, they founded Odette Estate. Odette, which spans 45 acres and is currently in the late stages of development, will also be Gold LEED-certified and farmed organically.
Conover spends time at each winery each day. “Running wineries isn’t something one does remotely,” he says. “It’s an agricultural business and requires a feet in the soil approach to management. It’s also a very human business and that means spending time with the people who are the bedrock of our organization. Conover lives in St. Helena with his wife, Ann Marie, having raised two daughters who are now in their twenties. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of The Napa Valley Grape Growers.
Photos from the 37th Annual l’Eté du Vin Events