Riddler's hands in action
Riddler's hands in action

Hugh Davies

Vintner, Schramsberg Vineyards and Davies Vineyards

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 among 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 many years as the winemaker and general manager of the winery. He had lived and breathed the winery life since he first walked the vineyards as a toddler. As a young man, he ventured away from home to broaden his experiences: earning a master’s degree in enology from the University of California, Davis; an undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in Maine; and honing his skills at Möet et Chandon in Epernay, Petaluma Winery in South Australia and Mumm Napa Valley. This diverse background has provided Hugh with the knowledge and skills to take the reins of Schramsberg and guide it into the future.

Hugh never rests on the successes of previous years, and is always looking to build upon the winery’s venerable track record of producing award-winning sparkling wines that rival the best sparkling wines available worldwide. He has increased the number of vineyards that the winery sources grapes from to over 115 cool-climate sites across Carneros, Anderson Valley, and the Sonoma and Marin coasts; he championed the increased usage of barrel fermentation in the production process; and he expanded the small-lot base wine program to an impressive 250 lots of unique wines. These programs have provided the winemaking team with a much broader base of flavor profiles to utilize when ensuring the quality of the final blends of the 10-12 sparkling wines made each year.

For the J. Davies Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon program, Hugh was instrumental in the decision to replant the historic hillside vineyards to Bordeaux varietals. These blocks are credited as the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley and are located adjacent to the winery. They are utilized by the Schramsberg winemaking team to make J. Davies Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that has received both public and critical acclaim since its first release in 2004. In 2009, Hugh led the winemaking team into another new venture, producing the winery’s first still Pinot Noir wines under the Davies Vineyards brand. The family’s experience with Pinot Noir dates back to 1967, when Jack and Jamie Davies first used this elegant red varietal to make their inaugural vintage of Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine. Over the 45 years following that first use, Schramsberg’s winemakers have built long-lasting relationships with some of the best Pinot Noir growers in the North Coast. Additionally, Hugh’s vision and guidance has led initiatives to update the winery’s production and bottling line facilities and completely renovate the visitor center to provide guests with the most memorable experience possible.

Like his parents, Hugh is dedicated to protecting the greater Napa County. He served on the board of directors for the Napa Valley Vintners (president, 2006), chaired the 2013 Premiere Napa Valley, and along with his family, chaired the 2004 Auction Napa Valley. In addition, Hugh and other advisers lead the Jack L. Davies Land Preservation Fund, committed to carrying on the efforts of his father to preserve the Napa Valley for its highest uses: agricultural and open space lands.

Continuing on a path that started 50 years ago, Hugh carries on with the family legacy, living on the Schramsberg property with his lovely wife Monique and three sons Emrys, Nelson and Hugh Jr.