Schramsberg Excels At American Bubbly

The California sparkling wine producer find success at retail and through direct sales.

Napa Valley–based Schramsberg Vineyards has succeeded in a difficult market segment: American-made luxury sparkling wine. The brand depleted 87,000 cases last year, over 90 percent of it sparkling. “Sparkling wine is a very branded business,” says vice president of sales and marketing Laurent Sarazin. “We look at Schramsberg almost like a spirits brand—there’s an emotional tie.” The brand does best on the West Coast, with half its business in California. Its wine club has around 10,000 members and helps drive retail sales higher. Sarazin explains that when the club expanded into Texas in 2005, direct-to-consumer sales soon equaled revenues from the three-tier channel. But over 10 years, sales in both channels increased, and total business in Texas doubled. “Some wholesalers argue that direct sales take away from their business, but if a brand is vibrant, customers will buy from all channels,” Sarazin says. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs ($39 a 750-ml. bottle) leads the portfolio at 31,500 cases, followed by Mirabelle Rosé ($29) at 13,500 cases and the vintage-dated Schramsberg Brut Rosé ($44) at 11,500 cases. The higher-end J. Schram wines, including the 2007 J. Schram ($120) and the 2008 J. Schram Rosé ($150)—have attracted an audience because of their aging potential. Schramsberg sources its fruit from about 120 cool-climate North Coast vineyards. “We craft the top wines from our best sites, rather than from a single vineyard—it’s more in the Champagne tradition,” says vintner and president Hugh Davies. The company will open a tasting room for Davies Vineyards, its still wine label, in St. Helena this winter.