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Jacob Schram and Schramsberg Winery

Innovative as he was, Jacob Schram found that trait got him laughed at a bit.  Not only was he the first to plant vineyards on the mountain slopes in Napa Valley but he also dug the first wine caves.

In 1840, when he was only 14 years old, Schram came to America from Germany.  In New York City he learned the barbering trade.  By 1854, he was working in San Francisco but later moved to St. Helena in the Napa Valley.

In 1862, he bought property on the mountain slopes just south of Calistoga where he planted vines.  In 1867, he cut a small wine cellar out of the solid rock.  With barely room for three people to stand, Schram was able to store one wine barrel and several kegs in his new cellar.  Some years later, in 1881, Schram dug a larger cellar.

Three years later (1884) he got around to digging his wine caves.  Using Chinese labor, Schram began tunneling a series of caves into the hard rock some 100 feet and 20 feet wide.  By 1891, Schram's tunnels had expanded to two tunnels, over 200 feet in length, and a second series of tunnels to over 400 feet in length.

Robert Lewis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, visited the winery and caves and wrote about it in Silverado Squatters. The winery went through many hands after Schram died.  The present owners have expanded the wine caves until some two miles of caves exist.