Korbel is an American Champagne made in Sonoma County, California. As one of the world's most popular brands of sparkling wine, Korbel Champagne has a good reputation among many wine enthusiasts. However, not everyone is aware of the company's long and interesting history or its array of available products.
Korbel's California Champagnes
While the term Champagne typically refers to a type of sparkling wine made in Champagne, France, some California winemakers are still allowed to call their sparkling wines Champagne due to certain details in labeling laws. Korbel is one of California's winemakers that is allowed to do so, and they create highly popular and affordable (the most expensive bottle costs around $30) California Champagne made using the traditional méthode champenoise, which is the same process used in France to make Champagne. Korbel makes a number of different California Champagnes.
Similar to a type of Champagne called a blanc de blancs (white of whites), Korbel Chardonnay California Champagne is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. It's a dry Champagne with notes of tropical fruits and toast, and this non-vintage California Champagne is highly acclaimed winning Gold in numerous wine competitions including the 2017 Los Angeles Wine Competition and the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
Made like a traditional Champagne, Korbel Brut is a non-vintage sparkler made from a combination of Colombard, Sangiovese, and Chardonnay. This medium-dry sparkling wine has aromas of citrus. It's an award-winning California Champagne, taking Platinum in the 2017 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge and Gold in the 2017 California State Fair Competition.
Korbel Extra-Dry non-vintage California Champagne is made with a blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, French Colombard, and Pinot Noir. This off-dry sparkling wine has hints of citrus and vanilla. It received Best of Class in the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Silver in the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
Blanc de Noirs
Korbel's Blanc de Noirs (white of blacks) is a take on the classic Champagne style. It's made primarily with red wine grapes including Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel, but it also has a little Chardonnay in it for balance. This vintage California Champagne is a dry with a combination of fruity and spicy flavors. In 2018, this wine won a Silver medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
A sparkling non-vintage dry rosé California Champagne, Korbel Brut Rosé is crisp with flavors of strawberries and melons. It's made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Sangiovese and lightly sweetened with dosage in which sugar is added to the finished product. Wine Enthusiast called this a Best Buy for its combination of quality and price.
Le Premier is Korbel's premium reserve vintage California Champagne. It's a classic Champagne blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made with grapes grown in the Russian River Valley. In 2018, the 2014 vintage received a Bronze medal in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Expect notes of apples and toast.
This crisp, dry California Champagne is a combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown in the Russian River Valley.
Where to Buy Korbel California Champagnes
You can buy Korbel California Champagne at just about any wine shop, liquor store, or grocery store. For the best selection, you may want to shop at Korbel's online store. There, you'll find a wide variety of products, including Champagne-of-the-month clubs and multi-packs. The online store can't legally ship to all states, so be sure you check whether your state is eligible before you shop.
Visiting Korbel Champagne Cellars
Korbel Champagne Cellars is located at 13250 River Road in Guerneville. The winery is open daily at 9 AM, and it closes at 5 PM April through September or 4:30 PM the rest of the year. Complementary winery and garden tours are offered daily, and walk-ins are welcome in the tasting room and store. Private tastings and tours are also available for $20 per person.
Korbel Wine Club
Korbel has six levels of wine clubs ranging in price from $55 to $160 twice a year with two shipments per year of between four and 12 bottles.
History of Korbel Champagne Cellars
In the 1880s, three Czechoslovakian brothers started the business that would eventually become the leading producer of sparkling wine in the United States. Originally partners in the manufacturing of cigar boxes and the shipping of timber and wood veneers, Francis, Anton, and Joseph Korbel began operating a vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California. By 1882, the brothers had begun to produce 30,000 gallons of wine annually. It was the start of a hugely successful business.
Most winemakers of the 1800s believed that it simply wasn't possible to produce a high-quality sparkling wine in California. The Korbel brothers set out to disprove this theory in 1884, hiring fellow Czechoslovakian Frank Hasek to oversee sparkling wine production for the company. Over the next decade, Hasek experimented with blending grape varieties to produce the wine for the Korbel winery. By the close of the 19th century, even the most strident California Champagne doubters had to admit that Korbel California Champagne was among the best.
In 1919, Prohibition outlawed the production and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States, and the Korbel brothers turned away from their wine business. The winery languished for several years, and it didn't regain its previous success even after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The descendants of the Korbel brothers decided to sell the business in the 1950s.
Another set of brothers, Adolf, Ben, and Paul Heck, bought the Korbel business and transformed it into the successful name that it is today. The company is still owned and run by the Heck family.
Korbel is famous for being the California Champagne served at the inaugural luncheons for several United States Presidents. In 2009, Korbel California Champagne was served to honor President Barack Obama. Korbel creates a special "inaugural cuvee" for these functions, and the bottles feature an inaugural seal. This sparkling wine is marketed as "Korbel Natural" and is available at many wine shops. Korbel has created these special Champagnes in honor of the following inaugurations:
- Ronald Reagan in 1985
- George H.W. Bush in 1989
- Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997
- George W. Bush in 2001 and 2005
- Barack Obama in 2009
If you need an affordable sparkling wine that is quintessentially American, you might consider a bottle of Korbel California Champagne. With dozens of products to choose from, there's sure to be one that's right for you.