Wednesday, October 2, 2013

From One Valley to Another

        The Russian River Valley in northern California is a delightful playground.  There's canoeing, hiking in the redwoods, zip-lining, eating family style Italian dinners in Occidental and visiting wineries-- most of which we recently did.
         One of the wineries we visited I had heard about for decades, as have probably many of you. It's Korbel, located in Guerneville.  They make California Champagne; and they can call it Champagne because they have been making it, using the traditional methods, since 1882, long before the 1919 Versailles Treaty which said that only bubbly from Champagne, France, could officially be called "Champagne."
        I loved the look of the Korbel winery and the stories connected with it.  It was started by three Korbel brothers who were from Czechoslovakia.  Although they started out in San Francisco with a manufacturing business, they loved the beauty of Sonoma County and soon owned a lumber business in Guerneville, and also farmed their land at their Russian River ranch.  They planted their first grapes in 1872, the winery was built in 1886, and the “brandy tower" at the winery, modeled after a prison where one of the brothers had been imprisoned while in Czechoslovakia, was erected in 1888. 
        The tour of the cellars was educational and fun, as was the tasting.  They have 14 different styles of champagne. One of them, "Natural," has been served at the last 8 U.S. presidential inauguration dinners.  Another, "Sec," they have been making since the winery's founding in 1882.  One of my favorites, even though it’s sweeter than I usually like, was their Sweet Rose, which, like many of their champagnes, has won lots of awards at California wine competitions.  I could see it as part of a cheese/dessert course.
        During the Korbel visit, I learned that most of the corks' wire cages-- called muselets, from the French word for "muzzle"-- come off after twisting it six half turns to the left.  Voila.  Then you can get on with getting the cork off.  The Korbel website tells how to do that safely.

        And another good thing about these California champagnes is that most of them are under $20.  Pretty nice.  So I say, let's buy a bottle and do what Korbel's motto says- "Toast Life."

No comments:

Post a Comment