On the Pacific

Micro-Climates and the Korbel Winery

korbel sign
Korbel Champagne Cellars - Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Part 4 in our Series: Wine Tasting in Sonoma Valley

Inspired by some fabulous wine dinners that we attended in the Midwest, this trip was a joy to take!  Our stops at several wineries in Sonoma had thus far been nothing short of exceptional, and we were anticipating that our scheduled stop at Korbel, and later, Sonoma Cutrer, would surely be just as outstanding.

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Leaving Chalk Hill & Heading to Korbel Winery

Our morning was winding down and it was unfortunately time to leave Chalk Hill. As we wound our way back down the long drive, we promised ourselves to return when we could observe the vineyards in their full glory. Hopefully, that time would be during harvest.

Ample time was available before our 2:00pm appointment at Sonoma Cutrer. So, we decided to head a bit farther west and along the Russian River. The scenery – and the geography – were immediately and noticeably different from the region we had just visited. Giant redwood trees began to appear, along with ferns and other, lush vegetation in the lower-lying areas.


Also, entering another appellation made one thing much clearer to me. Wine varieties from areas separated by as little as a few miles could, and do, have such vastly different characteristics. There are an amazing number of micro-climates here in Sonoma. There were many and varied geographic areas and soil types as well. The combinations are literally endless – adding to the complexities of wines produced at each location.

train depot at korbel
Korbel Winery Visitors Center and Train Depot

Korbel Winery

korbel champagne bottles
Display of Korbel bottles in tasting room – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Before leaving Illinois, we had been given a heads-up to make sure to save some time to check out the source of what has been the exclusive champagne of many past presidential inaugurations. It was a tip well worth heeding! Located approximately 20 minutes west of Route 101 on River Road near the town of Guerneville, is the home of Korbel Winery. Korbel is the vintner of excellent sparkling and still wines.

The winery is nestled beneath a trio of behemoth redwoods that stand proudly just across the street from the Russian River. There we encountered a tiny visitor center that, once upon a time, was a railroad stop. This stop was for trains carrying cigar boxes, made from excellent local lumber. These special boxes then made their way back to San Francisco and points east, ultimately to be filled with fine cigars.

Champagne Known the World ‘Round

deli counter
The deli at Korbel Winery – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

The winery itself was started in 1882 and the time-honored French method of producing champagne, called méthode champenoise, has produced champagne known the world ’round.

The story of the Korbel Brothers is rich with history and fortune-changing twists and turns. My suggestion would be to visit the winery, take the tour and hear the interesting story for yourself. I can tell you however, that we tasted many of the excellent champagnes and then enjoyed a tasty lunch at the deli there. The stop was brief but quite memorable. I strongly urge you to add it to your list of “must-see” venues when you visit the Sonoma Valley and its wineries!

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We launched this website in 2004 after getting married on a beautiful bluff just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the patio of a small restaurant called Rocky Point. Since that time, we have returned to the West Coast as often as time and funds would allow, always seeking new restaurants, wineries, beaches, unforgettable memories…“


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