We started the next day with a hike through the Armstrong Redwoods just outside Guerneville. The park was great with well-maintained trails, though the one we took was quite steep. After we’d gotten our fill of hiking, we headed to our final destination of the trip, the Korbel winery.
The story of Korbel is one of the entrepreneurial spirit of two Czech brothers who started the Korbel company in the 1880’s. The saga goes all the way back to the time when they bought the densely-forested land where the winery now sits, cleared it all out the old-fashioned way (no electricity), and began their logging business. After the land was clear, they eventually figured out that grapes were the thing to grow, and thus Korbel was born.
There’s a free tour of the winery with a champagne tasting at the end. We had all toured other wineries, but I’d never seen the process of champagne-making before, so it was especially interesting. The first part of the process is making wine, since you have to start with wine and then ferment it into champagne. These enormous wine barrels were once used for that purpose and were so big that they had to be constructed inside the building by candlelight.
After the wine is made, yeast and sugar are added to facilitate the fermentation process. The champagne is fermented right in the bottle and the yeast is eventually shaken into the neck of the bottle, flash frozen, and extruded before the final corks go on. Here’s the champagne cellar at Korbel.
The tasting at the end of the tour ran the gamut from dry to sweet champagnes. It was interesting to try them back to back so that it was easy to taste the differences between them. After the tasting, we made our way to the tasting room, where we tried some Korbel wines including a Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Port. I wasn’t aware of this before, but Korbel does sells its wine, though it’s only available online. The wine in the tasting room was free as well, but they cut you off after only one tasting if you’ve already been on the tour. It was a disappointment, but between the 4 of us we were able to try quite a selection.
The cafe at Korbel offers really good sandwiches and salads, so we did that for lunch. There was also truffle goat cheese which we somehow managed to resist, but if you’re there keep an eye out for it and let me know how it is. After lunch, we started the journey back to Alameda where we enjoyed some great food at Burmese Superstar before an evening showing of Captain Phillips at the Alameda Theatre. Great movie, so be sure to see it while it’s still in theaters.