Gary B. Heck

President, Chairman and Owner

In a career spanning five decades, Korbel President, Chairman and  Owner Gary B. Heck has led the California wine industry by example. His innovative spirit, commitment to excellence and respect for the land have contributed to Korbel’s success, and have provided templates for other wineries to follow.

Gary Heck began working full-time at Korbel Champagne Cellars –then owned by his father, Adolf Heck – in 1965. Over the next decade, he held various positions, from purchasing agent to sales representative, before joining management as Executive Vice President in 1974. He was appointed President in 1982 and after his father’s passing, became Chairman of the Board in 1984.

Under Heck’s supervision, Korbel champagne sales grew from 150,000 cases to more than 1.5 million cases annually, making it the largest producer of méthode champenoise champagne in the United States. A significant portion of that growth came from new California champagnes created to appeal to an increasingly sophisticated customer base, including Korbel Sweet Rosé and Korbel Brut Made with Organic Grapes. Another of his innovations was the bottling of Korbel California Champagne in single-serving bottles, a consumer favorite. He has also guided Korbel Brandy to annual sales of 300,000 cases. For nearly 20 years, he owned and managed Kenwood Vineyards, growing production from 300,000 to 500,000 cases before selling the estate to Pernod Ricard in 2014. 

Today Korbel owns 1,000 acres of vineyards, of which the grapes are grown using sustainable agricultural  practices. He likewise implemented sustainable methods on the production side to conserve energy and water, reduce  waste and utilize packaging with recycled content where possible. His commitment to excellence from vineyard to  bottle has made Korbel California champagnes and brandies consistent award-winners at wine competitions. 

Gary Heck leads by example, as he has served as Chairman of the Board of Wine Institute, the trade  association of California wineries, and remains active on that board. He was an early supporter of Sonoma State  University’s Wine Business Institute, which offered the first-ever wine business curriculum in the United States, and  has continued as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the last 20 years. In recognition of his business success at  Korbel and his leadership role in the California wine industry, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by  Sonoma State University in 2014.  

Established in 1882 in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, Korbel Champagne Cellars produces the  United States’ most popular méthode champenoise champagne. But, the true measure of Korbel’s success during its  139 years can be seen in the impact it’s had on American consumers and its presence at various celebrations  throughout the years. Owned and managed by the Heck family since 1954, Korbel currently makes eleven California  champagnes and a limited amount of still wine. In a separate facility, Korbel also produces one of the country’s most  respected brandies.