The Korbel story is more than a chapter in Sonoma County history. It is the saga of two enterprising families with pioneer spirits and old-world resourcefulness who envisioned the great opportunities emerging from the development of 19th-century America.
The Korbel Story
The Korbel story is more than a chapter in Sonoma County history. It is the saga of two enterprising families with pioneer spirits and old-world resourcefulness who envisioned the great opportunities emerging from the development of 19th-century America. Although generations apart, the Korbel and Heck families created and preserved a singular tradition of champagne-making excellence that has now been in existence for 137 years.
In the mid-1800s, America offered new hope to three brothers seeking to escape political unrest in their European homeland. The Korbels, born in the farmlands of the province of Bohemia (today’s Czech Republic), found the remote and rugged redwood country in Sonoma County irresistible.
Lured by the beauty and opportunity of the mountainous timberlands, the brothers eventually moved their families from San Francisco and settled in the Russian River Valley. F. Korbel & Bros. began as a manufacturing business in San Francisco that produced materials for the building industry. As their enterprise expanded, the brothers eventually acquired a sawmill and began a full-scale lumber operation near the town of Guerneville in Sonoma County. As Northern California’s lumber boom slowed, the Korbels turned their attention to farming prunes, beets, wheat, corn and alfalfa, and operated a commercial dairy on their Russian River Valley ranch. During that time, they planted their first vineyards and began experimenting with different grape varieties, including Pinot Noir – early evidence of the Korbels’ ambition to become champagne producers.
In 1882, the three brothers began a small winemaking operation at their ranch, and produced some 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of wine from their vineyard yields. Korbel wines were so well received that two years later the brothers closed their dairy, converted all of their ranch lands to vineyards, and devoted all of their energy to winemaking. A tradition that was to become a legacy was well under way.
The Korbel winery continued to grow throughout the 1880s. It was during that time that the Korbels sent for winemaker Frank Hasek in Prague to come to the United States to be their champagne master. Employing the time-honored French method of producing champagne, méthode champenoise, the Korbels quietly but aggressively experimented with cuvées. By the late-1890s, the Korbels had shipped their first California champagnes, and by the turn of the century, KORBEL was an internationally known, award-winning label.
Prohibition in the 1920s forced the closing of many wineries, but the Korbel Winery survived by depending on the brothers’ other business ventures and accumulated resources. Sadly, Francis, Joseph and Anton all passed away before Repeal in 1933. They died not knowing that their champagne creation had become an enduring legacy.
By the 1950s, as the second generation of Korbels successfully carried on the family tradition of producing fine California champagnes, the large winery building – constructed from the Korbel brothers’ own handmade bricks nearly 70 years earlier – had been expanded, and more vineyards had been planted. Eventually, the surviving Korbel family members decided that it was time to sell the winery and vineyards – but on very specific terms. They insisted that the new owner, Adolf Heck, carry on the Korbel tradition of producing fine California champagnes using méthode champenoise.
In 1966, Adolf invented and patented the first automatic riddling machine, which allowed each bottle of KORBEL California Champagne to undergo exact turns at precise times. That ensured consistent taste and quality in every bottle. Adolf Heck set out to pioneer what he described as “California-style” champagnes, which displayed more fruit and less yeast than European champagnes.
In 1984, Adolf’s son, Gary Heck, was named Korbel Winery’s Chairman of the Board. He has been active in nearly every aspect of the winery operation, from harvesting grapes by hand to sales administration. Under his guidance, KORBEL enjoyed double-digit growth during the 1980s, and the brand currently sells more than 1.3 million cases annually.* KORBEL is a name that tells the unique story of two families – their dreams and dedication – and it stands for over 130 years of fine méthode champenoise California champagnes. Toast Life®!
*The Wine Handbook 2013, Beverage Information Group (BIG)
Public Winery Tours
Visitors to the Korbel Winery may enjoy a 50-minute tour through our historic champagne cellars and history museum, ending with a tasting of our finest products. Public tours and tastings are complimentary (for groups of less than 20) and are offered at the following times:
(Apr 1-Oct 31)
(Nov 1-Mar 31)
Reservations are not accepted for public tours, but are required for groups of 20 or more. Please see Private Winery Tours for more information.
Private Winery Tours
For a more personalized experience, or for those celebrating a special occasion, Korbel offers private tours and tastings led by a dedicated tour guide. The private tours and tastings require a reservation made a minimum of 10 days in advance and with a minimum of 10 guests in the party, and are based upon availability. Parties of 20 or more must have a reservation. All private reservations are treated to a 15% discount on KORBEL products*. The cost is $20/pp.
Private tours are offered at the following times:
(Apr 1-Oct 31)
(Nov 1-Mar 31)
Additionally, boxed lunches may be arranged for your group. See the “Gourmet Delicatessen” tab for more information.
For more information about tours, visit the FAQs tab. To inquire about availability, contact Reservations Coordinator at (707) 824-7709, or e-mail: [email protected]. Ask about our Private Group Menu options as well.
*Restrictions may apply.
Planted in the 1880s as an enhancement to the Korbel family summer home, the gardens fully came into their own a century later when our master horticulturist transformed the grounds into a magnificent array of colors, textures and aromas that shift with the seasons and the Sonoma County weather.
The Korbel Gardens’ impressive collection of more than 150 varieties of roses, including the famous “Lamarque Rose,” a climbing rose that is over 100-years old – lie in hedge-lined beds in front of the circa-1882 Korbel family home. In addition, a wide range of perennials, shrubs, redwood, linden, dogwood and flowering plum trees, and plants native to the redwood forest surround the Antique Rose Garden.
Our complimentary garden tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday, at 1:00pm and 3:00pm, from mid-April to mid-October. The garden is closed every Monday unless it is a holiday, in which case it will be closed on that Tuesday. The garden is closed from mid-October to mid-April. Exact dates vary. Please inquire before visiting.
Delicatessen & Market
Complete your visit to the Korbel Winery with lunch at the Korbel Delicatessen & Market. Sit on the outdoor decks among the majestic redwoods while enjoying a delicious bite paired with a favorite sparkling varietal.
Are reservations required for tours and tastings?
Reservations are not required for groups of 19 or less. Paid reservations are required for groups of 20 or more. See Private Winery Tours for more information.
Check pricing and availability by contacting our Reservations Coordinator at [email protected] or by phone (707) 824-7709. To ensure a wonderful experience for all of our guests, groups of 20 or more who arrive without a confirmed reservation may be turned away.
How much do tours and tastings cost?
Public tours and tastings are always complimentary. Parties of 10 or more may book a private tour, which includes a tasting. Cost is $20/pp. Contact our Reservations Coordinator at [email protected] or by phone (707) 824-7709 for booking information. Reservations are required for groups of 20 or more guests.
I am visiting with a group but will not be tasting. May I tour for free?
Public history tours and tastings are always complimentary; groups of 20 or more require a reservation. The cost is $20/pp.
May I drop-in for a tasting?
Yes, drop-ins are welcome! Our tasting room is open daily (see our schedule at Winery Tours). However, groups of 20 or more that arrive without a confirmed reservation may be turned away.
Am I allowed to bring my own food and beverages?
All food and beverages must be purchased onsite through either our Wine Shop or Delicatessen. Our Delicatessen offers a large assortment of sandwiches, salads, cheeses, desserts, and beverages (both alcoholic and non-), which can be enjoyed either indoors or in one of our outdoor seating areas. We do not allow decorations or any outside food or beverages.
For a private dining experience, groups of 20 or more can reserve space on our Upper Deli Deck with the purchase of food and beverages from our Private Group Menu options. For more information, contact our Reservations Coordinator: [email protected] or (707) 824-7709.
How large of a group can you accommodate?
We can easily accommodate groups of up to 50. And, with some flexibility, we can customize the Korbel experience for parties of up to 100. Contact our Reservations Coordinator at (707) 824-7709 or [email protected] for more information.
Do you take reservations for seating at your delicatessen?
The Delicatessen has unreserved indoor and outdoor (depending on the season) seating available for its customers. Additionally, we have menu options for private bookings for groups of 20 or more that prefer a reserved dining space. Inquire about availability and pricing by contacting our Reservations Coordinator at (707) 824-7709 or [email protected]. Pre-ordered boxed lunches can be ready for pick-up at any time. Please note that large parties without a pre-order may incur wait times in the Delicatessen of 20-30 minutes.
Do you allow pets?
Of course! Pets are allowed in our designated pet-friendly areas. Please note that animals are not allowed in the Delicatessen, the tasting room, or on the tours, unless they are a registered service animal. Pets must be leashed at all times.
Do you allow children?
Guests under the age of 21 are allowed if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
When is the winery closed?
The Korbel Winery is closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.
Location & Hours
13250 River Road
Guerneville, CA 95446
Due to COVID-19, all tours and tastings are suspended. To read our full response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation click here.
Curbside Pickup Is Now Available.
Wine Club: 707-824-7290
Wine Shop: 707-824-7316
From San Francisco International Airport
Take 101 North to 380 West. Take 380 West to 280 North. Get off on the 19th Avenue exit in San Francisco. Follow 19th Avenue to the Golden Gate Bridge. Cross the bridge, and continue on 101 North approximately 60 miles to the River Road exit (three miles north of Santa Rosa). Go west on River Road 12 miles to the Korbel Winery.
Take 128 North through Calistoga. A half-mile past the three-way stop in Calistoga, turn left on Petrified Forest Road (a winding road over a mountain), then turn right on Mark West Springs Road (also known as Porter Creek Road). Mark West Springs Road becomes River Road when it meets Highway 101. Go west on River Road 12 miles to the Korbel Winery.
Take 12 North to Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa. Turn left and go approximately two miles to the Highway 12 extension. Take Highway 12 to 101 North, and then 101 North to the River Road exit. Go west on River Road 12 miles to the Korbel Winery.
Father’s Day Festivities Under The Redwoods
Treat Dad to a close up view of the classic cars from KORBEL’s racing team! Exciting photo opportunities with Dad on our promenade, music and food.View Event
5th Annual Bubbles & Bags Cornhole Tournament
Join us for a friendly elimination-style cornhole tournament, complete with a second chance bracket.View Event
Korbel Local Music Saturdays
Nothing can be finer than a lazy summer afternoon on our beautiful deck overlooking vineyards and the majestic redwoods.View Event