by Fred McMillin
for April 24, 1997

How to Have a Sparkling Passover

Prologue: Born in Bohemia, Joseph was a gunsmith, Anton a locksmith and Francis a cigarmaker. The odds were a million to one as they sailed to America in 1850 that they would found a sparkling wine company with sales today of over a million cases a year, including their latest creation, the first Kosher American Champagne certified by the rabbinical Union of Orthodox Congregations. Here are some of the milestones along the way:


1882—The three Korbel brothers built their winery in the Russian River Valley, which you can still see today.

1895—Fermented in the bottle as it still is, Korbel's American Champagne is gaining international acclaim.

1934—The first case produced after the repeal of Prohibition is sent by the second generation of Korbels to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

1941—America's preeminent wine journalist, Frank Schoonmaker, writes: "Korbel Cellars is among the most picturesque of California, with great redwood stumps twenty feet across, still standing among the vines...it is the largest producer of good California Champagne." [Nestled among the giant redwoods, it is just as charming today...a great stop on your personal wine country tour.]

1997—With annual sales of over a million cases of seven different sparklers, Korbel adds an eighth. It's Kosher, made in a popular style...a touch of sugar...subdued yeast and acids...not too intense for the casual consumer.

Kosher California Champagne
"Fermented in This Bottle"
Korbel Champagne Cellars
Guerneville, Sonoma County, CA
Contact—Margie Healy, Ph. (707)869-6715

Category: Recommended for a sparkling Passover

Postscript: In 1935, second-generation Tony Korbel knew a bargain when he saw it. He bought Northwestern Pacific's old railway depot for what would become a tasting room. The cost? $5!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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