Champagne grapes like cooler climates, so it makes sense that Korbel Cellars (13250 River Rd., Guerneville, 707/824-7000, www.korbel.com, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., until 5 p.m. May–Oct., first three tastes free), the leading producer of California champagnes, maintains a winery and tasting room on the Sonoma coast. The large, lush estate welcomes visitors with elaborate landscaping and attractive buildings, including a small area serving as a visitors center.
Tours of the estate are offered several times daily for a fee. Inside the tasting room, visitors get to sample far more than the ubiquitous Korbel Brut that appears each New Year’s. Korbel makes and sells a wide variety of high-end champagnes, plus a few boutique still wines and a line of brandies.
You can’t taste the brandy (that’s a different and harder-to-obtain liquor license), but you can purchase it from the winery store. The facility also has a full-service gourmet deli and picnic grounds for tasters who want to stop for lunch.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition