One of the best historical tours is at the home of America’s best-selling sparkling wine maker—which, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, is permitted to call itself a champagne maker (usually only wineries in the Champagne region of France may do so). Korbel was started here in 1882 by a Czech cigar-box maker who got in trouble back home for political unrest; his mom snuck him out of prison by smuggling civilian clothes under her skirts during a visit. That story is interesting enough, but the place is full of stuff like that—for example, the cleared area in front of the work buildings was once the site of the train line to San Francisco (50-min. tours of the property start in the old railway station). The old winery is now a history center, with lots of period winemaking implements and photographs, including some fascinating snaps of the property when it was full of redwood stumps. (They called Guerneville “Stumptown” then.) Guides keep things witty and fresh; you’ll learn a lot about the tools and the process of champagne-making wrapped in a mini-history of the area. Free tours (which include four tastings) run daily, every hour in winter, every 45 minutes in summer. Mid-April to mid-October, daily except Mondays at 1pm and 3pm, there’s also a rose garden tour: The rose gardens feature more than 250 varieties of roses, many of them antiques planted by the first Czech immigrants. Interestingly, although 1.3 million cases a year are made here, only eight people work in the factory, which probably means your tour group will outnumber them.
Sonoma Valley› Attraction
13250 River Rd., Guerneville
Our Rating Neighborhood Guerneville Hours Shop/Tasting room open daily 10am–4:30pm Phone 707/824-7000 Web site Korbel
Map13250 River Rd., Guerneville Sonoma Valley
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