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Korbel's Key People
Chef de Cave
Korbel Cellars has been producing wine since 1882. They began making sparkling wine using the traditional method in the 1890s.. The winery has used the term California "champagne" for more than a century and contends that the word "champagne" is a generic term regardless of the site of production.
The three Korbel brothers, Anton, Francis and Joseph, were emigrants from what is now Czechoslovakia. Francis had been arrested during a protest of the monarchy in Prague and escaped from prison after two years confinement and fled the country. His brothers joined him in New York and they eventual made their way to California. Francis and his brothers started a cigar box manufacturing business in San Francisco and purchased land in Sonoma county for the redwood timber.
After a fire destroyed their factory in 1876, they focused their efforts on the timber business in Sonoma. After most of the trees had been cut down, they looked for new ways to profit from the land and eventually decided the area was ideal for grapes and a winery. The wine business grew throughout the 1880s and in the mid 1890s, the first sparkling wine was produced after Franz Hazek came on board as a winemaker. During Prohibition the winery was allowed to make and sell small amounts of wine for religious and medicinal purposes.The winery was passed down to family members after the three brothers died. The family eventually decided to sell the winery after World War II with an agreement that the Korbel name would continue. It was sold to three brothers from Alsace, France: Paul, Ben and Adolf Heck in 1954. Adolf, the oldest took the reins and brought new creativity to the winery. He had already established himself as a winemaker at other wineries across the country. Adolf''s son, Gary, was appointed president in 1982. In 2003, Finnish born Paul Ahvenainen was appointed Director of Winemaking.
Korbel contines to label their sparkling wine "California champagne". The term "champagne" has been widely used in countries other than France until recently when the European Union and organizations such as the Comite Interprofessional du Vin de Champagne objected to the use of the term "champagne" on labels of wines not specifically produced in the Champagne region of France. Korbel asserts that the term is used generically and points out that the law allows producers who have a long term established reputation and identity linked to the branding of their products to continue using that branding.
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