I recently had the opportunity to visit Korbel - the makers of the relatively inexpensive champagne of the same name and the tasting I had was a lot more wonderful than I had anticipated. This very large Sonoma institution packs a really powerful punch in regards to the tastings offered, the beauty of the compound, and overall customer service.
When visiting Korbel you have the opportunity to taste 4 of their champagnes and wines - absolutely free. While I was there I tried the Blanc de Noirs, Sweet Rosé, and Chardonnay champagnes as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon (they make wine, too!) and all of them were fabulous. The experience was much more enjoyable than I had anticipated as this company is considered on the lower end of the spectrum and my expectations may not have been the highest. If you are ever in Sonoma - near Guerneville, CA (possibly the gayest small town in the world) - the visit is well worth it.
Check out the plethora of leather and daddy bars while in town and then venture outside to 13250 River Rd Guerneville, CA 95446 for a memorable champagne (and wine) experience.
A little history and information from the makers:
The Korbels, born in the farmlands of the province of Bohemia (today's western 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. As Northern California’s lumber boom slowed, the Korbels turned their attention to farming the bottomlands of their Russian River Valley ranch. Here the soil was sandy, the mornings were filled with fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean, and summer days were long with sunshine.
It would be in this valley that the Korbels' love of the land, their unmatched enthusiasm for hard work and their spirit for enterprise would lead them to create a great American champagne.
All KORBEL champagnes are made according to the traditional méthode champenoise technique, where the champagne is fermented inside the same bottle from which it is served. This time-honored process takes almost a year to complete. But the results are worth the wait. The taste of the méthode champenoise style is famous for its delicate nuances along with producing the countless streams of dazzling bubbles in every glass of KORBEL California Champagne.