Just about a month ago I published an article about the top five American sparkling wines under $20. One of the choices I made, Korbel, was a bit controversial. I am not exactly sure why, but wine lovers across the country seem to love to bash Korbel and for a long while I was one of them. Perhaps it is due to the fact that they insist on still calling it “American Champagne” even though the French have made it abundantly clear that they do not think it is very “cool” to do so (feel free to interject your own comment about my use of “French” and “cool” in the same sentence). There were at least a few comments that fell just short of berating me for choosing the Korbel over the crowd favorite, Domaine Ste Michelle.
I am the first to admit that I used to be a Korbel basher myself–until I stumbled upon the tasting room one day while driving around Sonoma. I had an hour or so before my next tasting appointment, it was blazing hot, and I was craving some bubbly. So I went in to what I called at the time “the belly of the beast” (I have a flair for the dramatic).
I was pleasantly surprised. The wines were all quite drinkable and some were even dare I say “good”? I even considered buying a bottle, but it was $30 (I do have my limits and after all, it was Korbel). I did buy a t-shirt though (to be worn in situations where it would seem ironic or iconoclastic) and left with an appreciation for the brand, but had yet to have ever purchased a bottle.
As a result of the comments on last month’s article, I decided to have a little blind tasting of the two wines to see if I was way off the mark here. I went to the local PLCB store and picked up a bottle of the Domaine Ste Michelle ($12 found everywhere else on the planet for under $10) and a bottle of Korbel “Natural” ($17 at the PLCB and $14 everywhere else including Korbel’s own website).
Then I took a moment.
Not only did I just buy my first bottle of Korbel, but I paid $17 (plus tax) for it.
At the last minute, I decided to record the event and as you can tell by the video, this is not my day job. My older son was using his mother’s iPhone to record and at the last minute, my younger son expressed a desire to be in the “production”. I figured he would be a natural since 1) he is a complete ham; 2) he loves sparkling wine; and 3) he has me wrapped around his little finger so I really could not refuse.
I know my video skills need work, and I have a huge forehead, but let me know what you think