California Champagne, Brut. Hanns Kornell| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | December 1983

The story of Hanns Kornell could be another of Horatio Alger’s writings. Now a fourth generation champagne making family, the founder and still the operator of this enterprise came to the United States in 1940 with $3.62 in his pocket! The gathering war clouds in Germany warned him to leave the family vineyard and immigrate. He brought with him other wealth… that of experience.

At the age of 5, Hanns had cleaned wine bottles for his grandfather in the cellar of his vineyards in Upper Silesia. During his school years his father taught him the art of tasting. He attended Geisenheim Enology Institute, followed by expe­rience in the French cham­pagne vineyards at Epernay. A stint in Italy learning ver­mouth production, and another in England mastering the bottling process all added to this wealth. As a young man of 28, he was ready to take on the promised land!

Thirteen years later, and several wine and cham­pagne making jobs in the interim, Hanns leased a run­down winery in Sonoma and started making his own cham­pagne. For six years he bottled and riddled at night and sold in the daytime. He saved enough to buy his own building near St. Helena in Napa Valley. He had 5000 bottles in his inventory at that time. Now, this stone building, dating from 1842, houses over 3 million bottles of champagne at various stages of ageing!

Hanns, his wife Marie­louise (ne Rossini, another California wine family), and their two children are in fact Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars. Paula is marketing manager and Peter works with Hanns closely so he can take over the title of “Champagne Master to America” someday.

All Kornell champagnes are made by the traditional “methode champenoise” of France. The secondary fermen­tation to produce the effer­vescence happens in the same bottle the champagne is sold in, and is designated by “this bottle” on each label. There the similarity to French champagne stops. Hanns favors Johannisberg Riesling as his main grape. (The French use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). He also uses Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in his blending before the secondary fermen­tation. He has no vineyards His still wine is purchased from other vintners, based on taste. His palate is so good, that the several types of cham­pagne he makes are amazingly consistent from year to year.

Our wine is light golden straw color. It has a deli­cate fruity and yeast nose. Fragrant and pleasing. The taste is light and subtle at first, followed by fruit, and finishing with an assertive yeast flavor. It is dry, but with smooth edges. The finish is long. The beads are fine. Serve well chilled with mild flavor hors d’oeuvres, light cheeses, and the ultimate – caviar with blinis.

Cellaring Notes: Ready for drinking and not for ageing.

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