In the history of California and Napa Valley winemaking, the Kornell family is one of the most important and inspirational stories you will find.
Hanns Kornell was born in Lubinitz, Germany in 1911, the third generation of a winemaking family producing German Sekt. During World War II, in 1938, Hanns was sent to Dachau concentration camp with his Jewish parents. The British Consul to Germany appealed for 8 months to win his release, with the stipulation that he leave Germany within 48 hours. He fled to England, where he worked as a dishwasher to save money for passage to the United States. The ship he was on to the US was torpedoed by a German submarine, luckily Hanns was rescued, and made his way to New York. He hitchhiked to California, working odd jobs, and was soon making sparkling wine for other winemakers. In 1958, Hanns had saved enough money to acquire the historic Larkmead Cellar south of Calistoga, and renamed it Kornell Champagne Cellars. Hanns was the first producer of traditional “méthode champenoise” sparkling wine in Napa Valley, and helped lead the growth of quality sparkling wine in the US, until he closed his winery in 1992. Hanns Kornell passed away in 1994.
Paula Kornell worked at her family’s winery from an early age, and learned about winemaking from her father. Over the years, she has worked as General Manager of Vichon Winery, Carmenet Winery, and Oakville Ranch Vineyards, as well as starting her own consulting company – Kornell Wine Company. All the while, she has dreamed of carrying on her family’s legacy of sparkling wine, and in 2019 – she was finally able to realize that dream.
In the fall of 2019, Paula Kornell released the inaugural vintage of her Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Wines. The entry-tier sparkling is a non-vintage California Brut, comprised of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, with lots of juicy fruit and a touch of sweetness on the finish. She also produces a Napa Valley Blanc de Noirs (98% Pinot Noir, 2% Chardonnay) from vineyards in Carneros, which is already garnering great press: 95 pts Wine Enthusiast (Editor’s Choice) and 91 pts Wine Spectator.
Both of these sparklings are brand new to North Carolina – I encourage you to pick up a bottle, give a nod to the rich history of the Kornells, and give them a try! Cheers!