I was at my favorite local wine shop on New Year’s Eve afternoon looking for something to toast in 2023 when I spied this very aesthetically pleasing bottle that I had never seen before. The bottle is pretty, but I also think I might have been drawn to the logo as it reminded me of a shop sign I stopped to take a picture of in Arles, France.
I am an unashamed label lover. I will buy a wine based on the label and I’m not even a little bit sorry about that. I rarely am disappointed. My defense of this position is well articulated in an early article I wrote, which you can read here if you like.
The shop was sold out of my favorite NYE Champagne – Paul Roger – it was afterall last minute shopping on my part. I chose this pretty bottle, because I was intrigued that I had never seen or heard of this wine. It wasn’t a huge risk at $22. Not only did it turn out to be remarkably good, the story of the Kornell family in Napa Valley is a great one and I immediately wanted to share.
Paula Kornell Sparkling Wine is a newcomer to the California sparkling wine scene, started in 2019 with the 2017 vintage. The woman behind it, who’s name graces the label is not a newcomer though. In fact, she is a native Napa Valley resident and represents the second generation of a legacy her father began in 1958 with Hanns Kornell Champagne.
The story in the U.S. begins in 1939, when Hanns Kornell arrived in New York after being released from the Dachau Concentration Camp, with just 48 hours to leave Germany. He boarded a boat from England to the U.S., and made it to New York with $2 to his name. He hitchhiked across the country to arrive in California, and although his own company is not born for many years, the rest, as they say, is history. But what a history it is.
Paula grew up in the vineyards and winery at her father’s side, just as Hanns had in Germany with his father. In 1992 the Hanns Kornell Champagne winery doors were closed, but Paula stayed in the industry her entire adult life and brings 30 years of experience to her new venture. She, like her mother, is an integral part of the Napa Valley community. She has served as Chair of the Auction Napa Valley several times and also served as President of the Napa Valley Vintners Association. I’m so glad she added Paula Kornell Sparkling Wine to her list of accomplishments.
Paula Kornell|California Sparkling|Brut|12% ABV|$22.00
This wine is an incredible value. It is non-vintage so I cannot tell you if this from the inaugural release. The composition is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, with grapes from sustainably farmed sources throughout California.
Traditionally made sparkling wine is labor intensive and the process is long, resulting in wines that are expensive. There are precious few in the under $25 range that make an impression like this one.
The first aromas from this wine are toast and bread, followed by fruit and floral notes that were so varied it really surprised me. Citrus, stone fruit, flower. I am terrible at identifying floral notes so when I am to pick them up, I get excited. It all carried over to the palate with a touch of stone minerality. Great acidity, excellent effervescence, it’s all there. This wine is a keeper that I will definitely be purchasing again.
Perhaps I am one of few people who did not know about the Hanns Kornell story, but since wine is my side hustle and I read, listen and watch all things wine, I was really surprised to find the incredible history and legacy behind this bottle I picked up by chance at the last minute on New Year’s Eve. Cheers to Paula Kornell Sparkling Wine.
I hope 2023 is full of this kind of energy!