Started by three brothers in 1882, Korbel has been a locally owned family business for more than 130 years. The Heck family purchased the property from the Korbel Brothers in 1954, keeping the operation and ownership local.
“Korbel is family owned,” said John Bidia, Director of Vineyard Operations for Korbel, “most people think it’s a major corporation, but it isn’t.”
Bidia has worked for Korbel for 36 years, starting out as a vineyard worker and working his way up. He now manages Korbel’s 1,000 acres of vineyard, with 450 acres in Sonoma County west of 101. Bidia has also been on the Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors for 17 years.
Located near the Russian River in Guerneville, Korbel has 350 employees who are proud of what they’re doing. Korbel is known for primarily producing sparkling wine, but they also produce brandy and a smaller quantity of still wine that is available for purchase at their tasting room. Korbel ferments and ages all their sparkling wine in the bottle.
For Korbel, the future holds the release of a Sauvignon Blanc. They are also in the process of being certified sustainable and expect to have accomplished this by mid-year.
Bidia said that one of Korbel’s biggest challenges is their close proximity to the Russian River and its riparian area. He remembers the efforts of the Farm Bureau two years ago as they advocated for property owners near riparian areas and had setbacks and grandfather clauses put into the new legislation.
Without the Farm Bureau’s effort on the riparian act, Korbel would have had to move back more than 200 feet. Bidia said that more than half of their Guerneville vineyards would have been wiped out.
Bidia also referenced other legislative issues that have significantly contributed to Korbel’s success including the Rural Heritage Initiative and the Ground Water Sustainability Act. “For everything the Farm Bureau is doing for its members, premium membership is well worth it,” said Bidia.
Bidia noted that one of the biggest differences between the Farm Bureau and other organizations looking out for agriculture is that the Farm Bureau protects all aspects of agriculture, not just one commodity or certain legislative aspects.
“Whether you are a two acre backyard farmer or a 2,000 acre corporation, it’s all the same – the Farm Bureau is looking out for the best interests of all agriculturalists,” said Bidia.
“The Farm Bureau is your best bang for your buck,” Bidia said. “They’re at the table on all issues at the state, local and federal level.”
“Without the Farm Bureau,” Bidia said, “Sonoma County would just end up looking like San Jose.”