Styling with Kosta Browne
Recently, I organized a tasting of the 2007 lineup of Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge
Restaurant in Costa Mesa, California. Many in attendance are die hard fans of Kosta Browne wines and were
thrilled with the opportunity to taste the entire 2007 portfolio at one setting. There was general agreement that
the chef offered a superb menu to compliment the wines. All nine wines were poured before the dinner to allow
drinkers to sample the wines in any order and play with them with the various food courses. I do not have
detailed tasting notes on the wines as this was a social dinner with plenty of bonhomie in the air. I will report
some general impressions.
Dan Kosta was a native of Sonoma who grew up around wine. Michael Browne was born in the San Francisco
Bay Area but grew up in Washington State. The pair became friends at John Ash & Co. Restaurant in Santa
Rosa when Dan was the sommelier and Michael was a waiter. They developed a deep love of wine and food
and the agricultural pursuit of winegrowing, and had a desire to be involved with a winery. Michael, whose goal
was to make a living as a winemaker, left John Ash & Co. and became an assistant winemaker at Deerfield
Ranch Winery in Sonoma Valley. He never received formal training in winemaking, but his superb palate and
passion allowed him to become quickly accomplished. Before Michael left in 1997, the pair saved their tips,
bought a half ton of Pinot Noir, a single barrel, and a used hand-cranked de-stemmer and crusher and
produced their first vintage together. By 1999, they had attracted investment partners and started their
commercial label, crafting 2,600 cases of Lake County Sauvignon Blanc. This venture proved financially
unrewarding and the principals parted ways. In 2001, Dan and Michael teamed with Chris Costello and family
who provided a fiscally conservative and thoughtful business plan, and success followed shortly thereafter.
The 2003 vintage Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs were all awarded scores ranging from 90 to 96 by James Laube of
the Wine Spectator
and recognition came quickly. The mailing list quickly filled up and Kosta Browne was on
every pinotphile’s radar. In September, 2009, the Kosta Browne brand was sold to Vincraft for an estimated
$30 to $40 million dollars, with Dan, Chris and Michael staying on in their respective sales and marketing,
management, and winemaking roles. Pictured below are partners (L to R) Dan Kosta, Chris Costello, and
Today, Kosta Browne wines are crafted in a spacious facility in the former Vacu-Dry apple processing facility in
Sebastopol. The so-called “Kosta Browne style” has received considerable praise from the press and
consumers, while alienating some purists. The Pinot Noirs are a riper style, from grapes picked at advanced
maturity, highly flavorful, and intensely fruity that are very drinkable young. They are not crafted with food
compatibility as the foremost goal, although recent vintages work nicely with many dishes as we found out in
the wine dinner reported here. In 2006, Michael Browne said of his style, “It’s nontraditional now, but in thirty
years, this will be the traditional style of Pinot Noir.”
The winemaking regimen for the single vineyard Pinot Noirs is as follows. Grapes are harvested relatively ripe
(24.0º to 27.2º Brix), 0% to 30% whole cluster (Keefer, Rosella’s and 4-Barrel are 100% de-stemmed), cold
soaked for 5 days, inoculated fermentations lasting 9 days on average with 1 to 2 punch downs per day in 1-
ton and 5-ton open top stainless steel and wood vessels, barrel aged for 16 months in 48% to 56% new French
Total annual production is 10,500 cases of Pinot Noir sold almost exclusively through the mailing list.
Magnums and larger formats are also produced, but never sold to the mailing list members because of
allocation challenges, and are, instead, donated to various charity auctions. Dan and Michael are very active
supporters and participants in many wine related events and charities and are much respected for their
For further information, visit the informative website at www.kostabrowne.com. Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs are
available on the secondary market with the single-vineyard bottling (retail $72) selling for $100 to $160
depending on the wine and its score in the wine press.
2007 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.66, $56. Amber Ridge, Castaldi
Vineyard, Copain, Keefer Ranch, Koplen, Nonella and O’Neel vineyards. 46% new French oak for 16 months.
Lightest in weight of the lineup with attractive Bing cherry aromas and flavors and bright acidity. Although the
wine lacks conviction and impact, and is a bit pale in comparison to the wines to follow, it is true to the Russian
River Valley theme. It is unfair to judge this wine side-by-side against the vineyard designates for they steal
2007 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.69, $56. Dutton Manzana, Gap’s Crown,
Kanzler, and Terra de Promissio vineyards.
Very dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Earthy with profuse
thick, ripe, dark fruit. Richly flavored and needs food like the short ribs or mushroom risotto to tame its intense
and savory nature.
2007 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel Sonoma County Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.55, 91 cases, $72. Four special barrels from 70
different lots of Pinot Noir. Made with no respect to vineyard or appellation but in this vintage three barrels
came from the Russian River Valley (Amber Ridge, Keefer Ranch, Koplen) and one from the Sonoma Coast
This wine rules and was the king of the tasting. Not the most aromatic, but the most satisfying on
the palate showing a velvety texture that is pure decadence. Richly flavored darker fruits coat every nook and
cranny in the mouth, seemingly expanding in intensity as the attack fades to the huge finish. I loved it with the
beef tenderloin. I get the feeling that this wine will evolve beautifully, reaching its apogee in another 2 to 3
years. It is a shame there is so little of this wine so that few will have the experience.
2007 Kosta Browne Amber Ridge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.60, 727 cases, $72.
Clones 115, 667 and 777. Owned by Nickel & Nickel Winery and managed by Bacchus Vineyard
Management. Located next to Gary Farrell’s Starr Ridge Vineyard.
Lacking aromatic interest but offering rich
black cherry flavors and a pleasing soft texture. Couldn’t find a lot to rave about but a solid wine.
2007 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.71, 436 cases,
$72. Pisoni clone. Third vintage from this vineyard. Cropped at 3.4 tons per acre average.
The queen of the
tasting. A charming wine that exudes charisma from the enticing spiced cherry aromatics to the discreetly
concentrated core of cherry and berry fruit. Very silky in the mouth with a pleasingly bright and focused quality
to the fruit.
2007 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., pH 3.60, 803 cases, $72.
Clones 115, 667 and Pommard. Cropped at 3 tons per acre.
Intensely fruity showing copious blackberry, black
cherry and dark plum fruits with notes of soy sauce and cola. Well-muscled with forceful ripe tannins which are
supple creating a soft mouth feel. A bit of alcohol shows up on the finish. Pairs very well with the short ribs.
2007 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH 3.55, 615 cases, $72.
This 50-acre vineyard (30 acres of Pinot Noir) is in the Green Valley appellation farmed by Marcy Keefer and
Craig Strehlow. Planted to nine clones, six of which are in this wine.
Lighter and redder in color in the glass.
Marvelous nose of bright Bing cherries, baking spice and cherry cola. The fruit is beautifully framed by supple
tannins and lively acidity creating a satisfying finish. A knockout paired with the duck.
2007 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.61, 867 cases,
$72. 5-acre vineyard owned and farmed by Dennis and Lynn Koplen located in the Middle Reach of the
Russian River Valley appellation, and planted to clone 667. Kosta Browne is the only beneficiary of fruit from
this vineyard. Cropped at 3.5 tons per acre. 30% whole cluster.
Darker in all respects in the fruit and spice
aromas and flavors. Interesting accents of black cherry cola and mocha. Firm, but not aggressive tannins.
The group’s consensus top three? Garys’ Vineyard, Koplen Vineyard, and 4-Barrel.