Blood, Sweat, and Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Kosta Browne

Kosta Browne is a very storied, highly sought-after winery whose Pinot Noir amassed a cult following over the years. The “winery” started in 1997 with two friends, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne, who both happened to work at a restaurant in Santa Rosa but desired to make their own Pinot Noir. Every night they both worked in the restaurant, each would save $10 of their tips stashed in an envelope in Dan’s desk (he was the restaurant’s GM and Michael was the sommelier). Once their savings grew to about $1,000, they were (almost) ready to make wine.

Short in their ability to purchase both grapes and machinery to produce wine, Dan and Michael received $400 from a chef at the restaurant to push them to their goal. With $1,400 to their mutual name, they spent $400 on winemaking equipment and $1,000 on grapes from Everett Ridge in the Russian River Valley which allowed them to produce one barrel of wine (24 cases when all said and done). Most of this barrel went to VIP restaurant patrons, and as it emptied KB turned to Sauvignon Blanc due to its lower-priced grapes and no need for barrels to age. This Sauvignon Blanc allowed them to turn profit more quickly, paving the way for a return to their focus on Pinot Noir.

Following that batch of Sauvignon Blanc, in 2000 Michael networked tirelessly to find someone willing to sell him (a small, unknown producer) high quality Pinot Noir grapes. His efforts paid off when he convinced John Ferrington, the former assistant winemaker at Williams Selyem, to connect him with the owners of Cohn Vineyard who ultimately sold him grapes. As their second batch of Pinot aged in the barrels, Michael constructed a business plan and the pair partnered with investors to augment their return to Pinot Noir.

Now, I would love to run through more of the history of Kosta Browne but it is quite an extensive story with many trials and tribulations along the way. Even more so following what I wrote above! I encourage you to visit their website, which provides all you will ever need to know.

Note: Duckhorn Wine Company purchased Kosta Browne last year. At that time, KB’s waiting list consisted of 30,000 members who account for 85% of the 30,000 case annual production. The remaining 15% typically goes to restaurants or high-end wine stores in small quantities. It will be interesting to see how Duckhorn’s ownership affects the KB brand.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.6% ABV

Though I’ve been familiar with Kosta Browne for quite some time, this is actually my first time drinking a bottle. The wine is bright, clear ruby red in appearance with hues of rose petal toward the rim of the glass. On the nose are aromas of crushed raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate, florals, a touch of leather, and a waning hint of alcohol. In the mouth, the palate showcases notes of sweet cherry, ripe red berries, spice box, green herbs, and vanilla. Medium-bodied and elegant, this Pinot shows moderately high acidity, low tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Overall a very velvety wine that will only get better with a few more years in the bottle.

Price: $140. This is definitely pricey for a Pinot, however given its rarity I see why it is priced this way. There are certainly other Pinots that deliver a stronger QPR (even their “entry” Sonoma Coast can be found online for $80), but if you really want to make an entrance and tell your company an incredible wine story, grab a bottle of single vineyard Kosta Browne…if you can find one.

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