Kosta Browne might not be a household name, even among wine lovers. But those who know this California boutique winery willingly wait as long as six years to purchase bottles of its single vineyard pinot noirs.
Kosta Browne’s pinot noir was Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2011.
Founder and winemaker Michael Browne talked passionately about what he does and why he does it.
“When I enter the barrel room (where the wines ferment in oak barrels), it’s full of life and energy,” Mr. Browne told guests. “I get chills. It’s like having 500 horses. I pat my barrels like the bellies of horses and say, ‘What are you going to do?’”
He and co-founders Dan Kosta and Chris Costello team up with grape farmers who are as committed to producing great grapes as Kosta Browne is to making superior wine.
The result is intensely flavored and balanced pinot noirs and chardonnay wines from select regions in California, including the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations.
While Mr. Browne plays a major role in the winemaking process, he says most of the credit goes to the terroir of the Russian River Valley, “one of the best places on the planet to grow pinot noir grapes.” When the grapes are planted correctly and the right farmers pick the fruit at its peak, he adds, “the winemaker has to do very little to produce superb wine. Mother Nature is in control.”
Noted wine writer James Laube had this to say in the June 4, 2012, Wine Spectator: “In the span of a decade, the Kosta Browne winery has established itself as one of the beacons of California Pinot Noir,” adding that it is “a model for excellence and consistency.”
The winery’s eight single vineyard designation pinot noirs consistently score in the mid-’90s in Wine Spectator reviews.
Browne and Kosta came to winemaking through a dream they shared while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, Calif., where they waited tables and tended bar.
They decided that on the nights they worked together, they would put away $10 of their tips and, after a few months, had enough money to buy half a ton of pinot noir grapes.
The year was 2000.
Mr. Browne had spent several years sampling all sorts of wines and volunteering at Deerfield Ranch Winery starting in 1997, rising to co-winemaker in 2000.
What is today a multimillion-dollar company with a brand-new winery in the Sonoma County town of Sebastopol started with one used barrel and an old hand-crank crusher-stemmer. They learned by trial and error.
In 2001, their wine was “not good,” Mr. Browne said. The ’02, however, rated a 92 from Wine Spectator, and things happened quickly from then on.