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Kosta Browne Proud of New Digs

Kosta Browne has a sparkling new state-of-the-art winery in the Barlow complex in downtown Sebastopol. Construction was largely completed in the fall of 2012 allowing the 2011 wines to be bottled there, but 2012 is the first vintage produced entirely within the facility. Kosta Browne becomes the first bonded winery within the city limits of Sebastopol.

The former Barlow Apple Factory (the Barlow family started the first commercial applesauce business in the United States before going out of business in 2004) has been reinvented to showcase both production and retail for artisan producers and is the first of its kind in the country. It will allow an environment where a concentrated number of artists, craftspeople, food and wine artisans and consumers can connect and socialize. The 220,000-square-foot Barlow complex will have parks, gardens, an event center, bocce ball courts, children’s play areas and the Sebastopol farmer’s market.

The new project is very tastefully designed with buildings constructed with corrugated metal to duplicate in a modern fashion the look of the historic apple processing plant. The remaining corrugated-metal structures on the property were sandblasted to remove old paint. The exterior of Kosta Browne winery is shown below.

Michael Browne said, “If you had asked Dan Kosta, Chris Costello and me if this day would ever be a reality when we started this brand in 1997, I would have said you are dreaming.” The family of co-founder Chris Costello has had a presence in the Sebastopol area since the 1880s. Dan Kosta grew up in Sonoma County and was immediately drawn to the impact this project had on changing the Sebastopol downtown landscape.

I recently met with Tony Lombardi, Kosta Browne’s Public Relations Director, and we took a tour of the new 45,000-square foot winery. There were still workers evident putting on the finishing touches, but the facility is essential complete. Beyond the wine production area are rooms for hosting small dinner events that include a professional kitchen, and a large central inner court complete with a fireplace for larger festivities. These features are especially appealing since Kosta Browne’s previous winery was in a warehouse and never had an appropriate area to receive customers and hold events. In addition, Kosta Browne now has a large room to display their collection of large format bottles which are never sold, and only donated to various charities. A custom programmable sound system controlled by iPhone is evident throughout the facility adding to the ambiance.

Kosta Brown produced about 14,000 cases of wine last year, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and plans to increase production about 20 percent during the next five years. The wines are sold exclusively through a mailing list, which now reportedly has 15,000 names on the waiting list. Wines are offered twice a year (spring and fall) and there is a 2-3 year wait for a spring allocation of appellation wines and a 5-6 year wait for a fall allocation of single vineyard designate wines. Grapes are sourced from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations. All appellation wines are $58 and single vineyard designates $78.

The new winery does not have a public tasting room and is open only to mailing list members by appointment. Michael does get a gleam in his eye about an unfinished room in the complex which could be a tasting room at some point in the future, but he is more interested in converting it into a “man cave” complete with trophy animal heads and a bar where friends of the winery can hang out.

Photos of the winery production area and courtyard entrance follow. As you can see, there is plenty of room.

I recently tasted through the 2011 vintage of Kosta Browne wines and the reviews follow. All vineyarddesignate Pinot Noirs receive a 5-day cold soak, 9-11 day fermentation time in 1 and 5-ton open tops and 5-ton wooden open top tanks, 1-2 punch downs per day, with a small amount of whole cluster wine added in.

As Kenny Powers would say, “Kosta Browne wines kicked ass in 2011.” The wines are very approachable now with marvelous fruit flavors, yet slightly more modest extraction in this vintage, with reserved tannins and good tension. The vintage allowed for terroir to really express itself in the wines. Significant oak never really comes to mind in these wines. My only nit would be that a sense of heat comes out on the finish of some of the wines as they war in the glass.

I asked Michael Browne his thoughts on the 2011 vintage wines. He said the following. “The vintage started a bit rocky with the cold weather and set. Crops were way down from average due to the weather. The growing season was unusually cool although not that dramatic. The vines did not need a great amount of work because of the slow growing season although we were concerned with microbial issues. Without the usual warmth during the maturation season, we had to wait quite a bit longer than usual. What developed was the the grapes ripened well while the sugars were holding so that precise and delicate flavors developed with a good amount of energy, aromatics and flavors. The wines are very elegant, precise and focused. They are more delicate than what we usually produce but they are a detailed imprint from Mother Nature.”

Kosta Browne will be participating in the 9th Annual Pinot Family Reunion, June 23, at the Vintner’s Inn Event Center and John Ash & Co. Restaurant in Santa Rosa. The event will benefit the Sutter Bay Women’s Breast Care Center. For information, visit Kosta Browne will also be pouring at Pinot Days San Francisco, June 30, at Fort Mason. For details of this event, visit

2011 Kosta Browne One Sixteen Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., pH 3.32, TA 0.62, 2,191 cases, $58. Sourced from six vineyards reflecting the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley appellation. Multiple clones. Named for Highway 116 (Gravenstein Highway) that cuts through the town of Sebastopol. Barrel and partially concrete egg fermented 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. · Moderate golden straw color and clear in the glass. Lovely aromas of honey, lemon curd, golden apple and butter brickle. Very beguiling on the palate with flavors of baked pear, apple, citrus, honey and caramel. Beautifully composed with bright acidity and good staying power on the finish. The best yet from Kosta Browne and a wine that competes with the top performers in the Russian River Valley.

2011 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.57, 4,525 cases, $58. A blend from eleven vineyard sites. Aged 16 months in 48% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddishpurple color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry, fruit leather, spice and oak vanillin have staying power in the glass. Full-bodied and rather intensely flavored with tastes of sweet cherry and cola. Soft and velvety in the mouth with reserved tannins. Good (+).

2011 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.59, TA 0.58, 5,004 cases, $58. Sourced from Gap’s Crown, Terra de Promissio and Walala vineyards. Aged 16 months in 49% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Earth-bound aromas of forest floor and wild forest berries with a hint of oak. Middleweight flavors are striking in character, featuring strawberries, raspberries and a hint of mocha. Reserved tannins with good acid tension, finishing with a flourish of fresh berry flavor on the finish. I like the restraint and modesty in this wine. Very good.

2011 Kosta Browne Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.64, 1,693 cases, $58. Sourced from a blend of five vineyards, Garys’, Pisoni, Rosella’s, Sierra Mar and Soberanes. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy berry fruit aromas with notes of mushroom, toasty oak and root beer. Mid to full weight dark berry and plum core with an earthy underpinning. Directly fruity rather than complex. Firm tannins keep the fruit in line and the mouth feel is very soft. A bit of heat shows up on the finish. Decent.

2011 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.59, 900 cases, $78. From a 30-acre vineyard in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley appellation. Farmed by Marcy Keefer and her son Craig Stehlow. Yields 2.4 tons per acre. Clones 115, Pommard, Wädenswil, Mariafeld, 777, 114 and Pommard. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. This vineyard always delivers and this vintage is no different. Deep aromas of fresh red cherries and raspberries with a hint of sandalwood. Flavors of wild cherries sprinkled with spice caressed by reserved fine-grain tannins. Vivid and juicy with an assertive and refreshing finish. Very good.

2011 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.60, 658 cases, $78. Vineyard is located in Middle Reach and is planted to Dijon clone 667. Farmed meticulously by Dennis and Lynn Koplen. Kosta Browne is the only producer to ever have access to fruit from this property. Yields 3.0 tons per acre. 12% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 56% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddishpurple color in the glass. Always a very distinctive wine that is a hedonist’s delight. The aromas of dark berries and cassis with a hint of spice and oak draw you to the glass. The wine attacks the mid palate with a vengeance, seducing you with a blast of voluptuous blackberry and cassis fruit, carrying over to the powerful aromatic finish. Plenty of charm in this vintage. Very good.

2011 Kosta Browne Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.59, 1,678 cases, $78. Vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap and Kosta Browne has a long-term lease of 37 planted acres. The backbone of the Sonoma Coast appellation bottling. Yields 2.8-3.5 tons per acre. Clones 114, 115, 667, “828,” and Swan. 5% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 52% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddishpurple color in the glass. Nicely perfumed with hi-tone aromas of red cherries and berries with complimentary spice and oak. Mid weight flavors of red and black raspberries and cherries with balanced dry tannins and a real burst of fruit-driven goodness on the finish. A sophisticated offering with a highly seductive, velvety mouth feel. Very good.

2011 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.59, 211 cases, $78. Vineyard is located in the Sebastopol Hills, an area featuring morning and evening fog, breezy afternoons, and bright, mild afternoon sun. Cooler temperatures lead to a longer hang time and this vineyard is usually the last to be harvested. Clones 115, 667 and Pommard. Yields 2.1 tons per acre. 100% destemmed. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Tighten your seat belt when you open this one. Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. With a nose you could drink, and a core of liquid magic that you can drink, this is one great wine. Aromas of dark red berries sprinkled with vanilla cream lead to sumptuous flavors of black cherries, blue and dark red berries, spice and dark chocolate. Power without weight, juicy without being cloying, this beautifully balanced wine is soft in the mouth and finishes with length and opulence. The pick of the litter.

2011 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.54, TA 0.63, 422 cases, $78. From a 50-acre vineyard planted by Gary Franscioni and named for his wife near Garys’ Vineyard. Clones are Pisoni (50%), Pommard 4 (25%) and “828” (25%). Yields 2.1-5.4 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 45% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. The most feminine wine in the lineup, this beauty is silky soft like fine lingerie, offering the sweet Pinot perfume of dark red cherries, berries and baking spice. Modest in weight, but flavorful, with a core of perfectly ripened dark red cherries backed by a whisper of oak spice and toast. A Halle Berry of a wine. Very good (+).

2011 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.62, TA 0.60, 368 cases, $78. A partnership between Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni planted in 1997. 100% Pisoni clone. Average yield 2.7 tons per acre. 8% whole cluster. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Whereas Rosella’s is decidedly feminine, Garys’ is more macho. Aromatic overload with deep scents of spiced black cherry and plum fruit with a hint of leather and conifer. Delicious, mouthfilling richness, with a bright core of black cherry fruit and a dusting of oak. Very smooth and seamless with tannins so fine as to be imperceptible. A delight to drink because nothing stands out except the luscious fruit. The wine finishes on a high note with remarkable intensity. Oh yah!

2011 Kosta Browne Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.60, 125 cases, $78. Pisoni Vineyard is 45 acres perched at 1,300 feet overlooking the Salinas Valley to the East. Average yield 2.5 tons per acre. 100% Pisoni clone. 100% destemmed. Aged 16 months in 60% new French oak barrels. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose on this wine is stunning and the most fragrant in the 2011 lineup. Fresh, bright, penetrating aromas of cherry tart, raspberry coulis, sandalwood and oak vanillin. Very soft, very flavorful, and very sexy with a plethora of dark red and black cherry and berry fruits in a mid to full-bodied style with a subtle sheen of oak in the background. The tannins are very reserved, allowing the extroverted fruit to shine. This is the most elegant and approachable Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir I have ever drank. If Rosella’s is feminine and Garys‘ is masculine, this wine is metrosexual.

2011 Kosta Browne 4 Barrel California Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.62, 98 cases, $78. Kosta Browne’s smallest lot but requires the most attention to detail. The four barrels are identified from 70 different lots, whittled down to the final four. There are no appellation or vineyard restrictions. 25% Gap’s Crown 667, 25% Koplen 667, 25% Keefer Ranch Pommard 5 and 25% Garys’ Pisoni. Average yield 2.1 tons per acre. 100% de-stemmed. Aged 16 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Patience is needed with this wine and decanting is recommended if you open now as it is the least approachable wine in the 2011 lineup. Slowly evolving nose, offering aromas of black cherries, black raspberries, and plenty of extroverted spice, reaching a crescendo after 30 minutes in the glass. Like all the 2011 Pinots from Kosta Browne, this wine is very soft in the mouth. Still a bit monotone and closed, the potential is obvious. Layered flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry and cassis with a dusting of oak and spice. Seamless, with excellent balance and length. This will be one helluva wine in a couple of years.

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