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Kosta Browne’s winemaker, Michael Browne, has debuted a new label with a circus theme specializing in Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The first vintage produced an estate Pinot Noir from Treehouse Vineyard, and subsequent vintages will include an estate Pinot Noir from a second vineyard, Bootlegger’s Hill Vineyard.

Like many winemakers who have sourced Pinot Noir for their wines, Michael has dreamed of planting his own vineyard and making wine from it. He decided several years ago to pour significant resources into developing distinguished sites that could produce world-class Pinot Noir. Michael enlisted the services of noted vineyardist, Charlie Chenoweth, to plant his two vineyards.

Production will be very limited, with only two Pinot Noirs, each from a single estate vineyard. The 13.5-acre Treehouse Vineyard is located 8 miles inland from the Pacific Coast at an elevation of 750 feet above the fog line. Because it is above the fog, Treehouse receives more hours of sunshine than almost any other site in the Russian River Valley, yet benefits from the fog’s cooling effects. The vineyard is planted to 5 clones on 101-14 rootstock: Mariafeld 23 (35%), Swan, Pommard, Calera and Mt. Eden 37. Soils are iron-rich Franciscan. Remarkably, this vineyard delivers exceptional flavor, intensity and textures early in the ripening phase.

The 30-acre Bootlegger’s Hill Vineyard also sits at about 750 feet above sea level and is above the fog line. Like Treehouse, it is surrounded by redwood and fir trees. However, Bootlegger’s soil is mainly Goldridge, valued for its excellent drainage and low fertility. Bootlegger’s is a little cooler than Treehouse and combined with a different soil type, the resultant wine is more elegant and red-fruited. The planted Pinot Noir clones are 115, 667, Pommard, Mt. Eden 37, Calera and Elite(?). Two blocks (4 acres) of Wente clone Chardonnay are also planted here.

The inaugural bottling is the 2011 Treehouse Vineyard Pinot Noir, offered in early December 2013 for release in early March 2014. The wine is held back a year in bottle to give the tannins more time to integrate and more complex aromas to develop. Clones are a mix of 23, Swan, 37, Pommard and Calera. Yield was 1.1 tons per acre. The wine is offered only in a 3-pack at $100 per bottle.

Visit the clever and informative website at to view a number of relevant videos and sign up for the allocation list. The back label on the bottle is an imaginative take on a circus admission ticket.

2011 CIRQ. Treehouse Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.60, 462 cases, $100. Decanted for two hours before tasting and re-tasted eight hours later. · Very dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine has a nose you could drink with deep aromas of black raspberry jam, plump blueberries, black cherries, spice and subtle oak. Ripe and exuberant on the palate, with a full arsenal of rich flavors including blueberry, black raspberry, pomegranate and black currant, finishing with a burst of luscious berry fruit. A hint of the finest artisan dark chocolate and humus add interest. This is a bombastic wine that is extremely flavorful, yet balanced, sensual and inviting. It tastes like it was made from very small berries with a high skin to juice ratio. After decanting, the tannins were supportive but not imposing. The more I tasted this wine, the more I liked it as I continued to contemplate its nuances. When tasted later in the day, the wine had evolved and became silkier and livelier, and was a beautiful accompaniment to grilled King salmon. The flavor profile and structure are more reminiscent of true Sonoma Coast than Russian River Valley. It’s an outrageously flavored and expensive wine, but it is damn good. Score: 94

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