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Kosta Browne: Tasting the 08’s

Now that the 2008 vintage has been in bottle three months, Michael Browne is very pleased with the wines. Wedged between the spectacular 2007 and 2009 vintages, the 2008 vintage wines can be overlooked but should not be sold short. Some of the 2008 Kosta Browne bottlings, such as the Rosella’s Vineyard, are better than the 2007 versions.

Check out this very cool tasting bar in the Kosta Browne barrel room made of stainless steel fashioned as a cut off wine tank.

Michael was kind enough to open a bottle of every wine produced by Kosta Browne in 2008. If you are a fan of the Kosta Browne style - deep color, moderately high alcohols, vibrant aromatics, and ripe, opulent fruit, you will be seduced by these spectacular wines. As good as these wines were in March, they will be irresistible come fall when most of them are released after another six months of bottle age.

Grapes are harvested relatively ripe, and de-stemmed. Some 100% whole cluster barrels are vinified separately to be added back if deemed appropriate for the vintage and the wine. A 5-day cold soak is followed by 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, and barrel aged for 16 months. The amount of new French oak will vary depending on the vintage and vineyard source but is usually between 38% and 45%. Excellent barrels from eight different coopers are used even for the appellation wines.

Kosta Browne wines are sourced from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands. The 2008 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley appellation bottlings were recently released and are sold out. The wines are still available on the secondary and retail market, but at a premium (often a significant markup over the release price). The vineyard-designates and 4-Barrel will be released in the fall of 2010. Michael is crafting Kosta Browne Chardonnay beginning with the 2009 vintage.

Assistant winemaker, Shane Finley, joined us in the tasting and I briefly sampled his four 2008 Pinot Noir releases produced under his SPELL label. These wines will be reviewed in more detail in a subsequent issue.

Michael was his usually animated self behind the bar as he poured the Kosta Browne lineup. Unfortunately, he kicked his leg back in a moment of revelry and a 6L bottle of 2006 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir sitting on a shelf behind him struck the floor and broke off at the neck sending of flood of Pinot onto the floor. Large formats of Kosta Browne wines are kept for charity donations and never sold. Last year a similar 6L bottle was auctioned at a charity event for $20,000. Never one to cry over spilled wine, Michael shrugged it off, chalked it up to an angel’s share and we all enjoyed a satisfying pour.

The 2008 Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs are still babies and will require additional time in bottle for full enjoyment. That said, several of them are very charming now.

2008 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel California Pinot Noir

14.9% alc.. This wine changes every year. In 2008 it consists of one barrel of Koplen 667, one barrel of Amber Ridge 667, one barrel of Garys’, and one barrel of Kanzler 666 whole cluster. · A stunning wine showing aromas of black raspberries, dark strawberries and mocha. Flat-out delicious with a velvety mouth feel that is very sensual. Still a Lolita, but give this a couple years in the cellar and you will have a drinking experience you can tell your grandchildren about. Very good (+).

2008 Kosta Browne Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.. · This wine is showing plenty of oak at present and will need time. Darker Pinot fruits are featured with savory and earthy underpinnings. Good.

2008 Kosta Browne Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. Dijon clones and Swan selection. · Big and luscious, with prodigious purple fruits wrapped in fine-grain tannins. Still has tannins to shed, but will offer a decadent drinking experience. Good.

2008 Kosta Browne Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.9% alc.. · Always an impressive wine from KB. Perfume of spice plums and violets lead to a concentrated attack of black cherries and boysenberries accented with flavors of baking spices and sandalwood. A very charming wine that I find irresistible. Very good (+).

2008 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.. · Strikingly floral on the nose showing scents of lavender and violets. Bright and juicy red and black fruits, nicely spiced, with nuanced flavors of cola, tea and earth. A charmer whose soft tannins make it hard to resist now. Very good (+).

2008 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.. · Redder fruit profile with a melange of spices. A pretty wine with soft tannins and a smooth finish. Very approachable now. Always the most feminine wine in the KB lineup. Very good (+).

2008 Kosta Browne Koplen Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. Clone 667. 25% whole cluster. · A very attractive wine with pretty scents of black raspberries, spice box and roses. Rich and big-boned, yet very smooth on the palate. Very good.

2008 Kosta Browne Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.8% alc.. · Mouth coating black fruits with an oaky and meaty edge. Potently fruity, but not over the top. Will need time to integrate the oak and tannins. Very good.

2008 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.5% alc.. · Striking expression of fresh red and black berry fruit. The tannins are reigned in, the texture is silky, and the fruity finish is expansive. Very good (+) and the most exceptional offering I have had from this vineyard by KB.

2008 Kosta Browne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc.,pH 3.67, $52. Sourced from seven vineyards. 5 day cold soak, aged 16 months in 44% new French oak. · Appealing scent of crushed berries, spice box and cut flowers. A juicy wine sporting flavors of dark cherries and berries, cola and savory herbs caressed by soft tannins and offering a creamy texture. Very good.

2008 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.66, $52. From Gap’s Crown, Terra de Promissio and Walala vineyards. Aged 16 months in 44% new French oak. · Lovely aromas of dark stone fruits and dark chocolate which carry over in the flavor profile. Well-structured with notable tannin, this wine should soften and integrate beautifully over time. Very good.

The 10,500 case production of Kosta Browne is sold through a faithful mailing list which is regrettably full. Visit the website to sign up for the waiting list at The winery is not open to the public, but the winery participates in practically every major Pinot Noir festival as well as many other wine events and charitable auctions around the country. The wines are often sold on the secondary market through auction sites such as

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