Kosta Browne is one of those wineries I discovered at PinotFest. It quickly made it to the top of my list of 30 in 30. Before I attended PinotFest, I chatted with some of my local wine friends over dinner looking for their favorites on the list. Kosta Browne was one that folks seemed excited about. Hmmm…okay….
Side note: During this journey you’ve probably noticed just how much more I have to learn and experience! While I thought I knew what I was talking about when it came to Pinot Noir, I was REALLY new. REALLY uneducated. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means. And I don’t expect I’ll be close to being an expert at the end. I’m just a fan of Pinot Noir and wanted to document my journey. And, hey – maybe you’re interested in following along! So, that’s why I’m blogging about it!
Okay, I’m gonna admit – I’d never heard of Kosta Browne before that night. Don’t laugh. I realize now that they’re a name I should have known. Heck, they were named the #1 wine of the year by Wine Spectator in 2011! But that was years before I became obsessed with Pinot Noir.
So, when I stepped into the rooms at the Farallon Restaurant that day for PinotFest, Kosta Browne was one of the first wineries I sought out. I instantly liked their wine. I knew they needed to be on my list. It also helped that they were giving away tins of a spice blend from one of my favorite Healdsburg restaurants, Valette, to anyone who joined their mailing list! I’m a sucker for a freebie.
I had no idea that I drove right by Kosta Browne in Sebastapol last weekend. In fact, it appears I ate lunch at a little taco “stand” that’s attached to one of their buildings! It’s located in the Barlow. I noticed wine-looking “stuff” as I drove by, but assumed it was Pax since I know they’re located in that little outdoor mall/area. I just laughed when I realized it was really Kosta Browne I was noticing. It’s a tight squeeze between the road and their gate. I really thought I was going to put my front bumper through their gate trying to reach their call box, but I fit. Unlike some of my others recently, I made sure to know that at this gate I was to call to be let in.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of their courtyard. It’s pretty much horseshoe shaped. All of their production is done right there in the Barlow! The trucks pull into their crush pad – which is all indoors. They have their own bottling line in another building in the facility. They have ultimate control. However, not all of their barrels are stored on-site. My tasting host, Katey, explained that any barrels that are stored onsite can be quickly removed and relocated if flooding were to occur…..like it did just one year ago! I hadn’t realized Sebastapol was flooded. I was more familiar with the flooding up in Guerneville along the Russian River since I’d previously stayed in that area and had a personal connection. At the time, I’d never visited Sebastapol.
Of course I had to do some research – it’s an easy enough Google Search! The “F” shaped complex on the right is Kosta Browne where I toured. Everything in the photo below is under water. Today you’d have no idea by looking at this area that it was under water less than a year ago.
I was super excited about this visit – I’m still sitting on Kosta Browne’s wait list with probably another year to wait! I was optimistic that I could probably take some bottles home with me after my tour!
Katey began by giving me a pour of their 2017 One Sixteen Russian River Valley Chardonnay. It was quite delightful. I enjoyed it. And then we set off for the winery tour! First up was the barrel room. These are the barrels that could be so quickly relocated if there’s a threat of flood.
We walked to the end of this building into their crush pad. Where we did some “barrel tasting”. First up was a sample of 2019 Treehouse Single Vineyard Pinot Noir out of their concrete egg. Normally I’m not a fan of barrel tastings, but this one is gonna be super yummy! Kosta Browne uses a pretty decent amount of concrete during fermentation and aging.
Next up was a taste of their 2019 Gaps’s Crown Pinot out of their Foudre. I’m a lover of most pinots from the Gap’s Crown vineyard so I was pretty excited to taste Kosta Browne’s. I was also excited to hear that once I make it off of their wait list, generally the first single vineyard wines I’ll be allocated are their Gap’s Crown and Keefer single vineyard pinots. And, most likely, it will be these 2019s that I’ll be allocated!
We headed back into their “kitchen” to taste a couple of their 2017 appellation blends. Katey had explained that they generally make the appellation blends before their single vineyard wines. I had figured it would be the opposite – and they’d just take whatever was leftover from single-vineyard wines and throw it together. Instead, they focus on making really nice appellation blends first!
As I finished the tasting I asked the question I was so nervous to have answered – “Can I purchase any of your wine today?” The answer was an apologetic no. While they absolutely love hosting tastings for folks – even those of us not on their mailing list – they do not conduct sales from the winery. All is done through allocation and a small amount out to restaurants.
I kinda love Kosta Browne a lot more now! They invited me in for a tasting knowing full well that I’m not on their mailing list and they wouldn’t sell to me at the end of the tasting. Knowing full well that they weren’t going to single earn a dollar from me that day. And, knowing full well that my tasting was absolutely FREE. My tasting lasted a little over an hour. I didn’t feel rushed. Katey answered any and all of my questions. She also explained that they have an “elevated” (my word) tasting experience that I’ll have to try on my next visit. I can’t wait!
Kosta Browne History
I really love their story. Their website provides a wonderful history about the winery’s early day and founders – you should check it out. But, I’ll give you the quick highlights here. Dan Kosta and Michael Browne were two friends and coworkers back in 1997. They worked together at a popular Santa Rosa restaurant as a general manager and sommelier. Together they decided they wanted to make wine. They socked away $10 from their tips whenever the two worked together. They had collected close to $1000 when a chef at the restaurant kicked in the difference to bring them to their $1400 goal. That amount allowed them to purchase equipment and a half a ton of pinot noir grapes. And they made 24 cases of wine! Click here to read the full history! I find it incredibly inspiring.
In November 2017 the duo announced that they were stepping down from operations at Kosta Browne. Michael now focuses on his small-lot family label, Cirq. Dan Kosta is over at AldenAlli after partnering with the Lagasse family (think Emeril Lagasse). So I’ve now added two more wineries to a future list: Cirq and AldenAlli. Unfortunately neither winery currently offers tastings. Ironically, I unknowingly picked up a bottle of Cirq on my travels last year in Idaho which is still in my cellar! I’m currently sitting on Cirq’s waiting list waiting for my turn. Their tasting room is scheduled to open to members later this year.
And a funny story about AldenAlli. I was doing some preliminary drafting of this post and typing up some of the history a couple of weeks ago (this was supposed to be the first winery visit on my journey but I got terribly sick and needed to reschedule). I was frustrated that AldenAlli’s wines were alluding me. After I finished work that day, I headed out to visit a wine storage facility. The first thing I noticed as soon as I walked in the door of their building were cases of Cirq and AldenAlli. AldenAlli was more prominent. A winery sticker was even adorning one of their carts. Their wine seemed to be EVERYWHERE. But it was all out of my reach. They’d definitely miss a bottle. They use a bar-coded inventory system. It’s very impressive. After my visit, I stopped by my very favorite wine shop in the area – The Bottle Barn. You never know what you’ll find there. You’ll find things that shouldn’t be there, but are. In the second aisle, I found two bottles of AldenAlli’s 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Score!!! And, since then, I’ve placed my first allocation order for their wines!