Kosta Browne

I just attended a party. More like THE party. It was Kosta Browne's 20th Anniversary party, and it was big. After the party, my wife remarked, "This is how the other half lives." I'm not sure that a full half of the population goes to events like this, but if it does, I'm clearly in the wrong half.

My first experience with Kosta Browne was years ago when I read about one of their wines and went looking for a bottle. No one had it, so I ended up on their website with a query about whether I could get it. I can't remember how this initial query led to my next contact with them some months later, but it was a note thanking me for my interest and telling me I still could not buy any of their wine. Seriously, no soup for you!

At the time, I had no interest in buying a $42 bottle of wine that I hadn't even tasted. It seemed like some sort of elaborate con. However, a year later, I got a note that I could in fact get some of their wine since a member hadn't taken their full allocation. I think I ordered a single bottle, mostly out of a stubborn pride in finally getting to buy some of their wine. And then, the following year, I got the bad news that, alas, I still wasn't in their wine club. Again, no soup for you!

That was it! I wanted into that damn wine club no matter the cost. Soooo, after one more year on the outside, it finally happened. I was in, and I was allowed a meager two bottle allocation. I ordered one bottle of the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and one bottle of the Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, knowing nothing about either. The Sonoma Coast was good, but the Russian River was the best Pinot Noir I had ever tasted. I was hooked.

Things weren't always this good for Kosta Browne. Unlike many cult wineries, it didn't begin with some star winemaker moving to a new area and planting grapes. It began with two waiters—Dan Kosta and Michael Browne—who saved their tips from a restaurant in Santa Rosa to buy a single barrel of Pinot Noir, way back in 1997. I talked with a wine club manager in Forestville who remembers them shopping around their wine, looking for investors. They did get some funding and continued to make wine over the next several years, but it wasn't until their 2003 vintage scored a 95 in The Wine Spectator that things really took off and they became the cult winery they are today.

Now, after being in their club for probably seven or eight years, I feel like an A-Lister. So this past March, when I got an email about attending their 20-Year Anniversary party in Sebastopol, I knew I was in. They'd invited me to the party. The cost was $100 per person (gulp), and they would be opening large format bottles going back to their 2006 vintage. My wife loves Kosta Browne: it's the high water mark for Pinot Noir in her book, so naturally, we had to go ("Duh" is what I remember her saying when I mentioned the price).

The party was huge: there were several hundred people, all dressed up; there was roasted pig; there was a huge assortment of cured meats; and there was some of the best wine I've ever tasted. I've been to a great many wine dinners, release parties, and the like, but this party made me feel like a celebrity. Everyone we spoke to that night had a similar story of waiting to get into the club. And all of us had a great love for their wine.