A new year is upon us and for a wine lover that means another year that the wine in your collection has aged and has (fingers crossed) matured properly
in the shadowy caverns of your wine cellar or temperature controlled refrigerator. Those lovely young bottles that you purchased a few years ago are another year older, another year bolder, and some may be ready for drinking.
Winter is making its way in, starting to surround us and depending on where you live, that could mean very cold weather for many of you. Climate has a real effect on how your wine holds up and that is why properly storing your wine is very important. Hot temperatures spoil wine and dry out the corks that much faster, but cold weather can halt the proper aging and cause the shrinking of your corks, allowing moisture inside. Drinking spoiled wine, also known as ‘corked’ wine, is not pleasant. You will know it when it happens. Of all the wines I drink throughout the year, which, including unique bottles of wine, would be about, hmmm...let’s see - carry the 6, plus 30 days, minus an afternoon, skipping a couple of breakfasts, plus holidays - I drank about 200 different bottles of wine this year. Out of that 200, about 2% are corked. That’s actually a pretty low number, but when it is a bottle that cost you $100+ …it sucks. So yes… corking costs me and you too, but unnecessary corking can be avoided if you take proper measures.
I’m starting the New Year’s wine review with not just my favorite varietal, Pinot Noir, but my favorite winery: Kosta Browne. This was the winery that captured my wife and started her on the path to appreciate quality wine. It inspired her to learn more about the subtle differences in each bottle. Like a great piece of live jazz music it will not be the same the next time, as it's one part improvisation and other parts genius. Even if it is the same wine, the same year, from the same barrel by the next day the wine has changed, improvised.
Kosta Browne is top-notch California Pinot Noir. Their pricing is not cheap (about $85+ a bottle) and their allocation is in very small case runs, mostly sold through their wine club, which has a very long waiting list. And yes, I’m on the waiting list. But the limitedness and run size is slowing beginning to change as they have partnered with some investors to help them expand their business and are building a new winery. So, who exactly is Kosta Browne? Well for one, they were Wine Spectators' ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2011 for their spectacular bottle of the 2009 Sonoma Coast release. If you can find it, it will set you back about $250 and I can tell you it’s worth every penny. But I’d prefer you decide that for yourself.
To be clear, this review is on their 2009 Kanzler Vineyard release, not the Sonoma Coast, but an equally stellar wine just the same. If I were to begin telling you about Kosta Browne’s history this article would quickly become book length as I can talk about them all day. Maybe I’ll do a mid-year insert to fill you in on why I could seriously talk about them all day. Find me at any social gathering and chances are you will hear me telling the tale of two friends who in 1997 had an idea. Dan Kosta and Michael Browne pooled their tip money together and bought some grapes and 16 years later they make one of the best California Pinot Noirs you will ever taste. Please visit at kostabrowne.com. It’s worth going out of your way to try their wines and learn about them. All wines and wineries are not created equal and what they do at Kosta Browne is true passion my friends.
Kosta Browne, Pinot Noir
Kanzler Vineyard 2009
Produced by: Kosta Browne
Winemakers: Dan Kosta, Michael Browne and Chris Costello
Only 610 Cases Produced
The intensity of the berry that bursts into your mouth is amazing. I’m a California Pinot Noir elitist and I like my wine fruit-forward. Kosta Browne will make you a lover of true Pinot Noir. This wine is delicate. It desires a respectable 45 minutes to open up, letting the spices and fig aroma open to allow the 14.7% alcohol to mellow. Transfer it into a crystal decanter and let it sit for a bit. Chat with friends and relax as the bouquet opens into the air. Slice a nice Monterey Jack cheese with some prosciutto.
Upon the first sip you will feel slight tannins across your gums and then – BAM – the wild berry and black cherry, hinting of pine cone bursts. Chew on it for a few seconds. Swish it around your mouth. Coat your tongue and sink your teeth into it. Wait… then swallow. Now inhale, taking it deep into your lungs and as you exhale the finish arrives in the back of your throat. Here is the key to realizing how long of an age a wine will have. Is the quality powerful? Does it bring its fruit back filling your senses or is it full and refined? Implying it's aged enough.
The fruit finds its way back into your palate and you can taste the soil and coastline, the care that went into the grapes. You can still savor the spices and that amazing berry. Now imagine this wine in another five to eight years. That, dear reader, is what California and especially Kosta Browne do with a Pinot Noir varietal – they make it their own. I say Bravo and Happy New Year.
Winery: Kosta Browne
Label: Kanzler Vineyard
Location: Sonoma Coast
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appearance (Color): Ruby
Aroma (Complexity): Chocolate, Cherry, Spice
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Forest, Spice and Wild Berries
Finish (What lingers): Cherry and Chocolate
Food Paring: roasted chicken, fondu, smores
Final Rating: 95
Drink now through 2019
My rating system is based on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.
Wine Points How Good the Wine Is
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89 Very Good: wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79 Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 Below Average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59 Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended
Wine Serving Temperatures:
64° - Full Bodied (Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec)
62° - Tawny Port
60° - Pinot Noir, Rhone, Burgundy
55° - Beaujolais Nouveau
54° Full Bodied White Wines (Chardonnay)
52° Medium Bodied White Wines (Sauvignon Blanc)
50° Rosé, Light Bodied White Wines (White Zinfandel)
48° Champagne and Sparkling, Ice Wine
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science. With a desire for writing he switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California as a graphic designer / sculptor. For over six years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, but his true love is the Italian Sassicaia. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as a senior marketing manager / designer for an adult sex toy company. He is also training to be a certified master sommelier. Currently he resides in Southern California with his lovely wife Shawn-Marie, a deaf, blind and diabetic dog named Buddy and an angry orange cat properly named Orange.