Thursday morning we had to pack up, hitch up, and be ready to roll quite early… about 9:00 am. We pulled the Airstreams south about 15 miles to the little city of Sebastopol. We had an appointment at Kosta Browne Winery:
As mentioned earlier, we all found parking spaces for our Airstreams. We gathered in front of closed gates – Kosta Browne is not open to the public. We pushed the “call” button, and announced ourselves; the gates opened and we entered into the courtyard between the winery’s three buildings:
We entered the first warehouse-looking building and found ourselves in what appeared to be a beautiful contemporary house – Entry with steel stair, Living Room with fireplace. Dining Room across the entry, with matching fireplace, and kitchen/tasting room.
We began by tasting a fabulous Chardonnay, as we heard the story of Kosta-Browne. It all began with two friends, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. The year was 1997 and the buddies both were working at John Ash & Co., a popular restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. Dan was the general manager; Michael was the sommelier. But their real passion was something bigger, bolder, and more brazen than anything either ever had done: They wanted to create Pinot Noir. The catch: Neither gentleman had experience making wine. What ensued was a tale of perseverance, dedication, and hard work.
Dan and Michael managed to scrape together $1,400; they bought a half-ton of pinot noir grapes from Everett Ridge, in the Russian River appellation. They estimate they spent about $400 of their cash on equipment and about $1,000 on grapes. Once the wine was in the barrel, they made enough labels for 24 cases.
Dan and Michael poured most of that first barrel for VIP customers at the restaurant. The following year—2000 — Dan and Michael set out to make more pinot noir. After weeks of networking, Michael convinced John Ferrington, the former assistant winemaker at Williams Selyem, to connect him with the owners at Cohn Vineyard, a source for one of Williams Selyem’s single-vineyard designate wines. Always the charmer, Michael convinced the Cohns to sell him grapes. They also convinced some customers and friends to invest in their new company.
In 2005, Wine Spectator Magazine gave their 2003 wines 95 point scores. They were unprecedented scores for a winery as small and as new as Kosta Browne. The scores changed everything. From there, the name of the game at Kosta Browne was growth. With growing numbers of collectors and connoisseurs becoming interested in Kosta Browne, demand skyrocketed, and the brand set off on the path toward becoming the fan-favorite it is today. Vintages sold out. The list to be on the list grew. Michael and Dan found themselves in the difficult-but-not-shabby position of telling friends and customers that they’d have to wait for the opportunity to purchase wine. It all added to the mystique. They were able to move into their own dedicated winery facility. Almost overnight, Kosta Browne became a cult sensation. It was an overnight success that took eight years to happen. The rest, as they say, is history.
I was part of that early fan base. Although it took me 4 years to be allowed to buy wine, it was well worth the wait. Today was my first visit to the winery!
After a little tasting we toured more of the facility:
After the tour we returned to the tasting room for more samples. Since they have no wine to see, we bid a fond farewell to Kosta Browne.
We pointed the Airstreams south. Destination: Paso Robles… We arrived in north-east Paso Robles at about 5:00 pm. It was hot. Very hot. But a cloud cover was starting to form. We pulled into the vineyards of Record Family Wines. We parked the Airstreams next to some oak trees and tried to find some shade.
At about 6:00, Randy and Anne Record, the vineyard owners, met us under the oak trees; they were shortly joined by their daughter, Mindy. Mindy is the vineyard manager. Record Family Wines sells about 90% of their grapes, leaving about 10% to make wine. Randy lined up the bottles on the bed of a flat bed truck, and we began to taste as the sun dropped low into the western sky.
About 10:00 we finally turned in. The temperatures had dropped and we had a lovely night’s sleep. And an enjoyable time was had by all…