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james laube's wine flights

Kosta Browne's Michael Browne Creates a New Pinot Label

Cirq will debut with a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from the Treehouse vineyard
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Sep 24, 2012 1:30pm ET

Michael Browne is stepping beyond, but not out of, Kosta Browne.

In 2014, the co-founder and winemaker at the Sonoma County winery synonymous with a stable of fine Pinot Noirs is adding a new wine called Cirq. The 2011 vintage is from Treehouse vineyard, which he and his partners lease in Russian River Valley.

Also in the works is a second Pinot from another vineyard he and his partners lease called Bootlegger's Hill. Both vineyards are under 30-year leases, Browne said.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," said Browne, 44, of the new venture, but he was quick to add, "I don't want anyone to believe I'm bailing on KB."

The Cirq project began to take form in 2007, and a business partnership was formed in 2009, weeks before Browne and his founding partner, Dan Kosta, took on new financial partners.

The name Cirq is tied to Browne's childhood, when he performed in a youth circus in his hometown of Wentachee, Wash.  As a seventh grader, Browne performed several stunts with the circus. He breathed and ate fire and walked and rode a bike on a high-wire trapeze.

Cirq "is really about how that experience as a kid, all the practice [and] hard work, all the risk, balance, finesse, all of those learnings are the same kinds of challenges I find in wine," he said.

The 2011 Treehouse is about to be bottled. Browne is making the wine at KB's facility in Sebastopol. The vineyard is 26 acres of Pinot and 4 of Chardonnay. He expects 450 cases of Pinot to be released in 2014 and sell for $90 to $100 a bottle. A trial run with Pinot from the 14-acre Bootlegger's Hill could be made this vintage. "I'm going to make some wine and see how it turns out," he said. "I'm in no hurry."

There is one more vineyard project he hopes to seal. He and his partners are looking at a property in Freestone, on the western edge of Sonoma Coast.

"That's the third ring in the three-ring circus," he said.

Mark Horowitz
Brooklyn, USA —  September 24, 2012 3:24pm ET
That price is a premium over existing KB bottlings. Is this a sign of higher Pinot prices in the future?

Have to say I'm a fan of the graphic design of the Treehouse label. Wonder who is behind the retro circus ticket idea.
Peter J Labella
Harrisburg, Pa —  September 24, 2012 7:22pm ET
Pricing of all wines has gotten terribly expensive but a new Pinot starting at 90 to 100 dollars seems extremely challenging.
Scott Billeci
Napa, CA —  September 28, 2012 12:46am ET
Mark: Glad you like the design, My good friends Byron and Alex (HoffmanChrisman.com) are responsible for the design and web. Check out their other work as well.
Dustin Gillson
Dayton, OH —  September 28, 2012 11:47pm ET
Well whatever happens, I'm sure the mailing list is already full.
Steve Maget
Préverenges, Switzerland —  October 3, 2012 11:55am ET
Hi James,
Just read your article in the last Wine Spectator edition (Exploring Italy) concerning your favorite varietal: Pinot Noir. Did you ever taste some Pinot Noir from Switzerland? I would be very interested in having your view regarding some of those wines like for example the one from Daniel Gantenbein (from Graubünden region) or the one from Claudy Clavien ("La Part des Anges" from the Valais region. One of my friend is coming to LA for the 2012 New World Wine Experience. We would be more than happy to swap 2 of these bottles against your favorite one(s) ;o).
Best
James Laube
Napa, CA —  October 5, 2012 5:13pm ET
Steve, thanx for the note and yes I have tried many Pinots from your neck of the woods, especially northern Italy...Pinot Nero as it's called in some parts...also Pinots from Germany.

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