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.