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Benefits of Time

A complete vertical of Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Nov 16, 2011 10:00am ET

Kosta Browne may have quietly stumbled out of the starting gate. But it has provided an amazingly steady stream of excellent Pinot Noirs ever since.

Founders Dan Kosta and Michael Browne (they sold a controlling interest in the Kosta Browne label to Vincraft in 2009; click here to read more about Vincraft founder Bill Price) have also been at the forefront of a movement that has staked out new territory with Pinot Noir. It's a fruit-driven style that emphasizes ripe, opulent berry flavors with a measure of elegance, detail and finesse. Few wineries in California have enjoyed such dramatic success inside a decade. Few too have shown such a deft hand with Pinot Noir, which is all the more surprising considering neither of the principals had any winemaking training or experience prior to this.

Since 2002, the winery's third vintage with Pinot Noir, KB has produced 69 Pinots, with this rather striking statistic: All but one have earned 90 points or higher, and 24 have earned ratings of 95 points or higher. No other California Pinot producer comes close to matching those figures.

Given its level of productivity and quality, Kosta Browne lovers might rightly be curious about how the wines age. In a word: Fantastically.

Earlier this year, winemaker Michael Browne and I tasted every Kosta Browne Pinot made through 2008. The 2009s were just being released and were not part of this retrospective. The wines through 2007 were not blind-tasted and grouped by vintages. The final flight of the 2008 vintage was a blind tasting, set up to see whether either of us could identify any of the single-vineyard or appellation bottlings. We each picked out two from the 11-wine lineup of 2008s.

With only a couple of exceptions, all of the wines were either holding or gaining. Many winemakers come to their profession with no formal training or winemaking education, which is the case with Browne. Yet all winemakers go through a learn as you go, trial-and-error baptism, and because each vintage provides different challenges or opportunities, change is a constant. Case in point: Kosta Browne's first attempt at Pinot Noir in 2000 saw the wine turn orange from too much sulfur. In 2001, the spoilage yeast brettanomyces crept into the wine and it was never sold.

"In 2000 I didn't know what I was doing," admitted Browne, but he is both a fast learner and has a keen eye for vineyards and a sharp palate for wines. Kosta Browne also defines the modern California Pinot producer—that is, it doesn't own a single vine. Yet year after year it has managed to produce exciting wines from a wide range of sources. Most of the grapes come from Sonoma Coast and Russian River. But KB also buys grapes in Santa Lucia Highlands.

Even though I drink Kosta Browne wines on a regular basis, I was impressed by how well they had aged. Not only did the best wines retain their core fruitiness, they had softened and developed the subtle nuances of flavor and texture that come with time. Yet for me the measure of a great wine is that it retains its pure flavors as it gains subtle nuances.

Two of Kosta Browne's wines are appellation blends, one each from Russian River and Sonoma Coast, and beginning next year it will add a Santa Lucia Highlands bottling. The 4-Barrel was created to make something special for preferred customers. It is a different blend each year, comprised from what the winery believes are the four best barrels in the cellar, or about 100 cases. Lately it has carried the California appellation.

Each of the individual vineyards has had its shining moments through the vintages. And the strength of the appellation bottlings shows Browne's ability to piece together several thousand cases of really great wine.

In terms of aging, the 2002s are fading, while 2006, a difficult year, is at a peak. The 2003, 2004 and 2007 vintages are the strongest, with the latter two the warmest harvests. The 2005s are the most elegant and graceful, given this is a winery with a reputation for liking very ripe grapes. These were the most understated of KB's vintages, pleasantly balanced.

2003 marks the first successful vintage, and those wines, and from there on, it's one outstanding wine after another.

Kosta Browne Vertical Tasting

2000

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Cohn Vineyard 2000 Score: 88 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

This debut wine came around in bottle. Mature, fading yet complex, this features wilted rose and dried berry notes, with good acidity. Delicate aftertaste. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 220 cases made. —J.L.

2001

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2001 Score: 82 | Release price: $NA | Current price: $NA

Never released, this offers an earthy, leathery Burgundian funk. Those tolerant of brett might enjoy this, though it's well past its prime. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. —J.L.

2002

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2002 Score: 88 | Release price: $34 | Current price: $34

Retains a youthful, rich, vibrant dark berry profile. Mature yet lively. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 300 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2002 Score: 88 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

This mature, complex Pinot features core flavors of rustic dark berry, cola and loamy earth. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 340 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Cohn Vineyard 2002 Score: 87 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

Mature yet holding, with a tarry edge to the cola and dried berry notes. Dry, tannic finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 340 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2002 Score: 84 | Release price: $28 | Current price: $28

Mature and drying out, with a mix of loamy earth and dried berry notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 1,300 cases made. —J.L.

2003

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2003 Score: 95 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

Aging beautifully, this exhibits pure, ripe, rich, high-toned dark berry, floral and lavender scents. Intense, focused, vibrant and layered. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 270 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma County 4-Barrel 2003 Score: 95 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

Of the bottlings in this tasting, this gained the most from aging. Very rich and elegant, sleek and pure, with tiered flavors of dark berry, plum, cherry, spice and wilted rose. A blend of Amber Ridge, Cohn, Kanzler and Koplen vineyards. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 90 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2003 Score: 93 | Release price: $38 | Current price: $38

Very rich and vibrant, this is deeply concentrated, and delivers layers of complexity. Subtle notes include ripe cherry, wilted rose and spice. From Amber Ridge, Koplen, Cohn, Dutton-Manzana and Tykanera vineyards. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 450 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2003 Score: 93 | Release price: $38 | Current price: $38

Very complex, rich and flavorful, offering a mix of plum, spice and mineral flavors, ending with forest floor and mushroom notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 272 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Cohn Vineyard 2003 Score: 92 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

Very rich, spicy and firm, with complex brown sugar, stewed plum and wild berry flavors. Ends with a minerally note. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 260 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2003 Score: 90 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

Mature and drying, but complex and subtle, this shows forest floor, mineral, dried berry and cherry pie notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 142 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2003 Score: 86 | Release price: $28 | Current price: $28

Shows a touch of oxidation, with strawberry rhubarb and cherry notes.—Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 790 cases made. —J.L.

2004

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Cohn Vineyard 2004 Score: 96 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $128

This delivers gorgeous fruit, pure, rich and layered, with a vivid mix of dark berry, raspberry, plum, tar, sage, cedar, anise and mineral flavors, all unfolding gracefully. Long finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 330 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2004 Score: 95 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $52

This bright, rich and juicy Pinot features vivid, blackberry jam, raspberry and wild berry flavors, tapering off to floral nuances, as well as tar and mineral. Good length. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 210 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma County 4-Barrel 2004 Score: 95 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $130

Still delightfully rich, pure and gracefully balanced, this displays tiered notes of ripe plum, blackberry, spice, and wild berry, yet for its fruit complexity this offers subtle nuances of mineral and anise. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 90 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2004 Score: 94 | Release price: $38 | Current price: $38

Perhaps the thickest and richest of all the Kosta Brownes in this tasting, it approaches the purity and density of boysenberry syrup with its viscosity and depth of flavors. Yet it's precisely those flavors that make it so distinctive and fun to drink. Vibrant and well-balanced. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 1,020 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2004 Score: 94 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $159

Graceful and somewhat subdued in this mix of wines, having become with time more elegant and refined and less opulent. This exhibits complex, delicate flavors of tar, wilted rose, forest floor and glazed brown sugar. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 430 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2004 Score: 93 | Release price: $32 | Current price: $32

Mature, very complex, offering a range of dried berry, jam, tar, forest floor and black licorice notes. Soft and fleshy in a pleasant way. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 1,010 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard 2004 Score: 92 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $120

Mature yet drinking well, with dark berry, tea, mineral and herb notes. Holding nicely. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 212 cases made. —J.L.

2005

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2005 Score: 97 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

This very ripe yet subtle '05 hasn't missed a beat, delivering rich, juicy, elegantly styled plum, black cherry and blackberry fruit. Subtle touches of spicy mineral mark the finish. Amazing persistence. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 500 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2005 Score: 96 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

There are restrained aromas here, yet the flavors build gracefully. Juicy, with vivid, layered wild berry, raspberry, cherry and floral scents. Deep, complex and ending with a laser-beam focus. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 255 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard 2005 Score: 95 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

Builds intensity, depth and dimension, exhibiting loamy earth, sage and underbrush notes joining a medley of dried berry, plum, raspberry and black cherry flavors. Wonderful finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 264 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir California 4-Barrel 2005 Score: 94 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

A notably elegant and stylish Pinot, this offers a complex mix of cola, raspberry, spice, subtle forest floor and wilted rose notes. The flavors are woven together on a long finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 92 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Keefer Ranch 2005 Score: 94 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

Fresh and vibrant, with a strong gravel and mineral presence, this shows rich dried berry notes, ending with subtle spice, floral and berry pie touches. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 117 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Miron Vineyard 2005 Score: 94 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

Rich and plush, dense and potent, this Pinot shows vivid wild berry, blackberry and raspberry scents. Persistent finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 92 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2005 Score: 93 | Release price: $45 | Current price: $120

This has gained in bottle, becoming notably graceful, elegant and supple. Rich, complex red berry and spice flavors are joined by a cola-sassafras edge. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 1,812 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard 2005 Score: 93 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

Fresh and snappy, with ripe, vivid, layers of blackberry, cherry and raspberry flavors. Smooth texture. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 510 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2005 Score: 92 | Release price: $45 | Current price: $120

Graceful and elegant, full-bodied, this offers rich, complex notes of cola, spice and mixed dark berries. Firm, structured tannins mark the finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 1,821 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard 2005 Score: 89 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

Rich and full-bodied, with a mix of brown sugar, berry and cola-sassafras notes. Complex, if somewhat less complex than others from this vintage. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 255 cases made. —J.L.

2006

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Keefer Ranch 2006 Score: 94 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Tight, firm, spicy, loamy earth notes and tannins give this a nice backbone. Snappy berry flavors are fresh and lively. Tasted from magnum. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 556 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir California 4-Barrel 2006 Score: 92 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Mature and vibrant, with lively cola, sassafras and dried berry flavors, ending with a very delicate aftertaste. From Kanzler, Miron, Gap's Crown and Rosella's vineyards. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 101 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2006 Score: 92 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Chewy and extracted, with complex, understated flavors of spice, tea and dried berry. Maintains its tannic muscle. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2016. 724 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard 2006 Score: 91 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Distinctive for its understated flavors of dried berry, loamy earth and mushroom. Soft, fleshy finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 365 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard 2006 Score: 91 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Shares the Garys' profile of understated flavors built around forest floor, mushroom, dried berry, sage and anise flavors. Drinking well now. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 365 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard 2006 Score: 89 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

A more subdued, understated wine, this is grainy and minerally, offering modest fruit. Ends on a dry note. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 724 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2006 Score: 89 | Release price: $68 | Current price: $68

Mature, with subdued cola, sassafras, dried berry and forest floor notes. Drying the finish. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 724 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2006 Score: 88 | Release price: $46 | Current price: $60

Mature and earthy, with drying berry fruit, brown sugar and forest floor. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 3,567 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2006 Score: 87 | Release price: $48 | Current price: $48

This maturing Pinot delivers vivid, lively, complex notes of wild berry, raspberry, spice and mineral. From Gap's Crown, Dutton-Manzana, Kanzler and Miron vineyards. Has peaked. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now. 3,627 cases made. —J.L.

2007

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir California 4-Barrel 2007 Score: 97 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

This offers gorgeous fruit that's ripe, lush and layered, ending with a sense of opulence and finesse. From Keefer, Amber Ridge, Kanzler and Koplen vineyards. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 91 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard 2007 Score: 96 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

A very complex and focused Pinot, this shows subtle notes of spice, dried berry, wild berry and loamy earth, with savory touches. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 247 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2007 Score: 95 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

This very tight Pinot is dense, concentrated and focused on pure, ripe, layered plum and raspberry fruit. Impressive showing. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2019. 803 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard 2007 Score: 94 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Dense aromas of tar, gravel and fresh earth join chunky, chewy dark berry flavors. Deeply concentrated. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2019. 727 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2007 Score: 94 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Pure, rich and direct, almost syrupy, with thick, persistent layers of dark berry fruit. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 867 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2007 Score: 94 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $52

Very complex, intense and spicy, delivering intense, persistent and rich dried berry flavors. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2017. 3,069 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 Score: 93 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $52

Firm, tight, elegant and understated, this offers fresh, vibrant flavors of black cherry, wild berry and raspberry.—Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 3,136 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard 2007 Score: 93 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Dense and extracted, making points for its subtle, well-focused, elegant flavors. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2019. 436 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Keefer Ranch 2007 Score: 92 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Spicy, earthy and vibrant, with wild berry, sage and herb notes. Finishes somewhat simpler in this grouping. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 698 cases made. —J.L.

2008

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir California 4-Barrel 2008 Score: 95 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Ripe, tight and juicy, with vivid dark berry, floral and wilted rose flavors that are more impressive than when this was reviewed last year. One of those happy gains. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 97 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2008 Score: 94 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $52

Dense, rich and extracted with deep currant and berry fruit, with mineral, sage and tea. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 3,632 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard 2008 Score: 95 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Well-oaked, but deftly balanced, boasting generous plum, blueberry and raspberry flavors, ending with loamy earth and tea notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 600 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Keefer Ranch 2008 Score: 95 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

One of two I correctly identified. This is notably spicy, with nutmeg, floral and berry scents. Rich and full-bodied, delivering layers of dark berries and a dash of mocha. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 613 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Koplen Vineyard 2008 Score: 95 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

This is dense, pure, rich and supple, displaying tiers of black cherry and blueberry fruit. Ends with a long burst of flavor. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 792 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys' Vineyard 2008 Score: 94 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Pure, ripe, intense and vibrant, with vivid blackberry and spice notes. Shows lively acidity, too. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 422 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Kanzler Vineyard 2008 Score: 94 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

This dense red exhibits cola, sassafras, ripe plum and wild berry flavors, ending with black tea notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 564 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Pisoni Vineyard 2008 Score: 93 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

Rich and loamy, with melted licorice and dark berry flavors, firm tannins and dash of mocha. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 115 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard 2008 Score: 93 | Release price: $72 | Current price: $72

This fresh, juicy Pinot shows a touch of watermelon woven with the blueberry and wild berry flavors. Elegant, stylish, persistent. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 255 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Gap's Crown Vineyard 2008 Score: 93 | Release price: $62 | Current price: $62

The other wine I was able to guess. This shows a distinct herbal edge in this tasting, offering a subtler, subdued presence, with complex dark berry, herb and tea notes. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2020. 690 cases made. —J.L.

KOSTA BROWNE Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2008 Score: 90 | Release price: $52 | Current price: $52

Shows a smoky, baconlike charry richness, with loamy earth and dried berry. Kosta Browne non-blind vertical (March 2011). Drink now through 2018. 3,554 cases made. —J.L.

Mark Horowitz
Brooklyn, USA —  November 16, 2011 6:22pm ET
Is it fairer to entitle this piece "Benefits of Time, Hazards of Too Much Time"? Always a bit apprehensive to cellar Pinots, whether they be Californian or Burgundian, for too long. Like the express lines in the supermarket (the one you're NOT on move faster), it's always to other guy's cellared wine that lasts forever.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 16, 2011 6:34pm ET
It's always better to drink great wine from someone else's cellar. I do believe Pinot Noirs age well and that we're entering new territory for these wines' longevity. Still, I like to taste the evidence myself, and this was one memorable experience.
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  November 16, 2011 8:30pm ET
Interesting that the 2006's across the board did not hold up as well as the other vintages. Any theories, reason behind this Jim?
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 16, 2011 8:37pm ET
The most interesting thing to me is how well the 2003s have aged. Of all the vintages in the 2000s, the 03s seemed the least likely to me (at the time) to last past a few years. I'm glad to be proven wrong!
Sean Lenz
San Francisco, CA —  November 16, 2011 9:36pm ET
Where did these "current prices" come from? Seem awful low to me if you can even find some of the older bottlings properly cellared.
John Thomas
Annapolis, Maryland —  November 16, 2011 9:51pm ET
Thanks James, I have been very fortunate to have been on the list since the 2004 vintage and your updated tastings is so helpful. I also have a number of the 2004 and 2005 Syrah's. Does anyone have a recent tasting of these KB's.
Dan Kosta
Sonoma County, CA —  November 16, 2011 10:30pm ET
Sean, when we release our current wines, we set the price of the corresponding library wines at the current level. It's a formality, however, as we have never sold library wines.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  November 16, 2011 10:34pm ET
2006 ended up being a tough year, very cool weather, a sizeable crop and many of the wines simply lacked concentration. Colors matured quickly, too.
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  November 16, 2011 11:17pm ET
2006 was probably the most frustrating recent vintage for Pinot winemakers. The wines tasted GREAT in barrel. But that never quite translated to bottle. I think Jim is right that the cold weather and large crop played into the overall lower concentration, which meant that the higher tannin level from the vintage played a much bigger role than normal. And for some reason, that showed more once bottled. The silver lining is that we all learned something about handling fruit from cooler vintages, which helped a lot with 2010 and 2011. I just wish there was an easier way to learn this stuff ;)
Jay J Cooke
Ripon CA —  November 17, 2011 12:07am ET
I have been a KB customer since their 03 release. After 50+ years in the dairy industry I retired a few years ago. To celebrate my retirement I asked KB if they would include a magnum in my allotment for the 07 designate fall release. I was politely informed by customer service that magnums were saved for charaties & special events. Within a week I received a complimentary magnum of 07 Keefer Ranch Pinot signed by Michael & Dan. It is a real treasure. They are two class gentlemen & deserve all of the success they are achieving. Congratulations Michael & Dan on the Wine Spectators wine of the year award. Cheers Jay
Ivan Campos
Ottawa, Canada —  November 17, 2011 12:32am ET
oddly enough, my all-time favourite Cali pinot is a 2006, and it's just hitting its stride now (Ampelos Lambda / Santa Rita Hills).

alas, can only hope we'll see Kosta Brownes in Ontario one day...
Rich Meier
Reno,NV. Washoe —  November 17, 2011 12:39am ET
Couldn't help but wonder where and when a KB pinot in 2009's Top 10 would show. As I opened the # 1 online today, seeing quality/value/availability being the predictors I guessed the Sonoma, boom there it is. My fav is the Kanzler, no Amber Ridge, no Koplen. I used to go steady with Rosella. Seems like KB's NORCAL pinots' have become more outstanding compared to the Santa Lucia ones. Better fruit, better years? For 2009 my allotment and choices shrunk. No Rosella's or Gary's, and just 1 Amber Ridge. Well my wife was happy, she pays the bills. Your wines have been used by me to convert Cab freaks. Many Thanks
David Rapoport
CA —  November 17, 2011 1:42am ET
I just don't get it.
The dozen or so times I've had KB wines, they've been certainly well made, clean and flavorful; but also very heavy, and rather samish. I found that I could get very similar flavor profiles for a lot less $.
As CA pinots go, they just completely fail to excite me in the way a Littorai, Peay or Flowers would.
Different strokes I suppose, but I just don't see it
David Dickson
Sacramento, CA —  November 17, 2011 2:06am ET
I couldn't help but notice that the 2008 Russian River Valley bottling is not on your list. Is that an oversight or did it get left out of the tasting for some reason?
Dustin Gillson
Dayton, OH —  November 17, 2011 6:08pm ET
I'm excited to see that Ted Elliott took a tip from KB and has been bottling the best single barrel of TR Elliott in only magnums. I don't think he makes enough to blend 4-barrels though ;) I know Dan and Ted are friends though so maybe it was Ted's idea.
Michael De Polo
W. Bloomfield, Mi —  November 19, 2011 3:19am ET
My wife bought me a 2005 Koplen several years ago from a retail/restaurant in Ann Arbor. I took great care of it for these years, and finally opened it after a very special day of cooking with my favorite chef in Traverse City. We enjoyed it with him and two friends who ate the lentil salad and duck he and I cooked. To say that it was, by all accounts, "the best glass of wine I've ever had," as my friend Diane put it, sums up the experience. It was rich, elegant, and not at all showing any age--just a beautiful maturity that matched the gorgeous fall day in Northern Michigan.

Congratulations to Michael and Dan for this wonderful and much deserved achievement.
Steven Cohan
Los Angeles —  March 4, 2014 4:13pm ET
Jim,
Wanted to see if you have done any recent KB verticals and also if the Spring Release of 2012s are set to be reviewed anytime soon?

Thanks, enjoyed seeing your reviews. Haven't been a KB club member for as long as others but me personally enjoy the bolder types. Practically all of my allocations are resting in cellar so probably time to do a vertical tasting myself pretty soon.....
James Laube
Napa —  March 4, 2014 6:55pm ET
No recents and hoping to see the 2012s soon.

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