Buying Wine

Exciting Changes at Kosta Browne

Kosta Browne was founded in the late nineties by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In 2009 controlling interest was sold to Vincraft for close to $40 million. In 2015 J.W. Childs Associates, a Boston-based private equity firm, bought out Vincraft. With these investments have come numerous changes including a new Winery (Gallery) in Sebastopol and the purchase of Keefer and Cerise Vineyards. A primary focus at Kosta Browne has always been the direct to consumer (DTC) relationship. DTC accounts for close to 85% of the current 30,000 case annual production. The waiting list for the Appellation wines is 18 months long and for the coveted 4 Barrel Pinot Noir there is a 12 year waiting list. More changes are in the works as Kosta Browne strives to stay relevant for the next generation of consumers while preserving the magic that has made KB special for so many years.

As a long time member of the KB mailing list (my first purchase was the 2005 vintage) I was especially interested in some recently announced changes to the Kosta Browne mailing list. The changes were brought to my attention by an article in Shanken News Daily and I reached out to Scott Becker the CEO of Kosta Browne for clarification on a few items and how they will impact us members of the mailing list.

Presently Kosta Browne has two mailers per year: the Appellation mailer in the Spring and the Single Vineyard Designate mailer in the Fall. The Appellation mailer, or Appellation Series, includes the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sta. Rita Hills. With the 2016 vintage these wines were priced at $68. Pricing has not yet been finalized for the 2017 vintage. Expect to see an Anderson Valley Appellation wine in future vintages.

The Single Vineyard Designates include Kanzler, Keefer, Koplen, Cerise, Gaps Crown, Garys, Giusti, Pisoni and Rosellas. A new vineyard, Thorn Ridge will be released this Fall. The mailer for the 2016 vintage should be out in the coming months and pricing will be approximately $95 per bottle. Going forward the Single Vineyard Designates will be known as the Grower Series.

Next Summer will mark the debut of the Estate Series with the offering of the 2016 vintage of Treehouse and Bootlegger’s Hill vineyards. These were originally CIRQ vineyards that Michael Browne planted.  As Michael handed over KB winemaking duties to Nico Cueva, he also transitioned the farming and stewardship of these two vineyards into the KB portfolio. Nico now works with the talented farmer Charlie Chenoweth to manage these two unique vineyards. The concept for Estate Series is to separate vineyards where KB owns or controls the farming from vineyards where they partner with the grower to source fruit. Keefer and Cerise will eventually transition from the Grower Series to the Estate Series. These wines will price at $110-$125. Expect more vineyard acquisitions by KB in years to come.

Last but not least is the Observation Series. The idea here is to separately bottle wines that are unique and somehow reflective of the vintage. These will likely be one off wines like the El Diablo Chardonnay offered last year. These wines will be available exclusively in the Kosta Browne Gallery but exceptions will likely be made for long-time members who express interest. Four different Observation Series wines were bottled from the 2016 vintage. Pricing here will be in the $125 range.

As always with Kosta Browne allocations will be based on past purchases. Do not expect any minimum purchase requirements.

I for one am excited by the direction at Kosta Browne. Certainly the scale is different than fifteen years ago but the attention to detail and excellence has not changed. For my palate the wines are as good as ever and I can’t wait to visit the winery late next month and eagerly look forward to the Grower Series mailer later this Summer.


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