Kosta Browne Winery, in Sebastopol, was founded in 1997 when Dan Kosta and Michael Browne pooled their money to buy a half ton of Pinot Noir grapes and a used grape crusher. The men had been colleagues at a Santa Rosa restaurant, but dreamt of making their own wine. In 2001 they teamed up with Chris Costello, who provided the winemaking pair with a business plan and operational support. Today the three partners still run Kosta Browne, which does not have its own vineyards but sources grapes from the Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands. Kosta Browne makes only Pinot Noir, and has in little more than a decade developed a strong following for its wines, which are generally single vineyard bottlings. Most Kosta Browne wines are sold through their mailing list.
Santa Lucia Highlands AVA is a 12-mile long, narrow strip of an appellation wedged along the eastern hillsides of the Santa Lucia mountain range. Given its proximity to Big Sur and the Gabilan Mountain Range to the northeast, Santa Lucia a cool-climate wine growing district. Morning sun is often followed by maritime winds and fog in the afternoon, a weather pattern that prolongs the growing season and means long, gentle ripening of the grapes. Spanish missionaries planted vineyards in the district in the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that modern winemakers planted vineyards and began making high quality wine. The district received AVA status in 1991 and today there are 6,000 vineyard acres in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Pinot Noir is the dominant grape planted, followed by Chardonnay and Riesling.
This red wine is relatively light and can pair with a wide variety of foods. The grape prefers cooler climates and the wine is most often associated with Burgundy, Champagne and the U.S. west coast. Regional differences make it nearly as fickle as it is flexible.