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The Wine Column

Waiting for Pinot

By Steve Palopoli

TALK TO local sommeliers about their most sought-after varietals, and one point comes up almost without fail: people around here love their pinot noir. Or as Dan Kosta, co-owner of and winemaker for Sonoma's Kosta Browne Winery, puts it: "Silicon Valley is Northern California, and Northern California is pinot."

That's why plenty of wine enthusiasts here know Kosta Browne, a small winery that Kosta and fellow winemaker Michael Browne began in 1997. They partnered with Chris Costello in 2001 and became almost an overnight sensation with their 2002 vintage, producing a string of incredible, full-bodied pinots that met with critical acclaim every year through their 2005 wines.

Kosta will be the guest at the winemaker's dinner Thursday (May 21) at the Plumed Horse in Saratoga. For pinot fans, this is huge, as the No. 1 problem facing lovers of Kosta Browne is access—90 percent of their 10,000 case-a-year output is sold through mail order, and, yes, there is a waiting list. Which means there are only about 1,000 bottles per year floating out there in the world, and they do no retail sales at all.

Kosta says that for this dinner he will be bringing a mix of new wines and some library selections. But let's talk about these new wines for a second. You see, 2006 was just a downright odd year for pinots. Nobody ended up with quite what they expected, and a lot of the pinots that year were downright mediocre. Kosta Browne's were quite a bit lighter than in previous years, but Mother Nature couldn't keep them down—that year, they turned the problem around and made wines that won acclaim for their refined stateliness.

With the 2007 vintage, two of which have been released, Kosta has gone for a mix of the things that made the 2006s and the pre-2006s great, and he can't believe the quality of the yield. "Mother Nature gave us a darn near perfect vintage. They're a little more intense than the '06s, but they still have the elegance," he says. "I'm thinking these are going to be the best wines we've done."

He'll be bringing both the 2007 Sonoma Coast and 2007 Russian River down with him, so Silicon Valley wine lovers can find out for themselves. And while it may not help anyone move up the waiting list to be there, it can't hurt.

Plumed Horse

14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 408.867.4711

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