Wine Rating: 95
A new year is upon us and for a wine lover that means another year that the wine in your collection has aged and has (fingers crossed) matured properly in the shadowy caverns of your wine cellar or temperature controlled refrigerator. Those lovely young bottles that you purchased a few years ago are another year older, another year bolder and some may be ready for drinking.
So winter is making its way in, starting to surround us and depending on where you live, that could mean very cold weather for many of you. Climate has a real effect on how your wine holds up and that is why properly storing your wine is very important. Hot temperatures spoil wine and dry out the corks that much faster, but cold weather can halt the proper aging and cause the shrinking of your corks, allowing moisture inside. Drinking spoiled wine; also known as ‘corked’ wine is not pleasant. You will know it when it happens. Of all the wines I drink throughout the year, which, including unique bottles of wine, would be about, Hmm, let’s see – carry the 6, plus 30 days, minus an afternoon, skipping a couple of breakfasts, plus holidays – I drank about 200 different bottles of wine this year. Out of that 200, about 2% are corked. That’s actually a pretty low number, but when it is a bottle that cost you $100+… it sucks.
So yes… corking costs me and you too, but unnecessary corking can be avoided if you take proper measures. Just to be clear, I purchase every bottle of wine I drink and there are no wineries sending me selections to review. I wish they would and maybe someday they will, but as of yet… they don’t. But when they do, I will gladly accept such an act of kindness with glee. Not to mention, my wife would appreciate the reduction of the monthly wine bill. I’ll admit, I don’t mind purchasing and collecting my own wine. I really enjoy the process before I buy the wine… the extended research I do on the winery, the owners and staff, their philosophy and passion. I like to know what and who I am spending my money on. I look at all of the critic’s reviews and the ratings of the past years. There are just a few wine critics I really trust, so I’d like to give a shout out to James Laube over at Wine Spectator magazine as being my favorite wine critic. He never disappoints me on what he has to say about wine. His knowledge is legendary and his reviews are honest, many of which are blind tastings; meaning the wine label is hidden during the tasting and the wine is graded solely on its quality.
I do a few blind tastings each year which helps me to refine my palate and pick up on the nuances of the grape. Since I purchase all of my own wine for tastings, I am for the most part prepared for what I am getting into. Have I ever been disappointed by what I have read and then what I tasted? YES! That is why you should never judge a wine by the review, judge it by the description from the winery. What flavors are present? How heavy are the tannins? Is that particular varietal pleasing to you? Is the vintage too young? A rating is just someone’s opinion and for all you know they could have had an onion sandwich for lunch that altered what they tasted. They could have tasted 25 wines that day and by the end their palate was spent. My advice is to drink the best of what your budget can afford you and I encourage you to always expand your love and knowledge of wine. Besides enjoying and expanding your repertoire makes for interesting social conversation at gatherings. “What do you do?” “I’m a financial planner.” [Yawn!] “What do you do?” “I write a monthly wine column for an online literary magazine and a wine review website.”
I’m starting the New Year’s wine review with not just my favorite varietal; Pinot Noir, but my favorite winery – Kosta Browne. This was the winery that captured my wife and started her on the path to appreciate quality wine. It inspired her to learn more about the subtle differences in each bottle. Like a great piece of live jazz music it will not be the same the next time, as its one part improvisation and other parts genius. Even if it is the same wine, the same year, from the same barrel by the next day the wine has changed; improvised.
Kosta Browne is top-notch California Pinot Noir. Their pricing is not cheap (about $85+ a bottle) and their allocation is in very small case runs, mostly sold through their wine club, which has a very long waiting list… and yes, I’m on the waiting list. But the limitedness and run size is slowing beginning to change as they have partnered with some investors to help them expand their business and are building a new winery. So, who exactly is Kosta Browne? Well for one, they were Wine Spectators ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2011 for their spectacular bottle of the 2009 Sonoma Coast release. If you can find it, it will set you back about $250 and I can tell you, it’s worth every penny, but I’d prefer you decide that for yourself.
To be clear, this review is on their 2009 Kanzler Vineyard release, not the Sonoma Coast, but an equally stellar wine just the same. If I were to begin telling you about Kosta Browne’s history this article would quickly become book length as I can talk about them all day. Maybe I’ll do a mid-year insert to fill you in on why I could seriously talk about them all day. Find me at any social gathering and chances are you will hear me telling the tale of two friends who in 1997 had an idea, dare I say… a dream. Dan Kosta and Michael Browne pooled their tip money together and bought some grapes and 16 years later they make one of the best California Pinot Noirs you will ever taste. It’s worth going out of your way to try their wines and learn about them. All wines and wineries are not created equal and what they do at Kosta Browne is true passion my friends.
The intensity of the berry that bursts into your mouth is amazing. I’m a California Pinot Noir elitist and I like my wine fruit forward. Kosta Browne will make you a lover of true Pinot Noir. This wine is delicate; it desires a respectable 45 minutes to open up; letting the spices and fig aroma open, allowing the 14.7% alcohol to mellow. Transfer it into a crystal decanter and let it sit for a bit. Chat with friends and relax as the bouquet opens into the air. Slice a nice Monterey Jack cheese with some prosciutto.
Upon the first sip you will feel slight tannins across your gums and then – BAM – the wild berry and black cherry, hinting of pine cone bursts. Chew on it for a few seconds; swish it around your mouth, coat your tongue and sink your teeth into it, wait… then swallow. Now inhale, taking it deep into your lungs and as you exhale, the finish arrives in the back of your throat and here is the key to realizing how long of an age a wine will have. Is the quality powerful? Does it bring its fruit back filling your senses? Or is it full and refined; implying its aged enough.
The fruit finds its way back into your palate and you can taste the soil and coastline, the care that went into the grapes. You can still savor the spices and that amazing berry. Now imagine this wine in another 5 to 8 years. That dear reader is what California, and especially Kosta Browne, do with a Pinot Noir varietal – they make it their own. I say Bravo and Happy New Year.
Kanzler Pinot Noir, 2009
Only 610 Cases Produced
Winery: Kosta Browne
Winemakers: Dan Kosta, Michael Browne and Chris Costello
Label: Kanzler Vineyard
Location: Sonoma Coast
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appearance (Color): Ruby
Aroma (Complexity): Chocolate, Cherry, Spice
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Forest, Spice and Wild Berries
Finish (What lingers): Cherry and Chocolate
Serving Temperature: 64°