Dan Kosta and Michael Browne: fans of Pinot Noir
— Pierre-Adrien Fleurant, Director of Galleon
When people think of California wineries, they see vast, sunlit vineyards... and it's generally true. But this side of the coast has mountains, valleys and fog from the Pacific; temperatures fluctuate between hot and cold, which has a positive effect on the grapes. The resulting wines are remarkably diverse.
One of the region’s flagship vineyards is none other than Gap’s Crown. Kosta Browne has been sourcing their grapes from the property since 2006 (they were used for the 2009 vintage, selected as Wine Spectator’s 2011 Wine of the Year). The vines, planted to encourage even sunlight exposure, also benefit from a late-season fog that allows the grapes to ripen slowly, resulting in more balanced and evolved flavours.
Russian River Valley
While the vineyards in this small appellation may differ one from the other, most of them share a common influence—the cool air from the Pacific Coast that rolls inland along the Russian River. The resulting fog cools down the vines at night, offering them a respite from hot daytime temperatures. This is the heartland of California Pinot Noir.
Santa Lucia Highlands
East of the coast, Santa Lucia Highlands is relatively new—its first vineyards were developed in the 1970s. The vines are generally above an elevation of 300 m, so they can benefit from the ocean breezes and fog coming in from Monterey Bay. Pinot Noir excels on these hillsides, which is what led Kosta Browne to the region.
CIRQ: It’s showtime!
We discovered CIRQ, the estate’s latest label, at the New York Wine Experience in October 2015. The name CIRQ is inspired by the time its founder, Michael Browne, spent in the circus as a child. Browne developed two Pinot Noirs with grapes from two vineyards that he found and cultivated himself. Both sites are west of the Russian River Valley and are above the fog line at an elevation of 230 m. But their personalities set them apart: Treehouse has volcanic soil and receives more sunlight than surrounding areas, while Bootlegger’s Hill, surrounded by redwood and fir trees, produces a more red-fruited wine. We were drawn to Treehouse’s intensity as much as we were to Bootlegger’s elegance.