This is a picture of what’s left of my Kosta Browne 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. I wasn’t going to leave Lorena’s, a very good restaurant in my community, without having finished it. I finished it because it was a gift from my friend Rick, and it also happened to be the Wine Spectator Wine of the Year last year. It was very generous of him to give me a bottle. The price isn’t insignificant at the “suggested retail price” of $52. The price also wasn’t out of whack for the quality of what was one of the best CA style pinot noirs I have had, and maybe one of the best quality to price CA pinot noirs I have had.
The reason though that it was not an insignificant gift and the reason I finished the wine (besides the fact that it was really good and I can still smell the raspberry scent that was wafting from my glass the next morning) was because I do not know when I will get the chance to try another bottle. Kosta Browne is a just about mailing list only wine, with a small allotment going to select restaurants. You can’t walk into most any, if any, wine shop and snag a bottle or two off the shelf. Kosta and Browne, the two owner/winemakers, have a loyalist following and their wines are allotted out to their loyalists every year. Former waiters with no winemaking experience, they went about it in a trial and error method (I like them even more now), and after an inauspicious start, since 2002, they have made around 70 wines that have gotten a 90 point or higher rating. They do not own any vineyards and make these consistently highly regarded and sought after wines in a rented warehouse.
My friend has fortunately for him (and fortunately for me) been on the Kosta Browne mailing list for some time…and fortunately for me again, he decided to share a bottle of his allotment with us. So on a whim, walking over to what is one of the best restaurants in New Jersey, I wanted something really good to drink and also something versatile. Pinot can be a heartbreaker, but good pinot can be fantastic, even sublime. While I won’t put this wine in the sublime category, it’s certainly fantastic and was a great match for the food I chose. Yes, I brought the wine and picked food on the menu that I thought would go with it, rather than bring two or three wines and then decide what to open. But at a really good restaurant, I wasn’t worried about finding something that I thought paired well. Last night, that meant mushroom and lump crabmeat crepe and the black pepper encrusted venison sirloin with spaetzle, mushrooms, braised red cabbage, and juniper game jus.
Admittedly, I am not a mailing list person. I am more consumer than collector, and most mailing list wines are wines to be held and aged and not just consumed. There is a cachet to mailing list wines…they ought to be more select, more special, better crafted, in general. But many of these wines carry a big price tag and if you don’t buy your allotment, off the list you may go. It’s not much different from friends who gave up Giants season tickets because they couldn’t justify paying the ever loftier price.
I also look at wine the way I look at concert tickets when they go on sale…that is, I’ve seen most everyone I’ve wanted to see in concert, many of them multiple times, so if I can’t get to see someone, it doesn’t usually break me up. If I can’t try a great wine, I also don’t get too broken up because I’m fortunate to have tasted many really good wines, many of them multiple times, and I know the opportunities will continue to pop up. But this morning, I signed up for the waiting list for Kosta Browne. I am late to the dance, and may not see a bottle for some time, but I will be happy to have what I can get whenever that happens, just like there is some band I will happy to see some day that isn’t on my radar now. But if the Kosta Browne becomes a ticket too expensive to justify buying, I will someday skip seeing them.