WineInk: Aspen Regular Kosta Launches New Wine Company
When you have been one of those lucky ones who have experienced a meteoric rise, the difficulty is often to propose a second act. It’s a problem we should all be lucky enough to have.
Dan Kosta, a highly regarded Sonoma winemaker who often comes to Aspen to share his wines, is poised to produce not just a second, but a true third act as he turns 50. And this is a culmination of all the experiences that have punctuated his life as a winemaker to date.
Earlier this month, Kosta launched a new wine venture, the DK Wine Group (DK for Dan Kosta), with the release of three wines, a pair of Pinots Noirs and a Chardonnay, from superior vineyards in the Russian River appellations. and Sonoma Coast under the Convene label. The project marks something of a renaissance for the winemaker, whose name still leads Kosta Browne’s famous Pinot Noir-centric brand which he founded, along with partner Dan Browne in 1997 with the tip the two earned while working the floor at John’s Ash Restaurant.
According to legend, the couple bought half a ton of Pinot Noir grapes with a hand-cranked crusher and a used barrel. In 2001, under their eponymous name, Kosta and Browne produced 150 cases of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from the 2000 vintage. A decade later, in 2011, their 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was recognized by wine spectator as the No. 1 wine of the year. Soon after, they sold the company for $40 million to Vincraft. A rather successful first act.
Kosta Browne is now owned by the Duckhorn Wine Company and part of their exceptional Pinot Noir-based portfolio, which includes another classic producer they’ve acquired in recent years, Calera, as well as local Duckhorn Anderson Valley gem, Goldeneye. . While Kosta and Browne are no longer affiliated with the wines, their names live on the bottles.
Kosta followed Kosta Brown with another partnership project, this one with New Orleans chef and entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse with whom he co-founded AldenAlli, this time named for the women they were married to at launch. AldenAlli has crafted limited production wines and has been recognized as an important vehicle for philanthropic and charitable fundraising purposes, particularly for the annual auction that the Lagasse Foundation holds each year in New Orleans.
But now Kosta, along with his longtime winemaker Shane Finley, is ready for a new project with a new purpose.
“I love making single-vineyard wines from great places like Campbell Ranch,” Kosta said in a recent interview, referring to one of the most esteemed Pinot Noir wineries in the River Valley. Russian, one of the best places in the world for premium Pinot Noir. “But blends, wines that are made by taking the best from different vineyards and combining them, really appeal to me.”
With Convene, Kosta and Finley will source the fruit from a number of vineyards in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations, then blend them to create new and interesting wines that are one of a kind. “Mixes are more fun,” laughed Kosta. “With a blend, a winemaker can be a bit more determined and have more impact than when making a wine from a single vineyard. Wines are a little harder to make, but you have the ability as a winemaker to make decisions that really affect what the wine will be. You can make selections from the different vineyards and blend the wines that complement each other best. It’s a process, but it can be very rewarding.
And this process is one of the reasons Kosta chose the Convene name for the new wines.
“Of course the name refers to the idea of ’summoning’ grapes from different places,” he said, “but it’s also about bringing together all those things that make wine fun for me. Having done this twice before with partners, it’s a chance to spread my wings and use everything I’ve learned.
And it goes beyond simple winemaking.
“There are so many things that go into building a business. It’s about selecting vineyards, building relationships with wine club members and working with distributors,” he said.
Here in Colorado, he works closely with John Salamanski and Penny Devine of Redstone, and their company CS Wines, to distribute the product.
“I mean, they’re like family, and one of the best things about Convene is being able to work with the people we want to work with,” he said.
Convene wines are made in a custom crushing facility in Santa Rosa, California, under the care of winemaker Shane Finley, a Vikings fan from Minnesota who has worked with Kosta since the days of Kosta Browne. Finley also shares Kosta’s vision for the beauty of blends.
“Single vineyard wines are pure expressions of the terroir; they focus on what the site does best,” Finley explained. “Blends, on the other hand, present the challenge of harmonizing disparate vineyards and all of their unique characteristics. The process of merging multiple vineyards into a true representation of its appellation is extremely rewarding.
Wines under the Convene label will initially be available through a mailing list and to wine club members. The dk-convene.com website, is the best place to visit and start a relationship with Convene. Or, instead of a virtual tour, Convene has a tasting lounge in Healdsburg, Sonoma County at a beautiful facility called Bacchus Landing, which hosts a number of the region’s top producers in a friendly environment. Reservations can also be made for in-person wine tasting experiences on the website.
The day I spoke with Kosta was in the middle of the 2022 harvest and temperatures in Sonoma had reached 114 degrees.
“I grew up in Santa Rosa and I’ve never seen such hot days,” he told me as he sat in his air-conditioned car at one of the vineyards he uses.
The grapes for these wines are all harvested at night and picked by hand, he explained, and much of the harvest was already complete or underway, so the impact should be minimal on the 2022 vintage. Still , Kosta acknowledges the challenges he faces in building a new wine brand these days.
“It’s not just the climate and the heat, but the supply chain issues affect everyone,” he said.
Either way, Kosta is excited about the new opportunities this third act presents, and he’s looking forward to coming to Colorado with the wines and, of course, getting together as he shares them. .
“The goal will be to get these wines to as many A-list restaurants as possible,” he said. “I want people to be able to taste them and enjoy them.”