2017 Kosta Brown Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Year: 2017
Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Country: USA - California
Wine Advocate: 93
James Suckling: 92
Jeb Dunnuck: 94
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.3%
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"Aged 17 months in 45% new French oak, the pale to medium ruby colored 2017 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley opens with broody aromas of spiced cranberry sauce, crushed black cherries, loam, cumin seeds, dried leaves and a classy framing of new oak spice with notions of orange peel and amaro. It's medium-bodied and silky, offering plush, ripe fruits in the mouth, with a grainy frame and mouthwatering freshness, finishing very long. This is a tick up in complexity from the 2016 version. "We had all our fruit in the week before the fires started, and we were able to get into the winery and everything was fine," says assistant winemaker Julien Howsepian. 8,500 cases produced.

Kosta Browne harvested most of their fruit before the heat wave in 2017. “It was a mad dash, to be perfectly honest,” winemaker Julien Howsepian tells me. “Some of the fruit hung through the heat, but having begun sourcing from further western sites, we tend to have cooler microclimates than some other spots. Those cooler pockets were the best suited vineyards to survive the heat. We do have an optical sorter, so that was really important in 2017.”

Howsepian has been gradually introducing changes in the winery. “We have started picking a little bit earlier and looking for sites closer to the coast,” he says. He’s paying serious attention to the Chardonnay program, which began only in 2009. “Pinot Noir was always the king of Kosta Browne,” he notes, “But we knew we could do better when it came to Chardonnay. We wanted to be in the same conversation as the best Chardonnays in the world.” Filtering is being phased out for single-vineyard wines. “Filtering makes clearer wines, but I think it removes some of the soul and complexity. It takes away character and I don’t want to see all that hard work go down the drain.” Oak usage is changing as well. “We want to use oak as a support and not the lead, so we’re carefully choosing our selections, using lighter toast and larger formats.” Use of whole cluster is about 10% to 15% across the board.

The Observation Series is another new development—2016 was the first vintage for these special bottlings. “This is for special fruit that we find or want to show off,” Howsepian explains. “And they tend to change each year.” These wines will be available only to members. Kosta Browne currently sells about 6,000 cases in the market—the rest of the wines are sold direct to consumer and to members." (WA)

"This is a blend of more than a dozen parcels. It has such sweet red-fruit aromas with a sweet-spice edge, too. The palate has super smooth, approachable and soft, fleshy red cherries. Drink now." (JS)

"The 2017 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley comes from a multitude of sites and spent 17 months in 45% new French oak. It's slightly more reticent than the Sonoma Coast and offers more raspberry, ripe cherries, cola, mulled spiced, and earth. Rounded, beautifully textured, and medium to full-bodied, it has a supple, seamless style that's already a joy to drink. Nevertheless, I suspect it will keep for upwards of a decade." (JD)

Winery Notes:
There are many differences between vineyards in this small appellation, but the majority of them do share a common influence – the cooling effect that follows the Russian River inland from the Pacific coast. The resulting fog helps keep nights cool and offers vines a respite from daytime temperatures. In turn, these diurnal temperature swings slow down ripening and promote more evolved flavors in our grapes. We work with vineyards that span a diverse and varied view into a region that many would call the heartland of California Pinot Noir. Our goal is to create a wine that showcases the essence of this magical appellation.Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to work with many great vineyards. We continue to work carefully with select growers that farm in and around our Sebastopol home. There is often a recognizably full mouthfeel and texture to the wines from the area - a common thread to the components of this blend and a feature we are drawn to every year. This vintage was much more compact due to extreme heat in early September that created a mad dash to harvest as much fruit as possible at peak quality.