The King of Sonoma Pinot Noir Has Created Another Outstanding Winery

When Dan Kosta’s semi-eponymous winery Kosta Browne was sold in 2018, he felt the need to keep busy and stay working. But he resolved to do it on his own terms. Leaving what is considered by many to be a benchmark for Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley and beyond, he simply could have eased into retirement but instead chose to start from scratch with a new brand.

With his recently launched Convene by Dan Kosta, he has shown that lightning can strike twice in the same place. A native of Sonoma County, Kosta grew up among vineyards and has had a lifelong affinity for Pinot Noir. He and Michael Browne started their brand in 1997, and it quickly became a darling of wine media and consumers alike. In 2011 Wine Spectator named Kosta Browne 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir as the best wine of the year—the only Pinot Noir to ever take the top spot. Following in Kosta’s previous project’s footsteps, Convene has already begun to rack up accolades. Its first two releases, 2021 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and 2021 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir have already received 97 and 95 points from a major scoring publication.

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Although Kosta made wine in the early days at Kosta Browne, he now manages daily operations at Convene and acts as the face of the brand, leaving the day-to-day winemaking to Shane Finley, who he has worked with since 2006. While Kosta discusses vineyards, blends, and overall winemaking philosophy with Finley, he believesthat his own time is best spent representing Convene to the public. Kosta sculpts the “vision and direction” in terms of wine style, but he knows his own strengths. “Shane Finley is the rockstar in the cellar,” he tells Robb Report. “When I’m not on the road or managing branding initiatives, you can see me watering plants on the tasting room patio or waxing special magnums. It’s a true team effort here and I am not above any job.” Convene’s tasting room is at Bacchus Landing in Healdsburg, a collective tasting destination featuring eight area wineries.

Dan Kosta
Dan Kosta has done it again.

Convene 2021 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir has aromas of raspberry, black cherry, and a hint of rose petal. Polished tannins play host to flavors of cherry cola, blueberry, and pencil lead with a sense of earthiness and lingering note of vanilla. Convene 2021 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir offers a bouquet of cherry pie, milk chocolate and butterscotch. Flavors of raspberry, red plum, and pomegranate with hints of clove and nutmeg are wrapped in a sheath of elegant tannins that linger on the palate. Both are from cooler sites within their respective AVAs. “With Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, that almost always means sourcing fruit from the western part of those appellations,” Kosta says. “Overall, we look for quality, uniqueness, consistency, and a grower relationship that is steadfast and like-minded.”

For brands that don’t own their own vineyards, grower relationships are exceptionally important, and having lived and worked in Sonoma his whole life, Kosta knows how to get the best grapes. “Our vineyard sourcing comes back to the ethos of Convene as a confluence of our history and experience. There are some vineyards we partner with that we have history in some form or another,” he says. “So, we know the growers and the profile and quality of the fruit. Some of the newer vineyards have an understood quality of terroir, based on proximity to established vineyards, soil, and exposure.”

Kosta points out that the majority of his Sonoma Coast blend comes from vineyards within “the new West Sonoma Coast AVA, offering intensity and tension, bordering on earth tones, balanced by mysterious black fruit.” He adds, “Russian River has less tension with more generous red fruit, pleasant baking spices, and a hint of cola.” In addition to these two wines, Convene produces a luscious Russian River Valley Chardonnay and a crisp rosé of Pinot Noir from the same appellation, with a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir set to be released later this year.

Although other Pinot Noir houses have a multitude of offerings from throughout Sonoma, the Central Coast, and even Oregon, Kosta says that this new release will complete Convene’s portfolio. “Having three very distinct flavor profiles is important, as it appeals to our patrons in different neighborhoods,” he says. “We think that we have a concise, focused selection. Adding too many other wines gets to be confusing and redundant. Never say ‘never,’ but I think we have achieved our vision regarding our selections.” And while Kosta prefers to drink his Pinots within four to eight years of their vintage date, we agree with his assessment that these will mature beautifully for up to 10 years.

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