WineInk: Kosta launches new wine company, under the label Convene
An Aspen regular relaunches
When you have been one of those fortunate people who have had a meteoric rise, the difficulty often is coming up with a second act. It is a problem we all should be so lucky to have.
Dan Kosta, a much beloved Sonoma-based winemaker who comes to Aspen often to share his wines, is on the cusp of producing not just a second, but an actual third act as he reaches the age of 50. And this one is a culmination of all the experiences that have punctuated his winemaking life to date.
Earlier this month, Kosta launched a new wine company, 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 and Sonoma Coast appellations under the label Convene. The project marks a rebirth of sorts for the winemaker, whose name still leads the famed Kosta Browne Pinot Noir centric brand he famously founded, along with partner Dan Browne back in 1997 with the tip money the two made while working the floor at the John Ash restaurant.
As the legend goes, the pair bought a half ton of Pinot Noir grapes along with a hand crank crusher and a used barrel. In 2001, under their eponymous moniker, 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 received recognition by Wine Spectator as the No. 1 wine of the year. Shortly after, they sold the venture for a reported $40 million to Vincraft. A pretty good first act.
Kosta Browne is now owned by the Duckhorn Wine Company and is part of its exceptional Pinot Noir based portfolio, which includes another classic producer they acquired in recent years, Calera, along with the homegrown Duckhorn Anderson Valley gem, Goldeneye. While Kosta and Browne are no longer affiliated with the wines, their names live on, on the bottles.
Kosta followed up Kosta Brown with another partnered project, this one with New Orleans chef and entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse with whom he co-founded AldenAlli, named this time for women they were married to at the time of the launch. AldenAlli crafted limited production wines and was noted for being a significant vehicle for philanthropic and charitable fundraising purposes, especially for the annual auction that the Lagasse Foundation holds each year in New Orleans.
But now, Kosta, along with his longtime winemaker Shane Finley, are ready for a new project with a new focus.
“I love making single vineyard wines from great places like Campbell Ranch,” Kosta said during a recent interview, referring to one of the most esteemed Pinot Noir vineyards in the Russian River Valley, one of the best places on earth for premium Pinot Noir. “But blends, wines that are made by taking the best from the different vineyards and combining them, really interest me.”
With Convene, Kosta and Finley will be sourcing fruit from a number of vineyards in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations and then blending them together to create new and interesting wines that are one of a kind. “Blends have more fun,” Kosta said, laughing. “With a blend, a winemaker can be a bit more purposeful and have more of an impact than when making a wine from a single vineyard. The wines are a little more difficult to make, but you have the opportunity 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 is a process, but it can be really rewarding.”
And that process is one of the reasons Kosta has selected the name Convene for the new wines.
“Sure, the name refers to the idea of ‘convening’ grapes from different places,” he said, “but this is also all about gathering all of those things together that make wine fun for me. After doing this twice before with partners, this is a chance to spread my wings and to use everything I have learned.”
And it goes beyond just the winemaking.
“There are so many things that go into building a company. It is about selecting vineyards, building relationships with the members of the wine club 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 are like family, and one of the best things about starting Convene is being able to work with the people we want to work with,” he said.
The Convene wines are made in a custom crush facility in Santa Rosa, California under the care of winemaker Shane Finley, a Vikings fan who is originally from Minnesota and who has been working with Kosta since the Kosta Browne days. Finley also shares Kosta’s vision for the beauty of blends.
“Single vineyard wines are pure expressions of terroir; they are focused on what the site does best,” Finley explained. “Blends, in contrast, present the challenge of harmonizing disparate vineyards and all their unique characteristics. The process of melding multiple vineyards into a true representation of its appellation is tremendously rewarding.”
The wines under the Convene label will initially be available via a mailing list and to members of the wine club. The website, dk-convene.com, is the best place to visit and start a relationship with Convene. Or, instead of a virtual visit, Convene has a tasting lounge in Healdsburg in Sonoma County in a beautiful facility called Bacchus Landing, which hosts a number of the region’s finest producers in a convivial environment. Reservations can be made for in-person wine tasting experiences on the website as well.
On the day I spoke with Kosta, he was in the middle stages of the 2022 harvest, and temperatures in Sonoma had reached as high as 114 degrees.
“I grew up in Santa Rosa and have never seen days this hot,” he told me as he sat in his air-conditioned car at one of the vineyards he utilizes.
The grapes for these wines are all harvested at night and hand-picked, he explained, and much of the harvest was already completed or underway, so the impact should be minimal on the 2022 vintage. Still Kosta recognizes the challenges he faces in building a new wine brand in this day and age.
“It’s not just the climate and heat but supply chain issues are affecting everyone,” he said.
Regardless, Kosta is excited about the new opportunities that this third act offers, and he looks forward to coming to Colorado with the wines, and of course, convening as he shares them.
“The goal will be to get these wines in as many A-list restaurants as possible,” he said. “I want people to be able to taste and enjoy them.”
Convene Pinot Noir 2019 Sonoma Coast
This blend from one of the most dynamic and beautiful wine regions on earth is one of three wines from the first vintage of the new Convene brand by Dan Kosta. As I have yet to taste the wine, I thought I would include his notes on the bottling.
“Sourced from the western edge where land meets sea, this Pinot Noir exudes elegance with notes of crunchy red fruits, plum skin and wilted rose. Flavors of wild strawberry, blueberry and cola are complimented by hints of green tea, graphite and vanilla on the lingering finish.”
Kosta looks forward to pouring the wines in Aspen on his next venture here. And I look forward to tasting them.
Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s new fall lecture series will run weekly from Oct. 20 through Dec. 6. The lineup consists of artists nationwide who will be spending one to three weeks at the ranch completing projects within their area of expertise and exploring new work in the studios.