FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Making fine wine is a matter of balancing relationships, as Dan Kosta, Michael Browne, and Chris Costello—the cofounders of Kosta Browne—can attest. This trio’s adventure in viticulture began in 1997, when Browne and Kosta, both of whom worked as sommeliers for a restaurant in Santa Rosa, Calif., decided to buy a small quantity of Pinot Noir. Their first effort as garagistes gained the notice of the top growers in Sonoma County, and the business-management expertise provided by Costello, who joined the enterprise in 2001, enabled the company to grow. Since then, other relationships—such as the one with Marcy Keefer and her son Craig Strehlow, growers of some of Sonoma’s best Pinot Noir—have continued to enrich the wines of Kosta Browne. The Kosta Browne 2009 Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch offers aromas of red currant, cranberry, and grapefruit zest that prepare the palate for a flood of flavors that include bright red cherry, raspberry, apple, and pomegranate. ($78) www.kostabrowne.com




Royal Tokaji is of relatively recent origin, but the traditions that inform its dessert wines date back to the 17th century, when battle prevented vintners in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region of northeastern Hun­gary from harvesting their fruit. The result was a late-harvest wine of startling beauty that, later, Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II of Transylvania would use as a diplomatic tool in his dealings with Peter the Great of Russia and Louis XIV of France. With the Communist takeover of the Hungarian government in 1949, production of these wines degenerated; however, after the revolution of 1989, author and wine critic Hugh Johnson and a group of investors embraced the chance to revive this tradition, establishing Royal Tokaji in 13th-century underground cellars. One sip of the Royal Tokaji 2003 Essencia, which is made from the free-run juice of hand-selected berries, reveals why the elixir spawned mania among monarchs. The wine has a honey-like texture and densely layered flavors of dried apricot, candied lemon, fresh fig, and tea that evaporate on the finish in a lively wave of acidity. ($775) www.wilsondaniels.com

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