Skip to main content

There’s a good reason that wine lovers are willing to wait as long as six years to purchase bottles of Kosta Browne’s distinctive single vineyard pinot noirs: their pure, intense flavor. One taste and you’ll likely be headed to the company’s website to sign up for a place in line to procure these boutique beauties.

Those who don’t wish to wait that long can be assured of getting a share at the 2014 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, for which Kosta Browne has been named the signature vintner of the fundraiser which takes place Feb. 21 and 22.

Some 50 people received a preview of what was to come at Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs during a recent reception and five-course dinner featuring Kosta Browne’s award-winning pinot noirs and dishes that complemented them.

“Kosta Browne’s Pinot Noir was Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year in 2011,” said festival trustee Marshall Hanno. “Their commitment to making world-class pinot noir and participating in charity events all over the country makes them a great partner for our charity. Kosta Browne wine speaks for itself. We just drank four of their pinots at the Angelina’s dinner and they were fantastic.”

The dinner proved to be as delightful as the wines.

“Angelina’s Ristorante continues to surpass our expectations,” said Elaine Hawkins, co-chair of the event. “For the fourth year, Angelina’s has been the Signature Vintner Sponsor. We really appreciate the generosity of Don and Angela Smith, owners of Angelina’s. The dinner really kicks off the enthusiasm for next year’s event.”

Michael Browne, founder and winemaker, was on hand to discuss the wines and support the cause. His passion is quickly apparent as he talks about the joy he gets from making wine.

“When I enter the barrel room (where the wines ferment in oak barrels), it’s full of life and energy,” Browne said. “I get chills. It’s like having 500 horses. I pat my barrels like the bellies of horses and say ‘What are you going to do?'”

Browne and his colleagues are firm believers in partnering with grape farmers who are as devoted to producing great grapes as the Kosta Browne team is to making superior wine. Founded by Browne, Dan Kosta and Chris Costello, Kosta Browne crafts intensely flavored and balanced pinot noirs and chardonnay from select regions in California, including the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations. The winery’s dedication to quality, stewardship and commitment to customer relationships has propelled the brand to industry leader, producing some of the most sought-after New World pinot noirs.

Although clearly he plays a pivotal role in the end product, Browne believes that “the Russian River Valley is one of the best places on the planet to grow pinot noir grapes and some pieces within the valley are better than others. When planted correctly and the right farmers pick the fruit at its peak, the winemaker has to do very little to produce superb wine. Mother Nature is in control.”

Noted wine writer James Laube was unabashedly impressed, writing in the June 4, 2012, Wine Spectator: “In the span of a decade, the Kosta Browne winery has established itself as one of the beacons of California Pinot Noir,” adding that it is “a model for excellence and consistency.”

The winery’s eight single vineyard designation pinot noirs consistently score in the mid-90s in Wine Spectator reviews.

Browne and Kosta came to winemaking through a dream they shared while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, Calif., where they waited tables and tended bar. They decided that on the nights they worked together, they would put away $10 of their tips and, after a few months, had enough money to buy a half ton of pinot noir grapes. The year was 2000. Browne had spent several years sampling all sorts of wines and volunteering at Deerfield Ranch Winery starting in 1997, rising to co-winemaker in 2000.

They began modestly, with one used barrel and an old hand-crank crusher-stemmer, learning and growing as they went. In 2001, their wine was”not good,” Browne said. The 2 rated a 92 from Wine Spectator and things started happening quickly after that. Today, it’s a multi-million-dollar company with a brand new winery in the Sonoma County town of Sebastopol. With their success, they feel a desire to give back.

Browne said his friend, Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery, told him about the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. Benovia was the Signature Vintner in 2012.

“Causes like this are a big part of what we do,” said Browne. “We were happy to become a part of it.”

Hanno said that Kosta Browne’s participation is a measure of the festival’s success, “The fact that Kosta Browne is our Signature Vintner is another sign that our wine fest is being recognized as one of the top wine charities in the country. We were number three last year and probably will be in at least the top five for 2013.”

The event begins with dinners featuring select vintners and local chefs in private homes from Fort Myers to Naples Friday, Feb. 21. It concludes with a Grand Tasting and Auction the following day, Saturday, Feb. 22, at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club.

The festival is organized by SWFL Children’s Charities Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides funding to local children’s causes, and has raised more than $8.9 million over the last five years, making it the most successful fundraising event in Lee County. The primary beneficiary is the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, which is scheduled to open in 2016 at HealthPark Medical Center in south Fort Myers. The state-of-the-art family-center children’s hospital will provide new and expanded pediatric medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.

The wine fest also helps support the Edison State College Pediatric Nursing Program and Florida Gulf Coast University’s music therapy program at the Bower School of Music.

Title sponsor of the 2014 event is SKANSKA GATES. Additional sponsors include FineMark National Bank & Trust, LTC Global, Sam Galloway Ford Lincoln, Private Client Insurance Services, Home-Tech and Investors’ Security Trust Company. In-kind sponsors are Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club, Palm Printing/Printers Ink, Angelina’s Ristorante, Jason’s Deli and Norman Love Confections.

For Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest tickets, sponsorships or additional information, contact SWFL Children’s Charities Inc. at 239-513-7990, email or visit