Offer available through Monday, 7/24/2023, or as inventory lasts.
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Hi everyone –
The term “Exclusive Offer” applies 100% this week. This is only available here, on this offer, right now. They are at no shops or restaurants in Minnesota with this wine, and there is so little of it available we might sell all of it through this one offer.
What we have here is EXACTLY what I love about the format of our Friday offers. We can take advantage of a little bit of awesome wine in the marketplace, tell you the story, educate you on why it is worthy, and start building a brand that deserves some attention.
I love doing this and knowing that what I have in my glass is limited, classy, and damn delicious.
Let’s get to it.
The story, for me, begins in April 2001
In the Spring of 2001, I had just left Surdyk’s to get into the wholesale side of the business. I eventually found my way to a company called World Class Wines, which was founded by a local wine legend named Marty Ullman. That company, along with The Wine Company, dominated the fine wine/artisinal/excellent side of the business, and I was lucky to get that job 22 years ago. (Today, the business of the mid-sized fine wine distributor is much more competitive, with at least seven companies offering far more variety to consumers than ever before. It’s a cutthroat business but in the end the consumer benefits.)
One of the wineries in the portfolio at World Class Wines (and a key reason I went to work for them) was Saintsbury, at the time small, and an important part of the story of California wine since they were one of the first great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir focused companies. Founded by two lovers of Burgundy, Saintsbury (along with Frog’s Leap and Corison, which were also in the World Class Wines portfolio) actively went against popular style at the time by sticking to their roots and vision of delicacy and detail rather than the in-vouge “hedonistic fruit bombs” that Robert Parker sought out.
I was very familiar with the wines of Saintsbury, having sold them at Surdyk’s to great customers between 1997 and 2001. Those wines, in those vintages, and unknown to me until recently, were made by Byron Kosuge.
And I’ll say it now … those were the best wines Saintsbury ever made.
Some background on Byron Kosuge
From his website:
Since I named this brand after myself, perhaps I should explain who I am. I was born and raised in the Central Valley town of Davis, California. Yes, the one with the University. My late father grew up on a farm in Colorado before moving to California and becoming a university Biochemist, so there is farming in my blood. It took a few years for wine to find me … I studied English and American Literature for several years before settling on wine as a vocation.
The first fifteen years of my winemaking career were spent making wine at Saintsbury in Carneros, where my obsession with the Pinot Noir grape began. After leaving Saintsbury in 2001, I have continued to make Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Miura in California (where I continue to consult) and, in 2003, for a new Pinot Noir/Sauvignon Blanc/Syrah project in Casablanca, Chile named Kingston Family Vineyards. More recently, I began making wine for McIntyre Vineyards, an estate project based in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Small Vines Wines, an estate based property with several parcels in the Sonoma Coast and Alder Springs Vineyard, in Mendocino County. In the midst of all of this, I started my own brand in 2004.
I could never be a “rock star” winemaker. I’m much too ordinary for all that. I don’t have a fancy winery, I haven’t made wine in Burgundy, I don’t appear in the society pages. I do, however, spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about the vines I work with and the wines I make.
Over the years, I’ve found my way towards what I hope is a “new tradition” of winemaking, largely inspired by old world methods but recombining them in ways that seem to suit New World conditions. Anyone with more than a passing interest in wine knows that New World and Old World wines arise in pretty different conditions and yet we mostly insist that what works in Burgundy, for example, should work in California. I question that. Why not be brave and chart our own course?https://www.bkosugewines.com
Having been a winemaker in California for so long and for so many different projects, Byron carries a knowledge set with which few can compete. He was there when Napa was sleepy. He was there when Pinot Noir was a hard sell (the pre-Sideways days). He was there as the popular style of Chardonnay went from sweet to oak to stainless steel.
What’s important here is that Byron never changed. He kept to his style throughout the years. The variables that started to change were the consumer and the climate, which led him to think about stripping down the wine to the bare essentials and allowing the variables beyond the winemaker to be the show in the glass.
It’s a daring stance to take. And I love it.
Where we’re at now
There’s very little info out there.
His blog hasn’t been updated in years. But it does have a fascinating post on winemaking vs. Japanese aesthetics, where he says:
For the last 10 years or so, since 2011, I’ve been interested in different aging regimes and in eliminating all but the most indispensible techniques in winemaking—as few additives as possible, and all that—in the service of somehow finding a more “honest” expression of wine.
It isn’t exactly “do nothing” winemaking, and in fact sometimes a great deal of work goes into the impression of simplicity, but the goal is to arrive at an end product that is uncluttered and pure. This is all for my own edification; unlike organics and biodynamics, which have a lot of marketing cachet, there seems to be little commercial value in this pursuit other than making wine that I like better. Which I suppose should help me sell it, but in most ways it seems like a fairly private pursuit.https://www.bkosugewines.com/winery/blog/thinking-about-japanese-aesthetics
There’s an undated interview on the Petaluma Gap blog with Byron (which annoyingly doesn’t graphically separate the questions from the answers making it hard to read) containing this gem:
I have enough experience making wine that I am comfortable working with different styles and different varieties; in fact, I enjoy it. I’m the opposite of the winemaker who puts his stamp on everything, I take pride in the fact that my wines don’t all taste alike.https://petalumagap.com/qa-with-byron-kosuge-winemaker-mcevoy-ranch/
So how did these end up in Minnesota? To be honest, I don’t know.
I was approached two weeks ago by a small but excellent wine distributor that told me the story, said the wine was in the warehouse, and wanted to give Twin Cities Wine Education the first crack at it through the Friday offer.
We did some research, tasted the wines, and found them to be exactly what we seek: excellent and unknown, and a brand we can help build to support a vision and a family.
These are crazy limited. Only 20 cases total for the entire state of Minnesota.
The Pinot Noir had a total production of 104 cases. Yikes.
The Rosé had a total whopping production of 125 cases. Oh my.
That means almost 10% of the total production of these wines ended up in our state, and it’s all (and only) available here and now.
And if you travel to Illinois, Texas, or Florida, you can’t find them. Distribution is only in four states, including Minnesota.
2020 Pinot Noir “The Shop,” Carneros, California
My tasting note: I’m always amazed when tasting through good red Burgundy just how much more powerful the wines from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards can be. Truth be told, I don’t know exactly where in Carneros he got this fruit, but it reminds me of a Premier Cru Nuits-St.-Georges in terms of style. There’s a meatiness to this wine. Not that it smells of meat (it really smells of blackberry and wild strawberry with a touch of clove), but rather it has some weight without being weighty. Seamless and awesome throughout, but really is begging for food.
Tasting note #2: one hour later. HOLY VINO, BATMAN! This sucker has exploded. This is bigtime, redolent of a young Pommard with some extra weight in the boxing gloves. In other words, you should be no rush to drink this but don’t hesitate either (with a couple of hours of decanting). I’m enjoying this IMMENSELY with some pepper and feta brats off the grill Oh my this is good.
Tasting note #3: three hours after opening. This is hands down one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve had from California in years. It’s finally opening up a in truly beautiful way, and it’s REALLY hard to not just suck it down and get happy. TOP NOTCH.
From Byron Kosuge’s website:
2020 was the most stressful vintage of my career. Between COVID, which was still relatively new, some brutal heat waves late in the year and the wildfires and smoke that came with them it seemed like the entire universe was against us.
In some ways this wine is proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, because despite all the difficulties in 2020, The Shop turned out splendidly. Unfortunately, the yields were so low (I forgot to mention that in addition to everything else, the yields were down dramatically) that I was only able to bottle 104 cases.
I used to say that my favorite vintages were the ones that combined old world tension and energy with new world ripeness, and the 2020 vintage fits that description perfectly. Early on it was apparent that the wines would have excellent concentration thanks to the tiny yields, and as the wines developed in the cellar their freshness and liveliness impressed from early on. Whether it will be long lived only time will tell, but it sure is tasty now!
A quick note from me on the mention of the 2020 wildfires: they were in northern Napa, not in Carneros where these grapes were from. I’m sipping the wine right now as I type and I get ZERO smoke influence on this wine. It’s as pure as can be.
2022 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Carneros, California
REFINED is not a word I often use for Rosé. Usually, it’s more like “Yummy!” “Bright!” “Wowza!” “Fun!” and such.
But there is an intellectual bead to this wine that I can’t get over. It might be the most cerebral rosé I’ve had this year.
Delicate threads of wild strawberry and cherry skin abound in the aroma. The floral aspect pops through after it’s been open for ten minutes. The acidity is solid and intact, but not overwhelming the fruit (and not sitting backstage singing over the performance, like so many dry pink wines of today).
Is this the best rosé of the year? I think it might be.
Enjoy this beauty with some of the fresh catch Copper River Sockeye that is hitting the market right now, or dive into a dish with asian flavors and ingredients. This is SERIOUS rosé and deserves to be paired with carefully made food.
The rarity of these wines is off the charts. And I can assure you the quality is as well.
The rosé is going to be delicious all year long and into early next year. Buy what makes sense in terms of quantity but open the rosé for a more FOCUSED night of wine drinking. This is not the pop-on-a-whim rosé of other offers. This is serious rosé at a fantastic price.
The Pinot Noir is special. And if you have wine friends that are Pinot Noir lovers, I encourage you to buy multiple bottles. The wine is drinking great right now (with decanting a few hours before) but will evolve beautifully over the next five to ten years. Me? I’m buying about six bottles for myself, then labeling them for drinking in 2023-2033, two years apart per bottle.
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer and special pricing are available through Monday, or as supplies last