California winemakers bottle exclusivity

On a warm autumn afternoon, a steel-framed concrete warehouse north of San Francisco is inundated with grapes. Forklifts bearing fruit from the nearby Russian River Valley deliver their loads to a slow-moving conveyor belt.

Flanking both sides, winemaking interns pick out stems and sunburned grapes as they groove to hip-hop music thumping from loudspeakers.

It’s the crush at Kosta Browne Winery, a Sonoma County maker of pinot noir that’s become one of the hottest wineries among investment bankers, venture capitalists and enthusiasts. Michael Browne, Kosta Browne’s co-founder and winemaker, grabs a cluster from a tub and eats some of the grapes. They burst with berry flavor, and the seeds are nutty, not bitter.

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