Second-generation Dan Cohn winemaker nurtures vines, reputation
In 1968, during the hippy-dippy days in San Francisco, recent college graduate Bruce Cohn worked nights as a television technician and, during the days, managed a rehearsal studio. He signed a fledging local band that eventually became The Doobie Brothers, and from there he has travelled a path of rock 'n' roll success.
While experiencing the hectic pace of touring, Cohn thought back on his childhood spent on a goat dairy farm in northern California. For respite from the road, in 1974 he purchased an old dairy farm in the small town of Glen Ellen in the heart of Sonoma Valley.
The property featured 100-year-old French Picholine olive trees, but grape-growing quickly became Cohn's passion. He sold fruit from his Olive Hill Estate Vineyard to some of Northern California's leading producers, including Charlie Wagner at Caymus.
A turning point occurred in 1982. President Reagan presented an Olive Hill Estate Vineyard Cabernet produced by Gundlach-Bundschu Winery as a state gift in China. The reason was simple, Cohn later found. Experts at the prestigious University of California-Davis wine program dubbed the Olive Hill Estate Vineyard wine as the best example of California Cabernets.
In 1984, Cohn took the plunge for himself by founding B.R. Cohn Winery. His initial winemaker, Helen Turley, turned out critically acclaimed wines as a firm foundation for the winery's reputation.
Today, Bruce Cohn's son, Dan Cohn, takes a leading role. He recently visited Pittsburgh to host several wine dinners.
The first floor of the old family house where Dan Cohn grew up serves as the winery tasting room. “The office upstairs is in my old bedroom,” he says with a laugh. “I don't think I'm ever getting out of that room.”
The younger Cohn started by developing the family's olive-oil business out of an old tool shed on the property. “I used to deliver olive oil in the trunk of my car to a retailer who also sold our wine,” he says.
Growing conditions salubrious for olive trees prove agreeable for grape vines, too, he says. He especially hails B.R. Cohn Winery's unique terroir at its Olive Hill Estate Vineyard.
“We're located about 45 miles north of San Francisco, sandwiched between the Mayacamas Mountains and the Sonoma Mountains,” Cohn says. “We're a little warmer than Carneros directly to the South and our alluvial volcanic soils off the Mayacamas Mountains resemble Napa Valley.”
“Coming up Sonoma Valley, the floor is flat,” he says. “But, beginning literally at our winery's driveway, the Glen Ellen foothills begin.”
The slopes allow the grapes to catch afternoon breezes to even out ripening. A thermal spring running directly under the property also influences the vines.
“The hot springs keep the soils 7 to 9 degrees warmer than other Sonoma Valley vineyards,” Cohn says. “The warmth eliminates any chance of damaging frosts and also prevents fogs from locking in the vineyards every night.”
The added warmth and cool, yet not too cold, nights give something distinctly extra to the aromas and flavors of the Olive Hill Estate Vineyard grapes.
“We are one the few wineries to produce a single vineyard Sonoma Valley Cabernet,” Cohn says. “When you visit and try our Olive Hill Estate Vineyard wine, you're tasting wine from where you're standing.”
By definition, the estate wines have limited supply. So B.R. Cohn Winery also makes wines from fruit purchased off the estate. The purchased grapes come from established, long-term relationships, Cohn says, instead of from bulk wholesale purchases.
“We aim for consistent quality and value to nurture our reputation as a small, family-run brand,” Cohn says. “Besides, I don't want anybody to come up to my father and say they had a bad bottle of B.R. Cohn wine.”
Try the 2011 B.R. Cohn Winery “Silver Label” Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California (5226; $26.99) made primarily from Mendocino County cabernet. Cohn blends in declassified Olive Hill Estate Vineyard cabernet to enhance the wine's character.
Bright blackberry, cassis and spice aromas open to tasty dark fruit with herbal and spice notes. Refreshing acidity and ultra smooth tannins from aging in older French oak barrels frame the fruity, yet dry, finish. Pair it with grilled flank steak. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man charged with playing doctor for free Nemacolin stay
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Cancer didn’t stop mother from living for her son
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation
- Steelers’ lookahead: New Orleans Saints
- No. 15 San Diego State hammers Pitt, 74-57
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Suspect in Route 28 death has long history of ignoring vehicle registration, license laws, records show
- Ferguson protesters march on Pittsburgh streets