Beyond the Boardroom

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Michael Browne

Author: Luke Straub
October, 2019 Issue

Before entering the wine business and ultimately starting CIRQ Winery, Michael Browne paid his dues. He fell in love with wine while employed in the fine dining industry, and during his time at John Ash and Co., he partnered with co-worker Dan Kosta to start Kosta Browne Winery with tip money saved over the years. Along with Jeffery Madura, the then executive chef at John Ash, the group bought a half-ton of Pinot grapes. They made wine at Deerfield Ranch Winery with help from Robert Rex, and Browne transitioned from wine server to winemaker. Before that, Browne was born in Oakland, grew up in Wenatchee, Washington, returned to Santa Rosa at age 18 and graduated from SRJC. He still calls Santa Rosa home, with his wife of 20 years, Sarah, and their three children, Logan, Lauren and Lyvia. He started CIRQ in 2009 and enjoys spending time with his family as well as fishing, painting and cooking. He counts his greatest achievement as building a world-class wine brand and his family as his No. 1 priority.

What’s your best work of art? Describe it.
A watercolor of two apples: one red delicious and the other golden delicious. Those are the two main varieties that are farmed in Wenatchee, Wash., my hometown. I painted it when living in the basement of a friend’s house in San Francisco around 1995. My dad has it in his house.
What time do you usually wake up in the morning? Do you awaken naturally, or use an alarm?
Around 5:45 or so. No alarm unless I’ve had a late night. I usually go by the sunrise and when it peaks through the window, I know the time. 
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
I would like to walk on the moon.
Have you ever had a nickname?

There are two. Brownie is the main one because my last name is spelled with an “E” at the end. The other name is “Man on Fire.” I got that one back in 2002 or 2003 because I was so busy making wine in different locations. I was running around like a man on fire. Crazy time but I learned a lot.
If you could join any past or current music group/band, which would you want to join?

Do you have dream car? If so, what is it?
1967 Camaro. Someday I will get one.
What is your favorite thing to cook?

Anything on the grill. I love the feeling and the aromatics. In the kitchen I would say chicken paillard, with high quality butter and the best capers. I also love to bake, but that’s a bit more complicated. I learned quite a lot about baking when I was the pastry chef at John Ash. Not sure how I landed that gig, but they gave it to me. I had a wonderful coach.
What are you most looking forward to in 10 years?

Being healthy and spending time with my family and friends. Watching our kids grow into adulthood. And fishing all over the world.
What hobby would you get into if time and/or money was not an issue?

Being a luthier (a maker of stringed instruments). I don’t play an instrument, but I want to build them. Someday…
Who inspires you to be better?

My wife and my children.




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