Man turns to winemaking after a career in rock ‘n’ roll

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Bruce Cohn is a Chicago native who left his Midwestern roots behind at an early age to relocate with his family to Sonoma, California’s, Russian River Valley. After spending time on his family’s ranch and vineyard, he pursued an interest in broadcasting and communications.

Afterward, he returned to San Francisco, running a music rehearsal studio with his brother, where he was introduced to the Doobie Brothers and became their manager. The rest is history. Forty years later, with a wealth of accolades for his wines along with many gold records as a testament to the band’s fame, Cohn continues to forge his love of wine and music.

Cohn purchased 46 acres of an old dairy in Glen Ellen, California, in 1974. He bought the ranch while touring with the Doobie Brothers in early 1970s to “chill out” from a hectic tour schedule. The site became known as Olive Hill Estate Vineyard, named after the old French Picholine olive tress located on the property.

Cohn became versed in all aspects of viticulture while selling his grapes to other producers. After a decade of effort, he established his own winery and label in 1984. Early winemakers included Helen Turley and Mary Edwards. He has since handed the reins of the winery to members of his family, with his son Dan overseeing the winery as CEO. Tom Montgomery has directed winemaking since 2003. Cohn now has extra time to refocus on his love of music while promoting concerts at the winery and his annual charity music festival, bringing together wine lovers and music enthusiasts.

The 2012 BR Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon, a value addition to the winery’s 75,000-case ultra-premium lineup, is comprised of 81 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Merlot and 8 percent Malbec. The fruit is sourced from the North Coast appellation, including hillside vineyards in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties along with estate fruit from the Olive Hill Vineyards.

The dark garnet color reveals the supple nature of this wine. There is brightness to the red fruit that evolves in the glass. It is not overpowering but instead offers a round, silky texture on the palate. The dark plum fruit is distinguished with fresh tea, pomegranate and cola elements. The tannins are polished and soft reflecting the style of the 2012 vintage.

Suggested Retail: $19.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.