CIRQ Winery back under ownership of winemaker Michael Browne

Winemaker Michael Browne has taken back ownership of CIRQ, the winery label he founded in 2009 while at the same time also pioneering Kosta Browne winery of Sebastopol into a pinot noir powerhouse.

Browne was able to buy back CIRQ as part of the deal this summer when Duckhorn Wine Co. of St. Helena bought Kosta Browne from J.W. Childs Associates of Boston.

One industry source placed the sale at slightly more than $200 million.

CIRQ had been a separate business entity but had been housed at Kosta Browne in The Barlow complex and under ownership of Childs, said Tony Lombardi, Cirq spokesman.

The winery is now located on Slusser Road in Windsor on a hilltop property with estate vineyards where Browne has a short-term lease with an option to buy in two years, Lombardi said. In 2020, the property will be able to receive a small number of visitors.

“CIRQ is now my sole focus. I am re-energized to continue my role as winemaker, now with a winery of my own where I can be hands-on in every fine detail,” Browne said in a statement.

J. Lohr Vineyards of San Jose names Steve Heck as head winemaker

Steve Peck has been promoted to director of winemaking at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines of San Jose, which sources it grapes from 4,000 vineyard acres at Paso Robles to St. Helena.

Peck had previously been winemaker of red wines since 2007 for the family-owned winery. He will now be responsible for winemaking at its Paso Robles and Monterey County wineries.

He replaces Jeff Meier, who has been with J. Lohr since 1984 and for the last five years has been chief operating officer, president and director of winemaking.

“Steve is a gifted winemaker and team leader who makes everyone around him better,” Meier said in a statement.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to reflect the correct terms of the lease for CIRQ.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to