Log In / Join Now

Two Aces from a New Napa Winery

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jun 3, 2008 4:22pm ET

You never know where the tips will come from.

Mitch Johnson, the golf pro at Napa Valley Country Club, introduced me to Shibumi Knoll winery, and I’m glad he did.

“Hey, you should try this Cabernet,” Mitch insisted a couple of weeks ago. “I’ll keep a bottle of it for you.”

The next time we got together he popped the cork on the 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet, and it’s an exciting wine, rich, plush and loaded with dusty currant and blackberry fruit. I later tried it in a blind tasting at my office for a formal review (92 points, 99 cases, $85), which appeared in the Wine Spectator Insider.

The owner is Don Ross, a wine lover and big Bordeaux fan who moved to Napa from the East Bay, across the Bay from San Francisco. The name means “effortless perfection” in Japanese. The grapes come from Ross’ small vineyard from St. Helena, which was once part of Vineyard 29, with the vineyard planted, I’m told, by David Abreu. (Regardless, it’s a terrific wine.)

As good as the Cabernet is, and it’s great, the 2005 Russian River Chardonnay Buena Tierra Vineyard ($45, 172 cases) is even better—amazingly complex and concentrated, with a rich, creamy texture and fantastic length. Not surprisingly, Ross says he was helped by John Kongsgaard with the ’05, but the the winery skipped the difficult 2006 vintage for Chardonnay.

Both wines are worth the hunt.

Mark Sinnott
Mahopac, NY —  June 3, 2008 9:11pm ET
truly amazing that you continue to recommend wines at these price points. Is there really such a lack of value in Napa that you would recommend we search out these wines? Or are the typical Napa loyalists that loose with their dollars?
Jesse Calderon
June 4, 2008 1:07am ET
I agree with Mark. I can't remember the last time you recommended a Napa cab in your blog that was priced at under $80. I tend to enjoy the wines that you enjoy, but I have moved on to other varietals because I am tired of paying $80 or more for quality from Napa.
Jeffrey Nowak
scottsdale, arizona —  June 4, 2008 1:42am ET
it's even more amazing that you, mr. sinnott, would criticize mr. laube / winespectator for reporting outside your own personal QPR spectrum. if WS is anything, it is a huge supporter/ provider of information on wines of all price ranges. i suppose that mr. laube should restrict his comments/ reviews only to wines that meet your approval, huh? ridiculous.
Clem Firko
napa ca —  June 4, 2008 11:53am ET
It was nice to see Jim give mention to Mitch at NVCC. Golf pros seem to know about wine. Maybe Jim should expand his golf activity and get more wine tips from some other knowledgable golf pros. Golf & wine seem to go hand in hand. A short list of golf pros who are wine geeks: Jeff at Silverado CC; Steve-Indian Valley; Mark-Green Valley; Rodney-Harding Park; John-Sonoma GC; Ted-Mayacama; Tom-Kennedy Park; Bruce at Footjoy; or Ted & Mark at Titleist-all those mentioned are close to Napa and I've seen first hand their love of wine. Other knowledgable "golfing-wine people" are Jim at Kohler and Colin at Winged Foot. This could be some of the most fun research a wine writer could do , so try it before Marvin does.
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  June 4, 2008 12:36pm ET
Nearly all of the wines reccomended in the various WS blogs (Suckling, Molesworth etc) are expensive (< $40 is a rarity and look at Sucklings recent blog if you want to spend some serious coin). Fortunately, there is also the value portion of the website that lists wines with better QPR for us mere mortals -- these include many wines reviewed by Mr Laube from California. In the meantime, i will look for the chardonnay. Thanks James for the update.
Robert Fukushima
California —  June 4, 2008 1:12pm ET
I appreciate hearing about all wines, even the ones that are out of my price range. You never know when the opportunity might arise where I can try one of these wines. I seem to recall that there was a value issue of the Spectator featuring value CA wines not too long ago, seems like there is an effort on the part of WS to feature those wines.As for the golf, that just sounds like a pitch for James to travel about playing a lot of golf.
David W Voss
Elkhorn, Wi —  June 4, 2008 2:22pm ET
With an ocean of 92-point and better wine available for way less than $85 per bottle there no reason to even talk about this wine. Less than 1200 bottles spells cult-collectors to me and make it not worth looking for.
Chris Buddress
June 4, 2008 3:01pm ET
Mark and Jesse, I have to agree with Jeffery, the blogs on WS often do highlight new and hard to find wines that tend to be in the plus $50 range, however that is still a minority in terms of the wines that WS chooses to focus on. Case in point, the newest emailed copy of "Wine Spectator's Advance". The 2 page pdf offered reviews, scores, and pricing on 20 wines. Out of those 20, there were 5 wines, only 25% that were over $50. The other 15 wines or 75% were all under $36, with 2 of those being "highly recommended" 93 pointers and obvious QPR's. Of the remaining 13 wines reviewed, 7 were between $25 and $13, again great QPR, and 6 were under $10, more QPR!! As one more example, since this got me curious, the most recent "Insider" showcased 39 wines from California, Italy, and Oregon. 38% of the selections were over $50, and 62% were under $50 with the majority of the 62% falling under a price of $30. Frankly, I find both the lower priced and higher priced wines to be of interest. I love knowing that there is an amazing $75 or $125 bottle that I can put in my sights when some special occasion rolls about, and at the same time, the great number of value wines that WS focuses on allows me to maintain a great selection of everyday drinkers and even some really special gems too.There are always two sides to the coin, but to suggest that WS chooses only to focus on high priced wines, and asking where the value has gone, is in my eyes, an emotional response based on selectively absorbed information. The values are out there, and out there in abundance, if you choose to seek them out.
Mark Sinnott
Mahopac, NY —  June 4, 2008 4:00pm ET
Jeffrey - my point was that with so many great value wines out there - i.e. great quality at much more realistic prices - Cabs included - why recommend searching out the lesser values time and time again? A wine at this quality level at $30 (or even $40, or $50...) is a heck of a lot more worth searching out to me (and I bet others) than one at $80.If that is ridiculous to you, so be it.
Steve Lenzo
PHX, AZ —  June 4, 2008 7:24pm ET
Chris & Jeff make great points, based on facts, not emotions. What I think is driving the thought process here is the continued difference in how all the information is presented to "us" the consumers.

Most of the videos and blogs tend to reflect the higher priced wines. I very much enjoy Sucking's videos but boy if he's not drinking a $300 bottle of wine with his rich friends we don't hear about it much.

If you want to watch videos of guys tasting $10 -$20 bottles of wines go watch Gary Vaynerchuck.

In closing, WS could probably do a better job of bringing the lower value wines to the forefront on a regular basis. Yes, they have thier VALUE ISSUE and they do print ratings for hundreds of wines at all prices. By forefront, I mean use of the video and blogs and other real time media they use to showcase these wines.

Maybe James can video his next visit to Glen Ellen for us. He probable won't have to fight the crowds in the tasting room.
Mark Lewis
Napa —  June 4, 2008 7:35pm ET
At the beginning of the year James talked about Roots Run Deep winery which offers the Educated Guess Napa Cabernet for $20. It is a very good value.
Mark Sinnott
Mahopac, NY —  June 4, 2008 8:48pm ET
Wow, what a heated discussion, and a lot of great POVs. My last and final comment (I know - we're all relieved!) is that most of the responses here are simply missing the point. No one is complaining (at least not me) on the focus on rare and/or expensive wines. And no one is saying WS does not also highlight good values. The point here is why would James recommend 'searching out' a wine that gets 92 points and costs $85. It simply does not make sense when so much other great stuff is out there. I love expensive stuff as much as the next guy, but I expect very high quality for it. Really not complicated.
Jesse Calderon
June 6, 2008 12:43am ET
Some of you make good points about WS in general. I recognize that WS does a good job of highlighting wine in all regions at all price points which is why I am a subscriber. My comment was specific to James' blog. Thanks to Mark for pointing out Educated Guess.
Roger Every
June 10, 2008 12:15pm ET
Mark I am in Fishkill NY and about 5 years ago I started a wine tasting group we meet a different restaurant about every other month and do blind tastings. Do you have any intertest? Some people in the group live in your town. If interested please contact me at RJE323@AOL.COM
Kevin Smith
Sunshine State —  June 14, 2008 1:48pm ET
Hmm, Not sure what the fuss is all about? Talk about value, when was the last time you saw a wine that scored a WS classic 97 ( Buena Tierra Chardonnay ) that only costs $45?That's value in my book... I'm sure buying it will be the real issue.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  June 19, 2008 1:40am ET
Looks like the first 180 to respond to this blog got 2 bottles each of the Chard! Hopefully they can continue the quality in 2007, they obviously have the integrity to do so...
Roger Every
Fishkill. ny —  February 18, 2013 4:39pm ET
Shibumi Knoll 2004 is a GREAT bottle of wine, It blew me away first time I tried it, completely in balance soo smooth. In fact I brought it to a blind wine tasting with Harlan Shafer Hillside and Colgin and it won wine of the night. Great buy for 80 bucks.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.