I’ve been a serious collector (and consumer) of fine wines for over twenty years. In January of 2003 I bought a small knoll 3 1/2 miles north of St. Helena in the heart of the Napa Valley. Included in this two acre parcel was a .75 acre vineyard (formerly part of Vineyard 29’s Aida vineyard), a very modest vineyard cottage (originally a stone barn built in 1921), a guest house and a winery. After an interior remodel of the cottage, many gallons of paint, and extensive landscaping, the knoll became my home.

Many years ago I read a book, Shibumi, which became one of my favorites of all time. Adventure, intrigue, romance, the book has it all. Most importantly, the book introduced me to the concept of Shibumi, a Japanese word describing a physical and emotional state which most nearly translates to “effortless perfection”, “understated elegance”, or “perfect peace”. Life on my little knoll which is surrounded by vineyards, canopied by majestic oaks and blessed with bucolic 360° views is truly one of Shibumi. Hence when I decided to make wine under my own label, “Shibumi Knoll Vineyards” seemed appropriate.

I was very fortunate to bring together a team which will produce as good a cabernet as can come from Shibumi Knoll. My vineyard manager David Abreu, is probably the best in the world. Thomas Rivers Brown, my winemaker. I’ve heard Burgundian vintners say that the grape is simply the vehicle which allows the vineyard to express itself. In time we will understand the unique expression of Shibumi Knoll. Though the knoll is in the center of the valley (.3 miles off Highway 29, and.25 miles from the Napa River), it is on the alluvial fan of Bale Creek, and is composed of 80% rock. Thus the wine shares the grace of the valley floor cabernets yet has the structure we see in wines from stony hillside vineyards. I suspect Shibumi Knoll Cabernet will never be deep and broody but rather most often rich and lively.

When I moved to the valley I had no intention of producing chardonnay. Like most wine lovers I have a great affection for chardonnay and have been a huge fan of Kistler and Peter Michael through the years. My production aspirations changed when I tasted a chardonnay produced by Eugenia Keegan (Keegan Cellars, 2001) from the Buena Tierra Vineyard (Russian River appellation). The grapes come from very old gnarled vines of limited yield, and the fruit is simply fantastic. When fruit from the vineyard became available to me I jumped on the chance to make a chardonnay.

Where will the future lead? In time I'd like to produce small quantities (100 to 250 cases each) of two or three more varietals that would be competitive with the best in the marketplace. I've been a huge fan of Burgundy through the years (red and white) and would like to make a little pinot noir. I'm very impressed with some of the burgandean style pinot coming out of the Santa Rita Hills appellation (Santa Barbara, CA), and am looking for a source for high quality fruit from that appellation.

Two other varietals of interest are gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc. For my palate the best gewürztraminer in the world comes from the steep hillside vineyards of Alsace (northeastern France). Unlike the domestic gewürztraminer these wines are very rich and spicy and go especially well with Thai food. I'd like to see what we might do with rocky vineyard property in a colder climate possibly from Oregon or Washington.

I also enjoy a great dry white bordeaux which is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon. Because these wines come from the rocky southern area of bordeaux (Graves) from which are also produced great wines having cabernet sauvignon as the primary blending grape (Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion). I believe we may find vineyard property in the Napa Valley appellation capable of producing comparable white wines.

In whatever direction the future leads it will be our goal at Shibumi Knoll to produce very good to outstanding wines and to offer them at a fair price. Just possibly we can bring the grace that is Shibumi into your life.


 

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