Kenzo Estate Winery is located on the slopes of Mt. George, in the southeastern part of Napa Valley. The Estate lies hidden in the upper meandering ways of Highway 121. A scenic pathway through unspoiled preserved areas and Leoma Lake leads the way to breathtaking rolling hills planted with perfectly manicured vines. This beautiful Estate it is worthy of a visit by every wine lover.
Napa Valley wines distinguish themselves from many others around the world. Unique terroir gives this American Viticultural Area the advantage among many others. It is refreshing to see Estate Wineries taking a different approach to grape growing. Wine connoisseurs know that mountain and valley fruit provide different characteristics and nuances to wines; derived from differences in altitude, sun exposure and geologic soil content. Not only the location of this Estate distinguish the wines, but cultural influences in the approach of treating the grapes, its surroundings and winemaking makes Kenzo Estate Winery unique in beauty and quality.
Kenzo Estate History
Kenzo Tsujimoto is the proud owner of the Kenzo Estate Winery. Born in Osaka Japan, Kenzo Tsujimoto’s started as a business man at the early age of 22 when he opened his confectionery store in Osaka, and soon after began selling cotton candy machines. In the early 1970’s, he added coin-operated game machines to his distribution business, which by then had expanded throughout Japan, capitalizing on the growing popularity of arcade video games. In 1983, Tsujimoto founded the company that would become Capcom, now one of the world’s most successful video game publishers, in Osaka. Within a few years, Capcom had achieved international success through the development of original games such as “Street Fighter” and “Mega Man,” and in 1985 opened its first overseas subsidiary in Sunnyvale (now located in San Mateo).
Tsujimoto had first become captivated with Napa Valley after the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris, which propelled Napa wines onto the world stage. Setting out with the objective of creating world-class wines of distinction, artistry and tradition, he retained some of Napa Valley’s most prominent advisors to assist with planning and development of the new winery.
Two decades searching for the ideal winegrowing terroir led him to an untamed mountain valley in Napa’s southeast corner, by the name of Wild Horse Valley, located on the slopes of Mt. George. Formerly the official training grounds for the U.S. Olympic Jump Team, the estate encompasses a polo and equestrian facility, once the hub of equine culture on the West Coast.
Kenzo Estate exquisite wines are the result of the convergence of three major influences: fruit expression, careful vineyard management and masterful winemaking. Nestled in a valley at 1,550 feet, the Estate encompasses 3,800 acres, of which only four percent is dedicated to the growing of Bordeaux varietal wine grapes.
After acquiring the property, Tsujimoto established a long-term vision for development. He explored the rolling hills of his mountain estate, identifying small parcels ideal for superb grape growing. After a careful examination, a small hilly area of about one hundred acres was selected for suitable grounds to plant the vineyard. In 1999, the estate was finally ready to welcome its first rootstocks of Bordeaux varietals, beginning with Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2001, Tsujimoto met famed viticulturist David Abreu, known for raising grapes at some of the most respected wineries in Napa. He offered him the role Vineyard Manager at Kenzo Estate. David Abreu accepted the role under the condition that he be given permission to replant the entire vineyard to ensure utmost perfection. In pursuit of excellence, Tsujimoto accepted David Abreu’s request. Vineyards were replanted in 2002, divided into several blocks carefully selecting the ideal location for each varietal.
A year later celebrated Winemaker Heidi Barrett, joined the Kenzo Estate team. With her signature wine style honoring a sense of place and respecting vineyard heritage and vintage personality, she draws on her intuitive connection with Kenzo Estate, which began as a youth when honing her equestrian skills on the mountain trails. With Heidi Barrett’s elegant winemaking artistry and quality, David Abreu’s uncompromising dedication to the vineyards and Kenzo Estate’s incredibly unique terroir, Kenzo Tsujimoto finally assembled the key components to craft the finest wine in the world.
Kenzo Estate wines debuted in 2008 with the 2005 vintage of Rindo, Murasaki and Ai in a released party held at the Tokyo Imperial Hotel. The second vintage showcased the 2007 Asatsuyu, the only Sauvignon Blanc ever created by Heidi Barrett.
The Estate fruit expression is the result of the estate’s elevation, cool climate, and extended growing season. Harvest at Kenzo Estate occurs later than Valley vineyards, where temperatures are often warmer. Mountain vineyards also benefit from a wider diurnal temperature difference. Longer growing period allows evenly ripening while higher diurnal temperatures help with acid preservation. Carrying the fruit for a few extra weeks allows the Kenzo Estate vines time to complete the complex process toward ideal maturity. Each block is planted to maximize the vine’s varietal characteristics with ideal soil and individual care that reflects the high quality of the wines offered by the Estate.
A visit to Kenzo Estate starts with a warm greeting and a glass of Asatsuyu, a crisp and delicate Sauvignon Blanc. The visit includes a ninety minutes wine tasting and tour of the grounds and wine cave. The beautiful and elegant Tasting Room embraces its surroundings in a balance between nature and architecture, filling you with awe and anticipation. While you taste a glass of Asatsuyu, you get to enjoy a walk among the Estate vines and a visit to state-of-the-art white and red wine production facilities, constructed in the style of traditional California barn.
Your visit continues at the wine cave, where the wine aging magic happens. The cave entrance sits directly behind the winery structures, in balance with the surrounding landscape. Inside, French oak barrels are lined up with precision, lent to a detailed method of inspecting wines during aging. Sitting in peace the Estate wines get to rest and age undisturbed for up to twenty months in new and used French oak barrels.
Back in the Tasting Room, you get to sip through more Estate wines while enjoying you’re the view of the vineyards.
Kenzo Estate Wines
- 2014 Asatsuyu
Asatsuyu translates as “Morning Dew.” This Sauvignon Blanc-based white wine has bright aromas of pineapple, papaya, honey, roses, and soft citric notes. It has 96.2% Sauvignon Blanc and 3.8% Semillon Estate grown fruit. The small addition of Sémillon to the 2014 vintage adds a sinful sensation of richness and elegance for a lasting palate experience. Suggested retail price, $80.
- 2014 Yui
The Japanese word “Yui” corresponds to the “Unity between things.” Yui is a sensual Rosé wine with a bright pale pink. This wine is a blend of Merlot (58%), Cabernet Franc (21%) and Malbec (21%). The 2014 vintage is the first year Malbec is added to the blend. This elegant and delicate Rosé is crisp and incredibly fragrant with aromas of white flowers, honeydew melon, pineapple and citric hints. In the palate, you will find lingering and mouthwatering flavors of stone fruit, melons, and tropical fruits. Suggested retail value, $80.
- 2012 Rindo
Rindo is Kenzo Estate’s flagship wine, is named for the Japanese Gentian or Bell Flower. The 2012 Rindo reflects the glorious vintage of 2012 in Napa Valley. This Bordeaux blend has Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Cabernet Franc (15.8%), Merlot (17.5%) and Petit Verdot (13.7%). This wine offers mountain terroir at its maximum expression. It presents you with a great balance of fruit and acidity (acidity from high-altitude vineyards and delicate fruit ripeness from extended hours of sun exposure), in addition to great earthiness quality. New and used French Oak Barrel aging adds unequivocal notes of leather and vanilla. Suggested retail price, $100.
- 2012 Murasaki
Murasaki is a proprietary red blend that represents nobility and elegance. The 2012 vintage of Murasaki is the first vintage that offers a Merlot prominent Bordeaux blend. This blend has Merlot (75.6%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18.9%), Cabernet Franc (2.4%) and Petit Verdot (3.1%). This wine offers black fruit with well-integrated wood aromas, and a lingering dry finish accentuates minerality driven notes in the palate. This is an outstanding wine with great ageability. Suggested retail price, $250.
- 2012 Ai
The name “Ai” represents the mystical color of Indigo. This wine is opulent and made predominantly with Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014 blend has Cabernet Sauvignon (87%), Merlot (6.5%), Cabernet Franc (2.2%) and Petit Verdot (4.4%) Estate fruit. This wine is bold with lots of character and substantial structure, yet well-integrated tannins round the palate. This Cabernet blend offers pepper, black fruit, baking spice and plum aromas, with a dry lingering finish. This is an outstanding wine with great ageability; that promises more complex layers as it ages. Suggested retail price, $250.
- 2012 Asuka
This is an alluring wine predominantly made with Cabernet Franc. The 2014 vintage has Cabernet Franc (94.1%) and Merlot (5.9%). This wine offers predominant aromas of dark berries, plum, cocoa and violets, with hints of earthiness, and well-balanced tannins in the palate. Suggested retail price, $100.
- 2014 Muku
Representing purity and innocence in Japanese, Muku is a light golden delicate and somptous dessert wine. Though it is a dessert wine, it is not overly sweet. It offers great balance between acidity, sweetness and elegance. The 2014 vintage has late harvest Sauvignon Blanc (75%) and Sémillon (25%). It is an intensely fragrant wine with aromas of white roses, white peach and tropical fruits, with delicate honey flavors. Suggested retail price (375 ml), $50.