Kenzo Estate

The story started many years ago, in fact it started with the most popular video game of its
time. Remember Street Fighter? That video game of the 80s well before X-Box or Play Station
this or that. When CAPCOM went public in 1990, that gave CAPCOM founder Kenzo
Tsujimoto the capital to purchase 3800 acres of property on Mt George in Eastern Napa that he
originally intended to develop into an exclusive employee retreat complete with golf course...
until he ran into the myriad of regulations governing property in the Napa Valley. Sorry, golf
course not permitted. Thankfully, he did have a Plan B and this one didn't involve being a
CAPCOM employee. Since Tsujimoto-san always had a taste for French wines and enjoyed Opus
One back home in Japan, he decided to develop the property into a world class winery.

Tsujimoto-san started by hiring viticulturist extraordinaire, David Abreu (Colgin Cellars, Harlan
Estate, Screaming Eagle, Bryant Family, Grace Family, Araujo Estate) to plant the original 70
acres of vineyards back in 2002. Soon after that, he hired vintner extraordinaire, Heidi Peterson
Barrett (Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Grace Family, La Sirena) to produce his first
vintage in 2005. Since then, another 30 acres of vineyard was planted and a second winery was
just completed to produce the winery’s only white wine. And with any top notch winery, wine
caves were bored into the property giving them over 20,000 square feet of wine storage space
that rests comfortably at 60 degrees year round.

How did I find Kenzo Estates?

I read about Kenzo Estate several years ago when he was first featured in Wine Spectator after
completing his $100 million winery in 2010. What initially caught my eye was the name of the
winery – I first read it as “Kenso Estate”. Hey, that’s my nephew! No, it’s KenZo. Then just last
year, the Estate donated several bottles of wine for the annual JCCCNC fundraiser auction
including a 2009 Rindo (Cabernet Sauvignon blend) and I thought, “Why not”? So I placed a
bid and eventually won that one bottle so I decided to schedule an appointment for a tour and
tasting on our recent trip to Napa Valley.

The Lineup

The winery currently makes only one white wine, a pure Sauvignon Blanc named Asatsuyu or
“Morning Dew” which spends time on French oak to give it a rounder, richer palate. They also
produce a rose made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc named Yui or “Unity” with the grapes
grown just to make the rose. Most roses are produced as a by-product of concentrating the red
The reds start with Rindo or Gentian flower which is a blend of the traditional red grapes of
Bordeaux with Cabernet Sauvignon accounting for anywhere between 35 to 50% of the blend.
The current release of 2011 tasted at the winery was an anomaly at 85% Cabernet Sauvignon
(though it legally could be labelled as Cabernet Sauvignon, Kenzo Estate just uses its
proprietary name). Then above the Rindo are Ai and Murasaki with Ai or “Indigo”usually
containing more than 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and Murasaki or “Purple” containing 50 to 70%
Cabernet Sauvignon. The Estate also produces a small amount of pure Cabernet Franc named
after the town where Tsujimoto-san was born, Asuka (only made in two vintages thus far) but
they often sell out of this wine before it even hits the winery shelves.

Visiting Kenzo Estates

For starters, you have to make an appointment for just a tasting which starts at $40 per person
for a flight of four wines. The tour and tasting runs $60 and the tour, tasting and lunch created
by Thomas Keller sets you back $80 per person. Individual tastes of the Rindo, Ai or Murasaki
are $10 to $25 per taste. It does take about a 30 minute drive from Napa Town up Mt George to
get to Kenzo Estate. However if you do want to purchase wine, it’s sold mainly through their
website or directly at the winery as roughly 70% of their wines get distributed throughout Japan
and what’s left stateside usually goes to high end restaurants. We actually only intended on
trying to secure a couple of bottles of the Asuka Cabernet Franc (which was on the tasting
menu) but alas, they only had half bottles left at the winery so we purchased a couple small
bottles. The Mrs. also enjoyed their wine so much that she purchased enough wine that we had
our tasting fees waived.

The cost of each wine is comparable to other Napa Valley wines where David Abreu and Heidi
Barrett are involved though they still aren’t as pricey Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Scarecrow and
Checkerboard. But your wallet will still be left with a noticeable hole…

Asatsuyu       $80
Yui                $80 (sold out)
Rindo            $100
Asuka           $100 (sold out)
Ai                $250
Murasaki       $250 (sold out)

So definitely not cheap but they are wines that can be enjoyed immediately after purchase so
you don’t have to wait for them to mature. And since the holiday season is approaching…

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Wine Gift Guide

$100 or more:
Rindo        $100        For the wine connoisseur
Durand Corkscrew        $125        For the wine connoisseur who has wines older than 10 years
Krug non-vintage Champagne        $149        The best quality to price ratio for Champagnes costing more
than $100
Peugeot Impitoyables Champagne Glass        $105        The perfect shape and size for your best bottles of
Champagne. Cost is for a pair of glasses.

$50 - $99

Riedel Sommelier Burgundy Grand Cru Glass        $99        The BEST balloon glass for Pinot Noir
Riedel Vinum XL Pinot Noir Glass        $98        The 2nd best balloon glass for Pinot Noir – the cost is
for a set of 4 glasses
Detert Cabernet Franc        $75        The most fragrant Cabernet Franc I’ve ever tasted
Schott Zwiesel Titanium Crystal        ~$60        For those who travel with stemware, the titanium crystal
is a lot more break resistant and the cost is for 6 glasses

$25 - $49

Pulltap Corkscrew        $7 to $25        Teflon worm, double lever and a solid foil cutting blade
Riedel “O” Glasses        $49        Five different stemless glasses for a variety of reds and whites and labeled
for each specific grape
Launois Champagne        $35 - $49        The BEST non-vintage Champagne less than $50
Crate and Barrel Bellamy Carafe        $29        Designed like Riedel’s $190 “O” decanter at a fraction of the