1990The Finest Napa Valley Winegrowing Terroir
Kenzo Tsujimoto first achieved great success as founder of Capcom, a Japanese developer and publisher of video games. Kenzo Tsujimoto’s accomplishments in business are largely due to his intuitive understanding of what fascinates people. Winemaking represents a mature iteration of his approach to youth and the emergence of video games in the 1980s as Chairman and CEO of Capcom. Kenzo Tsujimoto became enchanted with Napa Valley after the historic 1976 Judgment of Paris, which launched Napa Valley wines onto the world stage. Two decades searching for the ideal winegrowing terroir, his quest 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 ground 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. The 4,000 acre property significantly attracted local vintners who recognized the ideal grape growing conditions of this unique terroir.
1998Planting the Vineyard
After acquiring the Kenzo Estate property, Kenzo Tsujimoto established a long term vision for developing. He learned intensively about viticulture and winemaking and established valuable relationships with local vintners, amongst them the late world renowned winemaker Robert Mondavi. Kenzo explored the rolling hills of his mountain estate, identifying small parcels ideal for superb grape growing. After a careful examination of the 4,000 acres of the expansive estate, a small hilly area of about one hundred acres near Leoma Lakes was selected; it offered an abundance of water resources and sun exposure. In 1998, a yearlong large-scale digging operation commenced to prepare 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.
2001Meet David Abreu
In 2001, three years after preparing the vineyard grounds, and two years after the first planting, grapes were harvested for the first time at Kenzo Estate. Although wine was made from this fruit, the vintage was never released. In 2001, Kenzo Tsujimoto encountered famed viticulturist David Abreu, known for raising grapes at some of the most respected wineries in Napa such as Harlan Estate and Colgin Cellars. The vineyard had just been harvested when Kenzo met David Abreu and the immense potential of Kenzo Estate’s terroir was fully realized. Fascinated by David Abreu’s talent, Kenzo approached Abreu to offer him the role Vineyard Manager at Kenzo Estate. Abreu accepted the role under the condition that he be given permission to replant the entire vineyard to ensure utmost perfection.
2002Creating the Perfect Vineyard
Kenzo Tsujimoto was faced with the difficult decision to replant the vineyard, but for him the answer was clear: “Wine, much like video games, is not a necessity. Therefore, if we do not create the absolute best, highest quality, no one will pay attention.” In pursuit of excellence, Kenzo accepted David Abreu’s request to replant the vineyard in its entirety. In 2002, replanting operations commenced under Abreu’s command- plants were pulled out, the soil was turned over and even the smallest rocks in the ground were removed in order for the new rootstocks to grow perfectly without disruption. The vineyard was divided in several blocks to carefully select the ideal location for each varietal. Each block was planted to extract the purity of the vine’s varietal heritage and characteristic clonal extraction of its soil, aspect, and focused care.
2003Heidi Barrett, “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley”
One year after talented viticulturist David Abreu joined the Kenzo Estate team, another key player was introduced who would define Kenzo Estate. Celebrated Winemaker Heidi Barrett, dubbed “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley”, has been responsible for some of California's most notable cult wines. In the early 90’s, Kenzo Tsujimoto encountered Heidi Barrett’s remarkable Dalla Valle Maya, initiating his interest in winemaking and his tremendous respect for Heidi Barrett. Coincidentally, Heidi Barrett had a very special connection to the land of Kenzo Estate that goes beyond her skill for turning grapes into sublime and magnificent wine— in her youth she rode horses on the trails of Wild Horse Valley Ranch, the equestrian facility that predated Kenzo's arrival. With her signature wine style honoring a sense of place and respecting vineyard heritage and vintage personality, Heidi draws on her intuitive connection to 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 finally assembled the key components to craft the finest wine in the world.
2005The Much Anticipated Harvest
Grapevine seedlings grow for an average of three years before being picked for the first time. In 2005, after years of meticulous daily farm work under the direction of Vineyard Manager David Abreu, the time finally came to harvest. Although the vines were very young, they bore a complex fruit with significant density. It was immediately apparent that Kenzo had made all the right decisions and something truly spectacular was to come. The vivid fruit entered the fermentation process and was aged 20 months in French oak barrels and matured in bottle for one year before finally being released to the world.
2008The Debut of Kenzo Estate Wines
In 2008, a release party was held at the Tokyo Imperial Hotel to debut the 2005 vintage of Rindo, Murasaki and Ai. All in attendance expressed awe in the collection’s intensely silky texture and purity; the 2005 vintage sold out in a very short time. Focus was then shifted to the greatly anticipated release in 2009 of Kenzo Estate’s unique and proprietary white wine- the 2007 vintage of Asatsuyu, the only Sauvignon Blanc ever created by Heidi Barrett. Asatsuyu also gained popularity quickly with its refreshing, crisp minerality and smoothness. The foundation of Kenzo Estate’s exceptional signature wines was established the talented estate team eagerly awaited exciting advancements in the coming year.
Kenzo Estate’s first releases required outsourcing for fermentation and aging while construction of the winery and the cave were under development. In 2009, the eagerly awaited completion of the winery facilities at the center of the vineyard blocks allowed freshly harvested fruit to directly enter the fermentation process in perfect condition rather than being subjected to potentially harmful transport and time elapsed between picking and pressing. Directly behind the winery structures, the cave was constructed by digging into a small hillside. Inside, French oak barrels were lined with precision to lend to a detailed method of inspecting wines during aging, conducted by Winemaker Heidi Barrett and our expert Winemaking Team. The completion of the winery structures and the cave marked an important achievement at Kenzo Estate- every single step in the winemaking process, from fermentation to bottling was now performed in our own winery, resulting in the United States Federal Government formally approving Kenzo Estate’s wines as “Estate Bottled”.
Kenzo Estate formally opened on July 1, 2010 upon completion of The Tasting Room. By establishing The Tasting Room, Kenzo Tsujimoto achieved his long-standing aspiration to be able to welcome guests to the estate for a Winery Tour and Tasting and share his love of this enchanting site. At the same time, Kenzo Estate opened a Tasting Room and Restaurant in Tokyo, Hiroo, mirroring The Tasting Room in Napa. A strong desire for owner Kenzo Tsujimoto, who was aware that everyone would not have the ability to travel to Napa, the Tokyo location intended to recreate the experience at the Napa Tasting Room without leaving Japan. The grand opening of Kenzo Estate Napa and Kenzo Estate Tokyo was the culmination of Kenzo Tsujimoto’s two decades devoted to crafting the finest quality wines imaginable.