Birthday Tasting at Kenzo Estate


I most enjoy the scenery when driving to wine country.  Such was especially true on my birthday drive up to Kenzo Estate in Napa.  My route from Sacramento took Hubby and I through the Suisun Valley, onto beautiful, mountainous roads.  At a certain point, cell service to our phones completely went out.  The strikingly beautiful culprit of course, Mount George.   Once a mile or two from the property, you could look down into the amazing view of the valley.

I had noticed early on that my Google directions had us coming to a complete stop among trees.  No building or signage, just trees.  But when zooming out (way out) on my map, there I noticed what appeared to be structures settled within.  We had to drive past our stop a few hundred feet before reaching the privately nestled estate.  Truly an estate, you are required to “buzz” the property for your visit.  After which, the gate opens for you to begin the serene drive to the winery.


Approaching a second gate let me know that my husband, friends and I were really in for an adventure.

Gate 2

Rolling hills of vines upon vines greeted us as we entered the second gate.  An overwhelming feeling of beauty and peace surrounded me as we drove closer to the property.  We got out of the car in amazement of the spectacular surroundings.


Upon our arrival, we were greeted at the door by our experience guide for the day, Brooke.  She escorted us through the alluring tasting room onto the patio where other members of my party were waiting.  You immediately notice that the design of the winery is very clean and elegant.  Much more like visiting a home than a place of business, Kenzo Estate is very warm, serene and welcoming.

tasting room to patio
Photo courtesy of Kenzo Estate
Photo courtesy of Kenzo Estate

After getting comfortable, we began the day’s venture with a glass of Asatsuyu, a stellar Sauvignon Blanc from the estate.  Asatsuyu, which means “Morning Dew”, is the wine that first peaked my desire to learn more about Kenzo Estate.  This was only my second taste.  It was just as mesmerizing and memorable as the first.  It shines with aromas of sweet tropical fruits and beautiful, fragrant flowers.  On the palate, sweet melons, honeydew, peaches; a crisp hint of honeysuckle and citrus gives it just the right balance.


Name: Asatsuyu
Varietal: 96.2% Sauvignon Blanc/3.8% Semillion
Vintage: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 14.2%
Appellation: Napa Valley


We began our tour on the patio with a brief history of the birth of the estate.  I was first amazed to learn that the winery’s owner, Kenzo Tsujimoto, is also the founder of Capcom, the Japanese gaming company responsible for the development and success of such games as Street Fighter and Resident Evil.  In 1990, Mr. Tsujimoto acquired the enormous property, consisting of approximately 3800 acres.  At the time of purchase, the property was previously being used as an equestrian training center for the U.S. Olympics.  Mr. Tsujimoto had not originally planned to utilize the property for winemaking.  It was not until the late 1990’s to early 2000’s that planting and re-planting of the vineyards began.  The winery released their first vintage (2005) in 2008.

Owner Kenzo Tsujimoto, Photo courtesy of Kenzo Estate

Other notable facts included the “dream team” that is responsible for crafting Kenzo’s signature wines.  In addition to Mr. Tsujimoto himself, vineyard manager, David Abreu, is highly regarded throughout the Napa Valley for his talents among the vines.  He has grown grapes for some of the most premium wines in the industry; Screaming Eagle and Staglin Family, just to name a few.  Winemaker Heidi Barrett is well known for her work on some of the most stunning California wines.  Her background includes making first class Cabernets for the likes of Dalla Valle Vineyards and Screaming Eagle.

We took a short walk up to the vineyards to get a better view of the estate, and learn about the other properties and wildlife that exist.  Although the vineyards only make up approximately 4% of the land, the setting among the mountains make it one of the best terroirs to grow its varietals to include Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Much of the property is reminiscent of a wildlife park.  It includes several bodies of water, a diverse gathering of forestry; as well as boars, deer and other wild animals occasionally seen.  There are also living quarters, a bird sanctuary and an equestrian center.

My husband, friends and I enjoying our day!





From the vineyards, tour guide, Brooke (who is fabulously gracious at what she does, by the way), moved our journey over to the tank rooms where she explained where and when the grapes would be harvested.  The rooms, amazingly pristine, were quiet as all anxiously await harvest time.  The estate usually harvests their grapes a little later than the rest of the valley; usually the harvest of the Sauvignon Blanc does not begin until September.



A short walk from the tank rooms brought us to the underground cave where the French Oak barrels are neatly aligned to age Kenzo’s prized possessions.  Of all of the wine produced at the estate, about 80% of the wines are exported to their four sister properties in Japan.


Photo courtesy of Kenzo Estate
Photo courtesy of Kenzo Estate



The final activity for the day was a lovely seated tasting of several other spectacular wines in the Kenzo Estate portfolio.  Each seat was prepared not only with the wines, but also with a tasting brochure and menu for our review.  The brochure included information about the history of the estate, the vineyards, and showcased a scaled map of the entire property.

wine and lit 2




Name: Asuka
Varietal:  94% Cabernet Franc/6% Merlot
Vintage: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 14.8%
Appellation: Napa Valley
Nose:  Spice, ripe cherry, hint of chocolate
Palate:  Dark berries, spice, cocoa


Name: Rindo
Varietal:  53% Cabernet Sauvignon/15.8% Cabernet Franc/17.5% Merlot/13.7% Petit Verdot
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 14.8%
Appellation: Napa Valley
Nose:  Earthy, apricot
Palate:  Rich, balanced tannins, each varietal seemed to make its presence known (especially the Franc and Merlot), dark fruits, earth


Name: Ai
Varietal:  87% Cabernet Sauvignon/6.5% Merlot/4.4% Petit Verdot/2.2% Cabernet Franc
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 14.8%
Appellation: Napa Valley
Nose:  Plum, very spicy (peppery), cocoa
Palate:  Dark berries, lovely tannins, good acidic finish


Name: Muku (Late Harvest)
Varietal:  75% Sauvignon Blanc/25% Semillon
Vintage: 2014
Alcohol by Volume: 10.7%
Appellation: Napa Valley
Nose:  Floral, peach
Palate:  peach, guava, melon, citrus, great acidity pops on your palate


Overall, a girl could not have asked for a more perfect birthday.  Amazingly crafted wines, a spectacular estate, superior staff and wonderful friends.

Kenzo Estate
3200 Monticello Road, Napa, CA 94558
Tastings by Appointment Only

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