The Wines of Kenzo Estate
When Kenzo Tsujimoto, the CEO of Capcom, one of the largest gaming companies in the world, came to Napa from Japan he had something bigger in mind than simply planting a few rows of vine and making a vanity wine. Street Fighter, you might say, has been very, very good to Mr. Tsujimoto. He purchased 3,800 acres on Mt. George, above the town of Napa, which for 20 years had served as the West Coast Olympic training site for the U.S. equestrian team. From 100 acres of vine, to which David Abreu has planted all five Bordeaux varietals as well as sauvignon blanc, Kenzo Estate, under the guidance of legendary oenologist Heidi Barrett, produces four different wines (about half of the total production is exported to Japan). In his home country, Tsujimoto is a tastemaker of some repute, and much the vineyard’s output ends up at restaurants there, though they are becoming increasingly available on this side of the Pacific.
The estate’s one and only white wine, the Asatsuyu (means “morning dew” in Japanese) is 100 percent sauvignon blanc and roughly 50 percent of the juice is fermented in oak (10 percent of that oak is brand-spanking new), giving the wine more texture, tannin and creaminess than if it had been fermented totally in stainless steel. The aromatics rising from the glass are dominated by stone fruit — apricots, peaches — thanks to the inclusion of a muscat clone. The finish is dry and minerally. This is a delicious and substantial sauvignon blanc.
Named for a purple Japanese flowers, the Rindo is a wine you immediately fall in love with. Nearly equal parts cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, this wine is a beautiful balance of ripe blackberry and bright tart rasberry. Allusive aromas of dry gravel evoke the dusty, rocky soil of the property (Abreu has not been shy with the dynamite in developing the property and the rocks he has extracted, often by hand, have been used in the architecture of the winery and tasting room). The tannins are gritty, like cocoa powder and the long finish is inexplicably floral.
If you just looked at the varietal make up (50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 20 percent cabernet franc) one could reasonably expect this wine to taste a hell of a lot like the Rindo. And yet, as a testament to terroir, the two wines couldn’t be more different. Because vineyard blocks are fermented and aged separately, a meticulous and time-consuming way of crafting wine, each plot is allowed to express itself. The barrels chosen for the Murasiki blend are richer and darker in color than the Rindo. On the palate lush black fruits dominate and the tannins are supple and mouth-filling.
This, my friend, is cabernet sauvignon. It may not be 100 percent single varietal, but it doesn’t matter, because the great, noble cabernet sauvignon dominates. The dark fruits exhibited so profoundly in the Murasaki take a back seat to rose petals, tomato leaf and hints of the intangible and lovable steminess exhibited by cabernet sauvignon when it is not overly ripened. Structurally, the combination of high acidity and tight young tannins has you reaching for a piece of aged gouda. This is not a one-night-stand kind of wine: it’s one to hold onto and enjoy for years to come.