Saturday, June 2, 2012

Napa's Dream Team Creation: The Kenzo Estate Experience

On the drive to Kenzo Estate I felt like a little kid heading to Disneyland for the first time. I had waited for months to come here, and the anticipation of the day finally arriving was making me very excited. I had extremely high expectations for a place that a Japanese gaming mogul (Kenzo Tsujimoto) dreamt and built over the past 10 years. This is the one place in Napa where you will find David Abreu, Heidi Barrett, and Thomas Keller's names all attached to a single winery. I had been reserving visiting Kenzo Estate, until my father could join us. It was his first trip to Napa, and I knew that this would be a place that he would love and appreciate.

 From the moment that we entered the first gate, high on the mountains in Napa, I knew that we were in for a big treat! There were beautiful lakes and rolling hills of vines all around us. As we approached the beautiful tasting room, we were warmly greeted by Cynthia, our Tasting Room Host. We started off with a taste of Asatsuyu, their lovely Sauvignon Blanc, then we began our private tour of the grounds.

The architecture was beautiful, simple, but very we were walking around I kept thinking, "What a perfect place this would be for an intimate wedding...or a party." While making our way through the vineyard, Cynthia pointed out something that was very unique to this tour, it was the small block of vines that displayed all of the different varietals that Kenzo produces. This block of vines is specifically for visitors to be able to see the difference between the leaves and grapes. I thought that this was really innovative, because typically you will see different varietals along your tours, but never side by side so that you can actually assess the uniqueness of each set of vines. We kept walking along and taking in the beautiful views of the mountain. We finished off the tour by visiting the caves, which only had a single layer of barrels displayed. Cynthia informed us that this was to keep the wine at an even temperature, and that if more wines were produced they would build out the cave further to accommodate. I loved the dedication to the quality of the wines, and was very excited to try the reds when we made it back to the tasting room.

We were lead to a beautiful private room, which had glasses ready for us to taste the red wines to complete the Kenzo portfolio. Soon after we sat down, a Bouchon lunch arrived with a delicious sandwich, salad, and potato chips. It was a perfect wine country meal. After we ate our lunch, we began to get serious about the wines. Rindo, Ai, Murasaki, and Asuka were very unique, well balanced, and had a perfect finish. Heidi Barrett makes some of the most beautiful wines that I have ever tasted, and Kenzo did not disappoint. My personal favorite was Ai, however we all loved Rindo. Since Kenzo distributes the majority of their wines (70%) to Japan, there is a limited amount of wine available to purchase through the winery. If you enjoy their wines, I highly recommend joining their mailing list to receive your personal allocations in the future. The tour and tasting was one of the best, most intimate experiences that I have had in wine country. This place is perfect for someone who really loves California wines and is ready to experience some of the best that Napa has to offer.

Tips - Kenzo Estate:
  • There are 3 tasting experiences offered at this winery: Seated tasting $40/person, Tour & Tasting $60/person, Tour & Tasting with Bouchon Pairing $80/person. Our experience was the tour and tasting with the Bouchon pairing, but please allow up to 2 hours for this experience.
  • If you're going to plan a tour or tasting here, make this your first or second stop. You won't regret it!
  • This winery is by appointment only and they do book up. Call well in advance if you have a specific date/time in mind. All of the tasting options are private, which makes the appointment times limited. 
  • Plan at least 15 minutes more for your drive than your GPS calls for, because you will be driving up a mountain.
  • Recommend this place to your Japanese friends, they will love it! Several of the tasting hosts can even provide tours in Japanese. 
  • Be prepared to buy some wines here! You will love them and will not be able to walk away without several pricey bottles. Also, you will not find Kenzo wines available to purchase anywhere except very nice restaurants that are listed here.



  1. What a wonderful experience. This was definately a unique winery. We made several other stops and this was a very memorable estate. I would definately go back again.

  2. Michelle,
    Thank you for the great mentioning of Kenzo Estate. We are greatly enthused that you enjoyed your visit with us. Cynthia only mentioned the best when recapping on your visit. we hope that the remainder of your trip was most enjoyable and that your father's visit was more than memorable. Please let us know if you are visiting again and we would be more than happy to host you.
    Best Regards,

    1. Thank you Marcus! It was truly a memorable experience and we would love to come back to Kenzo in the future!

  3. I want to go! What an amazing winery & experience! Xo.

  4. What a lovely trip! I loved seeing the pictures- glad you got to have a little break from L too. It's so important to have that adult time!