Kenzo Tsujimoto, businessman and entrepreneur, gives us an inside look into his ever expanding ventures
In 1960, Kenzo Tsujimoto began his career in Japan as an entrepreneur in one of the most controversial, exciting, and innovative industries of the day—gaming. With a sharp focus on originality and invention, his company, Capcom Co. Ltd., quickly rose to the top, becoming one of the leading game developers and publishers of our time. Kenzo’s strategy was to produce products that would not only cater to the specific desires of the gaming audience, but also surprise them. He enlisted some of the most talented game developers and designers to create among the industry’s most contentious, profitable, and ground-breaking games of the century, some of which have even become major Hollywood productions, such as Space Invaders, Mega Man, Street Fighter II, and Resident Evil. As a true businessman and entrepreneur, however, Kenzo wanted his company to keep growing, changing, and innovating.
Kenzo boasts that the quality of the land surrounding the estate surpasses that of all other vineyards, assuring that his wines are produced from the finest estate-grown grapes.
In 1990, Kenzo came to Silicon Valley, California to expand his lucrative gaming business to the United States and, in the process, he fell in love with the cascading hills of wine country. Shortly after, he bought an elegant estate located on Mt. George in Napa, with the dream of creating a sophisticated winery that would produce some of the finest wines in the country. His desire was to combine skillfully crafted wines from the purest vineyards with a beautiful Japanese artistry and aesthetic, and, ultimately, to inspire joy, passion, and comfort in all of his guests. To help complete his vision, Kenzo hired David Abreu, the vineyard manager, in 2001, and Heidi Barrett, the consulting winemaker, in 2003. Seven years later, in 2010, the doors of the estate opened with food prepared by award-winning chef Thomas Keller from his famous Bouchon restaurant, which paired beautifully with the perfect Kenzo Estate wines.
The estate consists of a winery and hospitality center, which were both designed by famous architect Backen Gillam. It is located on an elevation of approximately 1,550 feet and encompasses almost 4,000 acres, of which only 70 are used for the vineyard. The remaining land is untouched. The estate itself, therefore, has the feel of a country oasis, a place that nurtures and supports the natural surroundings by promoting sustainable farming techniques that work in harmony with the land. The Kenzo Estate offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience a fully functioning vineyard that also feels like a personal mountain retreat.
Though the estate may feature picturesque qualities like rolling hills, natural lakes, and an abundance of natural flora and fauna, Kenzo’s business depends on the quality of the grapes grown on the land. Kenzo boasts that the quality of the land surrounding the estate surpasses that of all other vineyards, assuring that his wines are produced from the finest estate-grown grapes. He takes pride in his work, making sure every detail is tended to with the utmost consideration. Following the model of his gaming company, Capcom, Kenzo strives to achieve a mix of savvy business practice with creativity and innovation to produce the finest product possible. It certainly worked at Capcom, and it certainly is working at the estate.
To celebrate his passion for artisanship, this summer, Kenzo will host a private soiree to commemorate the release of the estate’s first Rosé and newest Asatsuyu vintage. Named Yui rose, meaning “connections” in Japanese and symbolizes the connection between Japanese aesthetics and traditionally French-style wine. The Asatsuyu ’10, a Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc, also crafted by Heidi Barrett, is a special vintage that takes its name from the Japanese word for “morning dew,” alluding to the beauty and organic processes that surround the cultivation of Kenzo’s grapes. Tickets for the summer gala will be available for purchase at the beginning of June.
If you are unable to make the summer reception of Kenzo’s Rosé and Asatsuyu vintage, the estate is always available for by-appointment-only tastings. Tasting options include: four wines (1 oz. tastes) for $30 per person; four wines (2 oz. tastes) for $50 per person, and a wine-paired tasting menu featuring Chef Thomas Keller’s cuisine for $60 per person. But, to his most loyal customers, Kenzo offers his Asatsuya Guest House, a private residence located on the estate grounds. The house provides guests with the opportunity to immerse themselves in their idyllic setting, as well as to share a meal with Kenzo that is accompanied by Kenzo’s wine and prepared by a visiting chef.
In addition to his passion for wine and business, Kenzo is a member of the Japanese government council and a director of the Association of Copyright for Computer Software, where he plays an important role in the protection of intellectual property.
The Kenzo Estate is located at 3200 Monticello Road in Napa and is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week. Wine tasting is available by appointment only. To make an appointment, call 707.259.5408.