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Kenzo, Capcom founder, moves bigtime into Napa winemaking

on 17/12/10 at 12:36 pm


Kenzo Tsujimoto, CEO & chairman of Kenzo Estate winery which took $100 million to complete

Kenzo Tsujimoto is widely known in the video game world as the founder and chairman of Capcom (“Mega Man,” “Street Fighter,” “Resident Evil”). He is now on his way to becoming a major figure in winemaking as well.

Located at 3200 Monticello Road in Napa on the slopes of Mt. George, Kenzo Estate’s winery and tasting room opened to the public in May. The estate covers 4,000 acres (almost four times the size of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park), 70 of which are used for vineyards. Most of the land has been kept in its natural state.

His interest in California wine dates back to the 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” a competition in which French judges chose California-made chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines over their French counterparts after a blind tasting. That milestone was depicted in the movie “Bottle Shock.”

Tsujimoto recently sat down for an interview at his estate with Yuki Baba serving as interpreter. On the question of which wine is better, he said that although he has read a lot on the subject, he only believes what he feels, and having done his own taste tests, he’s concluded that “the best wine from Napa Valley is really the best.”

It was not his lifelong goal to start his own winery, but when he acquired the property in 1990, “it happened to be a property that could produce the very best wine,” he said, noting that the best wineries “are very small in terms of production … but they grow the grapes very carefully and meticulously, and that creates the very best wine. And I realized that I can actually do that on this property.”

Favorable factors include the elevation (1,550 feet), the cooler climate, the purity of the air and superior soil.

The winery had to be created from the ground up, as the site was previously an equestrian center. “It was actually very well-known. It was used for the U.S. Olympic team,” Tsujimoto noted.

His task was “hiring the people who would be able to create a very, very good product. It’s a very similar business practice as … video game production. I’ve been doing it for 40 years, and the basic principle is the same in terms of partnering up with very, very good creators.”

The Kenzo Estate team includes consulting winemaker Heidi Barrett, vineyard manager David Abreu, chef Thomas Keller of Bouchon restaurant, and Wine Country architects Backen Gillam.

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