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A Wine Lady, Emiko Kufman’s Wine Talk

By Adelina, 05-30-2020

Courtesy: Emiko Kaufman

Meeting with Emiko Kaufman was a special treat. She is the famed author of the popular Wine Talk blog, a favorite among Japanese wine enthusiasts. She has been writing Wine Talk for over a decade. After she moved to Sonoma from Japan in the 1980s, she discovered California wine and fell in love with its fine quality ever since. Through self-learning, tasting at numerous wineries, and taking wine tasting classes as well as classes offered by Culinary Institute of America in Napa, Emiko gradually established herself as an expert in California wine and decided to introduce California wine to people in Japan. In addition to her Wine Talk blog, she wrote articles monthly in the WAND (Wine and Spirits Magazine) in Japan. She has also written several books about California wines.

When sitting down with Emiko at a coffee shop in downtown Sonoma, I was amazed by her knowledge of California wines and her enumeration of them with ease and patience. One by one, Emiko introduced me to the wines produced among the hills and the valleys of Napa and Sonoma counties. 

Depending on the local temperatures, wineries produce different varieties of wines ranging from red, white, pink, to sparkling. Napa, due to its perfect climate, is a cabernet land. Napa is famous for its red wines and produces some of the best ones in the world. Shafer is one example which produces top-notch red wine. In Anderson Valley, thanks to the cooler temperature, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines are produced. Since this area is less known than Napa, the prices of wines are more affordable as are wines in Sonoma. 

Courtesy: Emiko Kaufman

For Emiko, wine is to be enjoyed and is subject to personal taste. There is no ceremony or ritual required to take delight in one’s wine. She also believes that wine should be described in such a way that non-experts can understand and appreciate it. This is the main reason she started her Wine Talk blog. 

Through wines, Emiko has met many interesting people and made many friends. In addition to its social function, wine also helps food to taste better. For example, beef goes well with Cabernet Sauvignon; cheese goes well pretty much almost all wine. As for herself, she likes to have tempura with Spottswoode’s Sauvignon Blanc; she thinks that is the best combination.

As for wineries, it is a serious business because more than 100 steps are involved in producing wines. One misstep may ruin one entire season’s worth of wines. For people who want to work in this industry, they need to study enology and viticulture at UC Davis or CA state universities or take lessons from community colleges in the wine region. Emiko has seen many wineries come and go. She believes it takes dedication and hard work from generation to generation to build a reputable and lasting wine business.

Besides writing articles and books, Emiko also arranges private wine-tasting tours for enthusiasts. For one-day tours in the Napa/Sonoma regions, Emiko recommends people start from Domaine Carneros which offers great sparkling wines. She then recommends Saintsbury’s Pinot Noir. For people who love Cabernet, she recommends Spottswoode Winery. As for restaurants in the region, she recommends Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch situated in St. Helena. The outdoor Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena offers great burgers. For people who are looking for a MICHELIN Guide’s restaurant, Emiko recommends SingleThread Farm located in Healdsburg but she warned that it could come with a high price tag.

Living, drinking, and tasting wine in Sonoma for so many years, Emiko has heard or learned many interesting local stories. One she gladly shared was the “Blind Tasting” event which took place in 1976. This event was organized by Steven Spurrier who invited a panel of experienced French judges to blind taste wines from France and California. Among those wines, a bottle of 1973 chardonnay made by Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, winemaker at Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga, outranked some of France's best white Burgundies. At the same event, those judges also gave a California red (1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon) a higher score than any of the French contenders. This event put the California wine industry “on the map” in terms of international recognition.

Courtesy: Emiko Kaufman

Emiko recently embarked on another mission -- to travel around the world with her husband, a former winemaker, to introduce California wines to importers of other countries. 

We are grateful for Emiko spending time with us amidst her busy schedule. We wish her great success and look forward to hearing about her new adventures in the future!

Emiko’s Wine Talk Blog: www.winetalkcalifornia.com