Nagano Wine & Cidre Garden

The Nagano Wine & Cidre Garden, Nagano city’s wine festival, is a “must-do” for Nagano wine lovers.  The Friends of Nagano Wine attended the wine festival on Saturday, August 24.  The weather was beautiful and the temperature perfect for a day of wine tasting.

Over twenty wineries ranging from smaller producers such as Izutsu, ALPS winery, Goichi, Sun Sun Winery, Saint Cousair and Shinshu Takayama to larger ones such as Suntory and Chateau Mercian from Shiojiri City and Mann’s Winery from Komoro City, participated in the event. 

Wine Festival

The Friend of Nagano Wine were joined by Devin Shomaker from New York and Stephane Ducable from Brussels. Devin is the founder and managing partner of Rooftop Reds, a rooftop vineyard located in Brooklyn, New York, and Stephane is interested in bringing Nagano wines to Europe in collaboration with Titulus, a wine bar in Brussels.

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Both were impressed by the range and quality of Nagano wines and the energy and enthusiasm of the Nagano winemakers (young and old). They were guided by Junya Hanaoka, the wine manager from Ginza Nagano, the prefecture’s promotion shop in Tokyo, and they had the opportunity to taste a wide range of wines from Muscat Bailey A and Ryugan to Chardonnay and Merlot.

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One of the highlights of attending the festival was the chance to meet with some of the newcomers to the Nagano wine scene.  Kaori Mitaka-Howard recently moved to Nagano after spending years in Napa Valley learning the wine business. She is now the winemaker at Vino della Gatto SAKAKI, which is owned by restauranteur and sommelier, Atsuto Narusawa.  We tried and thoroughly enjoyed Kaori’s Merlot, which showed strong red fruit character.  

We also enjoyed spending time with Tomonao Seki, who is an advisor to the Chikumagawa City Wine Research Association. Tomonao is focused on finding and developing grapes that are best suited to the climate and soil of the Chikumagawa District.  He is now experimenting with Malbec, an old Bordeaux varietal made famous again by Argentina. We tasted the first result of his work and think there is potential. Moreover, his work exemplifies the willingness of Nagano growers to broaden the menu beyond the best know European grapes.

Nagano City, where the wine festival was held, is an easy 80 to 110 minute Shinkansen trip (depending on what train you catch) from Tokyo station.  We hope that you can join us next year.

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