We are starting to see signs of the coming Fall season in the mountains of Nagano. The local farmers are preparing the fields for the rice harvest, which starts mid-month, and the soba fields are now covered in white flowers. The temperature is also dropping, and we are awakening to mornings in the high teens rather than the high 20’s. This month, we are recommending two wines from one of our favorite winery. Izutsu Winery has produced wine since 1933 and was a strong mover behind creation of the Nagano wine appellation control system introduced in 2002. It is located on the outskirts of Shiojiri City amidst its own vineyards and those of another prominent producer, Goichi Vineyards, which is just across the road. Izutsu boasts a beautiful tasting room and always has on hand a large selection of its wines to sample.
Izutsu Winery Chardonnay (Iwadarehara) 2017
This is a 2000-yen Chardonnay that can play in the big leagues. Nice color, fruity and with nice acidity. The finish has some minerality. Whether you like that or not is a matter of preference. Perfect for lunch or for cocktails!
This is the first harvest for Izutsu from the Iwadarehara area in Shiojiri, which is already producing good quality wines for a number of vintners including Suntory.
Available for 2000 yen from the winemaker online.
Izutsu Winery Merlot 2018
We don’t normally recommend “supermarket” wines. But there is a reason to pay attention to what is going on in this market segment since perhaps the biggest challenge for Japan’s winemakers is to nurture a new generation of wine drinkers in Japan and develop an appreciation for “good” wines. Doing so requires operation at scale and a good price entry point for young wine enthusiasts, who normally cannot afford 3000 yen or more for a bottle of wine.
Izutsu has not only threaded this needle, but has also produced a wine that can “rub shoulders” with a number of the more expensive competitors in the market. The color of the wine is good and the alcohol at 13 percent quite bracing for a Japanese wine. There is a nice fruitiness, although it could be better expressed — and the finish drops off too quickly. However, the overall package and price point is very good, and it is a welcome introduction to the more expensive barrel-aged Merlots, which Izutsu markets for twice the price.
Available for 1500 yen from the winemaker online.