December 2019 Recommendations

The Christmas Season is approaching and there is no better time to enjoy the “fruits of the vine” than this period. So, we are recommending two delicious reds that will compliment your turkey and gravy. 

Many Japanese winemakers have embraced the notion that they need to make wines that go well with Japanese foods, such as sushi or tempura. Typically, these are lighter, white wines from Yamanashi prefecture. But in the winter season, you want something that pairs well with heartier and more flavorful dishes including Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki, teppanyaki, and shabu-shabu. The wines below hit the mark and evidence the progress being made in Nagano to produce well balanced and flavorful red wines.


Obuse Winery Clos de Cacteau Syrah 2017

Syrah does will in Nagano, but it still takes a skilled winemaker to craft a memorable wine at a competitive price. Obuse Winery’s Akihiko Soga is one of the best. This wine has remarkable clarity, fruit and spice that makes for an interesting and drinkable companion to any dinner. We sampled the bottle paired with grilled chicken. It was excellent with a quite refined and pleasing finish.

At 2500 yen, the wine is a great bargain, but it is not available online. You can purchase it at the winery (which we recommend you visit) or one of the selected wine shops that it sells through. Here is a link to outlets that carry Obuse wines in Tokyo and elsewhere.


Grande Polaire Azuminoikeda Pinot Noir 2016

Unlike Syrah, Pinot Noir does not do well in Nagano. Nagano’s climate is too wet for the thin-skinned, disease-prone grape resulting in wines that lack flavor. For that reason, we were surprised when Sapporo’s Nagano winemaker, Mr. Kudo, served this Pinot Noir at a recent event. We were even more surprised by how delicious it tasted with soft tannins in balance with a good amount of acid and red fruit flavor.

Pinot Noir is never a bargain. But, at 5000 yen, this one is in line with and one of the better ones on the market. If you want just a taste, you can get it by the glass at Sapporo’s Grande Polaire restaurant in Ginza.

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