We are starting out the New Year with some delicious recommendations for red wines. Nagano is increasingly becoming known for the quality and variety of its red wines. Merlot remains at the top of the heap and we have a very nice 100 percent Merlot from the Manns Winery in Komoro City that will make you forget about California. The winery is close by the Komoro City highway exit from the Joshinetsu Expressway and has a well-appointed tasting room and restaurant located amidst the vineyards. We note though that a growing trend among Nagano winemakers is to blend their Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other grapes (e.g. Petit Vedot) to produce a more consistent product from year to year.
Our other recommendations is from Goichi Winery, which makes wines for every taste and pocketbook. Their products are on every supermarket shelf. But over the past few years, they have placed more emphasis on producing quality wines, especially from their newly developed vineyards in the Kakizawa area of Shiojiri City. In step with this , they have also begun to produce a few blended wines and have marketed them as premium wines under the Goichi Estate label.
Manns Winery Solaris Chikumagawa Merlot 2016: This wine is a bit more expensive than ones that we have generally recommended, but one taste will convince you that it is something you can serve confidently to discriminating guests or simply spoil yourself with. The color is a deep ruby, the flavor reminiscent of blackberries, and the finish well defined and lingering. Most of all at 13 percent the alcohol is just right and highlights the care and investment that Manns has made in producing this wine. It is already sold out at the winery but still available online through platforms such as Rakuten.
Price: 5500 yen
Goichi Winery Goichi Estate Cabernet Merlot 2017: This wine is a true bargain with a bright color, taste of cherries and smooth finish. You can drink this at home or gift to a friend. It is a casual, fun wine that is a blend of 50 percent Cabernet Franc with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes contributing equally to the remaining 50 percent. The skillful blending of the three grapes avoids the vegetative flavors that have plagued the unblended Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced in the prefecture due to the hot and humid summer weather in Japan, which can sometimes extend into the Fall. This wine is sold out at the winery but still available online through platforms such as Rakuten.
Price: 2750 yen