Like us, we suspect that most of you are hunkered down waiting out the coronavirus. But despite the “isolation”, we continue to enjoy Nagano wines ordered online directly from the wineries. You can too! Our recommendations this month focus on Nagano wineries that offer a wide selection of interesting wines, payment by credit card and reliable service. Unfortunately, the websites are in Japanese and can prove a bit difficult to navigate.
First up is Château Mercian. We noted before that this may be Nagano (and Japan’s) best winery. Its online shop offers a wide variety of wines at many price points. The online shop (as is often the case with the larger national wineries) is separate from the winery website and sells wines made by Mercian in Yamanashi, Hokkaido and elsewhere in Japan as well as Nagano. Here is the link. The opening page has a menu of options: Go to the Mariko Vineyard Series (マリコ・ヴィンヤードシリーズ) and you will find for sale a Chardonnay and two Sauvignon Blanc that use grapes grown in the Mariko Vineyard, considered the best in Nagano. Try the 2016 Chardonnay at 2750 yen and the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc at 3600 yen. You will not be disappointed.
Next up is the Kusunoki Winery, a small boutique operation in the mountains overlooking the Chikumagawa River, run by Shigeyuki Kusunoki, one of Japan’ best winemakers. You can call the winery directly at 026-214-8568 or buy online. Although the bulk of the site is in Japanese, you can find an informative English description of the wines at the “wine list” tab of the website. Prices and availability can be checked at “online shop” tab. We recommend the 2017 Barrel-Aged Chardonnay at 4400 yen, the 2018 Espoir (an ambitious blend of Chardonnay and Semillon grapes) at 2870 yen, the always excellent 2019 Hikitakihara (a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc blend) at 3300 yen and the refreshing 2019 Pinot Noir at 3960 yen.
Lastly, we want to introduce the Izutsu Winery in Shiojiri City. This winery markets to the occasional wine drinker through supermarkets and sells its wines under a variety of brands, including Standard, Verger, Shinshu, Silver, NAC (Nagano Appellation Control) and Chateau Izutsu. The best value comes in the NAC branded wines, which are made from grapes grown exclusively in Nagano. The website is not very user friendly and the NAC brand does not even appear as a separate category! Our advice is to go to the site and search under the 全商品表示. That way you will not miss anything. The search is worth the effort. We recommend the NAC Merlot (Barrel-Aged) 2018 at 3400 yen, the NAC Cabernet Franc 2018 at 2000 yen, and the NAC Chardonnay Iwadenohara 2017 at 2000 yen.