May 2021 Recommendations

Amidst the more hopeful news about the pandemic, we keep on thinking that Spring is just around the proverbial corner. Yet the cold weather and more than occasional sleet remind us that the warm weather never really settles into Nagano until mid-May. There is one sure sign of Spring in Nagano though and that the release of a new vintage of wines. And among the most welcome (and hard to get!) are the red and white blended wines crafted by Akihito Kido at his boutique 4.5-acre winery in Shiojiri City.     

The Kido Winery has been around since 2003 and has the reputation for making beautiful and interesting wines. It was the first winery in Nagano visited by UK wine expert Jaime Goode. When visited Japan in 2018, he gave top marks to the reds and whites in Kido’s “private reserve” series (90-93 out of 100).

Here is a link to Jaime’s review.

But production of these wines is very limited, the price relatively high (10,000-15,000 yen), and the winery has further adopted the unusual practice of selling wine by lottery, taking reservations in March and shipping in April.  

Thankfully, the winery also markets a more affordable “Autumn Colors” series that we have enjoyed over the years through allotments to our favorite Nagano wine shop, Yorozuya. As usual, we purchased the 2020 vintage immediately on release in mid-April. 

Online, the series available is in limited quantities in a three-bottle set for 15,000 yen through Yahoo auction. The series includes a red and white blend, which we review below, as well as a blend based on the Niagara grape.

Otherwise, since Autumn Colors is also sold by lottery, we suggest taking your chances next year. The bottles are sold separately for 2,640 yen. Here is a link to the online lottery.

Kido Winery 2020 Blanc

This wine is a wonderful blend of the hybrid grape Seibel (called Verdelet in France) with the German varieties Riesling and Gewürztraminer. It brings together the fruity flavors of the Verdelet and Gewürztraminer and the crisp acidity of the Riesling. The wine is clearly destined for a picnic basket or for the porch on a late Spring afternoon. And, you will enjoy an intense but not overbearing finish.  Alcohol is 14% which is a feat for a Japanese wine. The price is also remarkable.

Kido Winery 2020 Rouge

We have said this before and will do so again that the Muscat Bailey A grape has a role to play in developing the identity of Japanese wines. This grape loves the humid and sometimes inconveniently wet weather of the Japanese growing season and matures quickly avoiding the “vegetative” flavor that dogs many Nagano Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon red wines. That said, a 100% Muscat Bailey A wine can be overly sweet and “jammy”. Kido Winery’s solution is a “Bordeaux” blend of Merlot and Muscat Bailey A grape. While the proportions employed by the Kido Winery are not specified on the label, the result is a just right sweet and heady wine (alcohol is 14%) that sits somewhere between a Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon. There is still work to be done: the finish while full lacks the tannins and the concomitant gravity that makes for a great red wine. But this is one Japanese wine that will stand up to steak, potatoes and a Caesar salad – and the price cannot be beat.

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