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  3. The Journey to Meet Special Wines in Katsunuma, Yamanashi

*Tour Report* How about Taking a Day Trip to Find Your Favorite Wines?

Katsunuma in Yamanashi prefecture is located roughly in the center of Japan main island, Honshu. It takes about two hours by train from Shinjuku Station and once you get off the train, all you see is only mountains and vineyards. There are more than 20 wineries and most of them offer tastings. It is surprising that even though the wines are made from the same kind of grape, their flavors vary by the place grapes grow and by their wine production processes. These wineries are located close to each other so one day is enough to enjoy Katsunuma region.
The local travel agent, Fresh Tour (Yutaka Kanko Inc.) provides a walking tour for wine lovers to visit several wineries which is designed by wine lovers.

Local Station to Grace Wine
  • The tour starts at the train station (1)
  • The tour starts at the train station (1)

    Get off at the train station "Katsunuma-Budokyo (勝沼ぶどう郷)" of JR Chuo Line. Soon the fresh air welcomes and urges you toward the exit, but wait for the train leaving because the panoramic view of the Southern Alps and the Kofu Basin is worth seeing.

  • The tour starts at the train station (2)
  • The tour starts at the train station (2)

    The word "Budokyo (ぶどう郷)," used in the name of the train station, literally means "the village of grapes" and it tells this place is one of major vinicultural places in Japan. Especially this region has the indigenous pink-skinned grape, Koshu (甲州) and its wine is called Koshu wine (甲州ワイン) .
    This tour is designed to visit three wineries Fresh Tour (Fujisan Prefecture) recommends. The program well matches its name, "The journey to visit wineries planned by wine lovers for wine lovers."

  • The detailed itinerary is sent to your smartphone in advance.
  • The detailed itinerary is sent to your smartphone in advance.

    This is a self-guided tour and mainly use public transportation. The information about how to get wineries and the walking map are sent to you in advance via chatting system. You can freely ask questions for example, where good restaurants for lunch are, and the concierge will answer. If you want, they will tell you when the bus is approaching.

  • The useful support in case of accidents (1)
  • The useful support in case of accidents (1)

    This support is useful when something unexpected happens. For example, the concierge suggests you visiting a restaurant for lunch before the winery because it is always crowded, so we visited the restaurant and found out it was closed on that day. Yes, this kind of situation sometimes happens.

  • The useful support in case of accidents (2)
  • The useful support in case of accidents (2)

    The concierge soon offered an alternative plan. Thanks to the photos they send you, you can roughly grasp the image of the place.

"Grace Wine" the building as if in the fairy tale (1)

After the accident at lunch time, we visited the first winery, "Grace Wine." Their western-style architecture goes well with ivies. This winery is one of three major wineries in Katsunuma and its historical and profound atmosphere welcomes visitors.

  • Grace Wine (2)
  • Grace Wine (2)

    This facility was used as a warehouse before, but the building was so aesthetic and now, it is used as a wine shop and tasting counter. They offer more than 10 wines including popular "Grace Koshu (グレイス甲州)."

  • Grace Wine (3)
  • Grace Wine (3)

    Almost all kinds are available for tastings. Even though you cannot decide, the well-experienced advisor tells you their recommendation. The most popular wine is, of course Koshu wine made with Koshu grapes, "Grace Koshu." The Koshu wine’s fresh taste matches any kinds of cuisine including Japanese, Chinese, Italian, etc. The humble and soft flavor smoothly flow throughout your body like water.

  • Grace Wine (4)
  • Grace Wine (4)

    If you like Grace Koshu, try "Grace Koshu Kayagatake (グレイス茅が岳)" next. This wine is also made from Koshu grapes same as Grace Koshu and both are made by the same production process. Only one difference is the place where grapes are grown. The grapes for Grace Koshu Kayagatake come from Kayagatake mountains which has the longest time of sunlight, and its extreme temperature difference refines the freshness of the grapes.

Grace Wine (5)

Grace Wine (5)

The advisor Mr. Kaneko says, "Japanese wines are carefully made and have sensitive flavors. Today they meet the high expectation of the people from overseas." Time flies so fast when we listen to the explanation how one kind of grapes produces various flavors of wines.

  • GRACE WINE

    • GRACE WINE
    • Address: 173, Todoroki, Katsunuma Town, Koshu City, YamanashiGoogle Map
      Access: Taxi (about 10 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station), local bus (about 30 min from Enzan Station, about 40 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station)

      Parking lot:Available for free/Credit card OK/Language:Japanese/Shipping service available/Lavatory available/Open:9:00-16:30/Closed:New Year Holiday/Notice:Credit card is accepted only for the payment of JPY3000 or above. Shipping to overseas are not available. No drinking, no eating, nor accompanying animals are allowed in house. Please note they do not have barrier-free access.

Grace Wine to Lumiere
  • The encounter of not only wines but also... (1)
  • The encounter of not only wines but also... (1)

    Meeting different great wines is the major pleasure part of this trip, but there is also another fun part too.
    They have an easy atmosphere in Katsunuma. The sounds of water flowing and the dynamic view of Hikawa River (日川) catch your eyes and breath. The relaxing air softens your body and mind.

  • The encounter of not only wines but also... (2)
  • The encounter of not only wines but also... (2)

    Brum-Brum-Brum. The sound of car engine comes from the farmer’s working car. Soon after the harvest, the preparation for the next season has already started.

"Lumiere Winery" focusing on sparkling wines and red wines (1)

The second winery "Lumiere" was opened in 1885 when Japan opened its border and welcomed foreign countries. The restaurant "Zelkova" is located next door.

  • Lumiere Winery (2)
  • Lumiere Winery (2)

    Of course, their wines are fantastic but also the restaurant proudly serves the cuisine using local ingredients. In their lunch course, they serve five dishes including dessert. For dinner, there are two more different courses. For main dishes, Kai-Salmon and Fujisanroku-beef are well matched with wines.

  • Lumiere Winery (3)
  • Lumiere Winery (3)

    The name of winery "Lumiere" means a light in French, and they light various red, white and sparkling wines in the shop. Rich wine selections entertain visitors.

Lumiere Winery (4)

Lumiere Winery (4)

This winery offers the card system. You will buy a plastic card and insert it into a machine and choose the kind and the amount of wine. The price is subtracted from the initial amount. First recommendation is its representative wine, "Hikari (光)," meaning light in Japanese. There are both white and red wines, and especially the white wine is made from Koshu grapes of their own private farms. They all have powerful and rich flavors.

Lumiere Winery (5)

Lumiere Winery (5)

It is rare to produce more red wines than white wines in Katsunuma, and that is what makes this shop unique. Another uniqueness about this winery is they produce "Ishigura Wine (石蔵ワイン)" which is made in a stone fermentation tank. This tank was made in 19th century and registered as the Tangible Cultural Property. According to Ms Ishihara (a sommelier, left in the photo), "there is a winery tour to see the stone fermentation tank. Tasting of wine made in this tank is also available and you will enjoy the unique flavor rich in minerals." This winery tour requires a reservation one day before the arrival.

  • Lumiere Winery

    • Lumiere Winery
    • Address: 624, Minaminoro, Ichinomiya Town, Fuefuki City, YamanashiGoogle Map
      Access: Taxi (about 10 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station), local bus (about 30 min from Enzan Station, about 40 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station)

      Parking lot:Available for free/Credit card OK/Language:Japanese, English, Chinese/Shipping service available/Lavatory available/Average budget:From JPY 1,500/Open:9:30-17:30/Closed:New Year Holiday (The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday from January to March, is closed on Tuesdays from April to August and December, and opens every day from September to November.)/

Lumiere to Katsunuma Jozo

"Katsunuma Jozo Winery" seeking the possibility of Koshu wines (1)

The last winery we visit has a feature to make you feel as if you traveled back in time. "Katsunuma Jozo Winery" is surrounded by a classical atmosphere. They put emphasis on using “Koshu” grapes. On the way to the winery, ou will get an information telling you that they are the only one winery that wines are exported to Bordeaux since 2008, that their wines were served in 42nd G7 summit in Ise-Shima, Wakayama, and that their wines are served on first class international flights of Japan Airlines. Now, you just cannot wait for entering the winery. The last winery looks as if you traveled back in time. "Katsunuma Jozo Winery" is surrounded by a classical atmosphere.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (2)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (2)

    Once you enter the storage, you can smell the unique flavor of a winery. You say hello to the concierge, and move forward to the room of wine barrels (left in the photo), and then to the second floor, in the room that their collection of wine related goods such as wine glasses and decanters, which absolutely uplift your expectation.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (3)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (3)

    Each label is fashionable and looks like an independent art. This is designed by the artist Mr. Hirosuke Watanuki who works mainly in Portugal. Even after you drink up the wine, the empty bottle can be used as a decoration. As Mr. Watanuki once said, the name “Aruga,” of the winemaker in Katsunuma Jozo Winery, sounds very much alike to “adega” which means storage in Portugese. Mr. Aruga must be destined to create wines, that motivated them to name their first label “Aruga Branca.” (branca meaning white)

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (4)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (4)

    When you try some wines here, they ask you to buy a plastic card on which you will also find Mr. Watanuki’s another art.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (5)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (5)

    We recommend you taste from left to right. Try their major product “Aruga Branca Clareza” (clareza meaning white) first. In Katsunuma Jozo, they use variety of Koshu grapes, making the best use of each vineyard to produce unblended wines, and then Mr. Shinya Tasaki, the world renowned sommelier “assemblage” (meaning blends) them into a wine. Each Koshu wine tastes differently, and you can try the difference out of the bottles attached in the tasting machine. Lucky enough, he last dry wine in the tasting machine is the highest class brand called “Isehara” made only from Koshu grape of the vineyard “Isehara.”

Katsunuma Jozo Winery (6)

Katsunuma Jozo Winery (6)

A distinctive feature of Koshu wine is a fresh sourness added to gorgeous flavor and tastiness. They say you still can enjoy the tastiness of the wine on the second they you opened it. “Clareza” is the most cost effective wine in their “Aruga Branca” series, and goes well with Japanese dishes. Once I heard this is the only chance to taste “Isehara” only for JPY300, after enjoying its sophisticated deep gorgeous taste, I could not help giving it another try.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (7)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (7)

    The more people try Koshu wines, the more they become interested in Koshu grapes. This winery produces the juice made only from Koshu grapes. This white-colored juice is rare and the balance of deep sweetness and refreshing acidity creates an outstanding flavor.

Katsunuma Jozo Winery (8)

Katsunuma Jozo Winery (8)

This time we tried tastings with prior reservations, and what is more, they offer winery tour for limited personnel. You will get to have tasting in a private room, to visit a vineyard, and to listen to their talk about marriage of wine and dishes, in the plan that attracts all wine lovers. In April, grape trees start to bud, in September you can see grapes hanging from the trees, however, we recommend you visit the winery in winter when the winery is not crowded if you would like to listen to their talks. I will plan ahead and would like to come back to take part in the winery tour next time. (Photo: their self owned vineyard seen from the terrace.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (9)
  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery (9)

    The motto of this winery since its establishment is to produce white wines which are good enough to match full courses. Furthermore, they set the strict rule to make only Koshu wines. You can experience their spirit in Restaurant “Kaze” which is located close to the winery (takes about ten min on foot). They took a motive from Oura Church in Nagasaki to decorate the room, and their recommendation is to enjoy the marriage of Koshu wine and Japanese roasted beef with wasabi and soy sauce, just like when you eat raw fish. Because you can tray various Koshu wines, this restaurant is popular among local people who want to celebrate a special day, and wine lovers all over Japan.

  • The tour ends with a sunset
  • The tour ends with a sunset

    The tour ends in six hours at the train station where the tour started. The beautiful sunset is about to wrap up the day calmly. This tour is like a treasure hunt visiting several wineries to find your favorite one. So now it’s your turn to get the special bottle that reminds you the memory in Katsunuma every time you make a sip.

  • Katsunuma Jozo Winery

    • Katsunuma Jozo Winery
    • Address: 371, Shimo-Iwasaki, Katsunuma Town, Koshu City, YamanashiGoogle Map
      Access: Taxi (about 10 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station), local bus (about 30 min from Enzan Station, about 20 min from Katsunuma-Budokyo Station) + about 10 min walk

      Parking lot:Available for free/Free Wi-Fi available/Credit card OK/Language:Japanese, English/Shipping service available/Lavatory available/Average budget:From JPY 1,500/Open:10:00-16:00/

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