It's been a while since I last visited Yamanashi. This time, I made an appointment with the owner of Huggy Wine, Mr. Hagiwara, to hear his story. The weather forecast predicted the day to be a rainy one, but I can alway bring sunshine. It turned out to be a partly cloudy day with some sunshine braking through. Not too hot, just the perfect kind of weather for strolling in a vineyard. My friend and I decided to have lunch at Mercian since they have a nice restaurant with a tasting room. Mercian recently won gold medals at the Japan Wine Contest for Niizuru Chardonney 2016, Hosaka Mascut Berry A 2014, and Jounohira 2013. We tried this Gold Medal Tasting Set. Each wine fully expressed the characteristics of each variety to text book precision. A big company like Mercian knows exactly how to bring out the best of each grape and has the technique and facility to realize that. We ate lunch outside, with a view of the vineyard from under a canopy of fully grown grapes. The lunch plate tasted good and went very well with the delicious wines. We were totally enjoying the moment and it got even better when the manager of the shop gave us another glass for free! It was a Sauvignon blanc from the Mariko Vineyard. This wine has a clean and fresh citrus scent, is sweet and quite fruity for its variety, yet it has a crispy smooth finish. It was my favorite wine of the day!
The nice lunch made us happy and full, so it was time for a stroll. Huggy Wine is located about 20 minutes away from Mercian. Since, there were a few wineries on the way, we dropped by to visit Soryu and Oizumi and enjoyed a few more tastings. On our way, we found the historical remains of an old wine cellar made by Mr. Ryuken Tsuchiya, one of the first vintners in Yamanashi and one who contributed to the development of wine in the area. We also passed by the MGV Winery. It's quite new and unique, with its modern building structure compared with the other wineries in the area.
Finally we arrived at Huggy Wine. The summer of 2018 was extremely hot and so the harvest was about 2 weeks earlier than usual. That meant the winery was extremely busy the day we visited, but Mr. Hagiwara was very gracious toward us and spared some of his time to tell us his story. He is the 4th generation at Huggy Wine. He has unique looks, is very fashionable and has a sort of a "bad ass" attitude (LOL) but you would be surprise to find that he is actually a very serious and passionate person when it comes to making wine. He takes the chemical approach. He analyzed the soil to find out which mineral acts as the key factor that adds robustness to the Koshu grape. This led him to come up with an idea of acquiring shells from locally served foods in the area and repurposing them to add minerals to the soil. He also spent an enormous amount of time to discover four (4) ancient grapes varieties that exist in Japan. He protected them by patenting them and is now growing them. He also introduced a new cultivation style for Koshu grapes, which was known but had never tried by anyone for more than 200 years, which succeeded in adding more amino acid to the grape. Mr. Hagiwara is a guy with a vision when it comes to foreseeing the future of Japanese Wine. He aggressively applies to various types of competitions domestically and internationally, winning medals and awards. The tasting room was filled with the proof of his success.
After listening to his story, he had his staff shows us their brewery space. We got a chance to taste fermentation stage day-2 Koshu directly from the tank, which was so fresh that it tasted and smell like freshly squeezed hard cider. They keep trying something new, something better so during this visit we were able to see a tank filled with an ancient grape being fermented by wild yeast. They are attempting to recreate ancient wine making. I definitely would like to taste that! At the end, we got to taste several wines of his brand while listening to the background behind the making of each wine. Each story was attractive and made each wine taste even better. I really enjoyed this visit and had a good time there.
Thank you Mr. Hagiwara!