Fujimaru Winery. Wine making space on the first
floor and restaurant on the second floor.
I was in Osaka on a business trip. My morning meeting ended sooner than I expected, so I decided, wisely I thought, to take the opportunity to is visit a winery in the area!
Fujimaru Wine in Shimanouchi is a unique winery. It is located in the city, about 10 minutes by taxi from the center of Osaka. It has a wine making facility on the first floor and a restaurant on the second floor. They own a one hectare vineyard about 30 minutes away from the restaurant and buy grapes from farmers in Yamagata prefecture to make their wine. They mainly grow Delaware and Mascat Barry A on their own property.
Most wineries are not easily accessible to the general public, the founders of this winery wanted to make a winery which is easily accessible to people. And yes indeed, it's only a one minute walk from the nearest subway station and is located in a quite area along a small river.
When I made a visit, I happened to be the only guest there for a late lunch and Mr.Kawabata, the manager and sommelier was kind enough to host me.
The winery is open to the public from 1pm to 11pm. I thought that their hours were a bit unusual if they want to attract people during a typical lunch hour break. Most restaurants are open from 11:30 to 2pm for lunch. Also, they don't have a lunch menu and everything they serve is made to order. I asked why and Mr. Kawabata explained to me that they do not precook anything in advance because they do not care to serve their food more quickly and they want everything to be served as fresh as possible. He said that this is the reason why their lunch time is later in the day, so that only those people who do not have time restrictions can come and enjoy their lunch. People in Osaka are known to be impatient. They must have gone through several obstacles to set up their opening hours like this.
He said that the winery has been purchasing abandoned lands in the Kashiwara area of Osaka. Osaka used to grow quite a volume of grapes but due to the aging society, the production numbers have lessened in recent years, and those lands have been left abandoned. Fujimaru has now bought enough land to enable them to grow enough grapes to cover their wine production capacity and so soon, they will become a Domaine (a winery which makes 100% of their wine using 100% of the grapes they have grown themselves). As of 2014, there are only 10 domaines in Japan. There are about 210 wineries in Japan, so only a small percentage of them are growing all the grapes they need to make their respective wines.
In June of this year (2015) this same wine maker opened a new winery in Tokyo that has a restaurant upstairs. Part of why they opened this new place was so that they could keep purchasing grapes from the grape farmers in Yamagata who continue to grow grapes for them. One of the drawbacks of being a wine maker in Japan is that the market price for table grapes is higher than it is for wine grapes. Also the fact that you can grow more table grapes from one tree than wine grapes because wine grapes need more concentration on the vine, and so cultivating wine grapes is not as attractive to grape farmers because production yields are lower. This reality means that wine makers need to plant more grapes that they will cultivate exclusively for wine production which will consequently protect the wine industry and help the industry to grow. Very nice!
Dela King 2013. Made from selected Delaware grapes from Yamagata. The typical foxy flavor (candy like aroma) of this variety was very mild, makes the wine very smooth and easy on the mouth. Fruity and fresh, while the alcohol content is not too high, so be careful and don't drink too much!
Zucchini and Gorgonzola quiche. A good match with well chilled, fresh and fruity Dela King.
After having quiche and tagliatelle with a few glasses of wine, my host showed me the wine making space on the first floor. The space was full of all sorts of equipment and a few tanks and barrels for maturation. This system does not allow them to mature wine for a long term. But what is great about this place is that you can enjoy fresh wine right out of the tank and food that goes with it at their restaurant while watching the wine making process. They are making wines that go with their food. The access is really great and that is attractive too.
I found a huge clay (earthenware) pot sitting at the corner. It is called a Qvevri and it's from Georgia. Georgia is the origin of the grape they've been growing there wine since 8000 bc. They've been making wine using a Qvevri to ferment grapes which is the root of wine making. Wine fermented and matured in Qvevri becomes fruitful and rich with tannin, an organic wine that is good for the health. The use of a Qvevri is experimental for this winery but I can't wait to taste the wine made with their Qvevri.