By Takayuki Matsumoto / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterIZU, Shizuoka — An about 10-minute car ride from Shuzenji Station on Izuhakone Railway’s Sunzu Line, which runs in Shizuoka Prefecture, brings into view a chalk-white building and a sloped vineyard nestled within the mountains. Its name is Nakaizu Winery Chateau T.S, which opened in 2000 in the city of Izu.
The facility also has a restaurant and wedding chapel, and is a sightseeing spot that draws about 100,000 visitors a year.
Visitors can see the entire wine-making processes at the winery — from grape cultivation to bottling.
“We’re making efforts to produce wines unique to the Izu region,” said Tomoyasu Matsumoto, 39, who studied at Tokyo University of Agriculture and is now responsible for wine production at the facility.
On the about 10-hectare vineyard, six varieties of grapes are mainly grown, including Shinano Riesling, from which white wines are made, and the red Yama Sauvignon. They are also test growing varieties suited to the Izu climate.
Nakaizu Winery Chateau T.S produces the equivalent of about 150,000 720-milliliter bottles — making it one of the largest wineries in the country.
Matsumoto showed me a cellar housing white oak casks to age wines. In the cellar, the temperature and humidity are under strict control. There are about 100 casks, and Matsumoto and other staff regularly check the color and aroma of the wine.
Wines that are well-aged enter the bottling process. The winery has 10 5,600-liter tanks and two 1,100-liter tanks. Wines are transferred to the tanks before being put into bottles by a machine.
Matsumoto shared his recommendations. Shida Shinano Riesling 2015 is a sweet wine featuring a citrus-like aroma and clear acidity. A 750-milliliter bottle costs ¥3,400.
The winery has a tasting counter where visitors can enjoy wines at reasonable prices.
Typically, places with large temperature differences and little rainfall are suitable for cultivating wine grapes. Yet the Izu Peninsula is warm and gets a lot of rain. Nakaizu Winery Chateau T.S cultivates high-quality grapes by using rain covers. The facility was able to produce excellent grapes last summer.
“Tasty wines should be ready by around autumn,” Matsumoto said.
The winery is owned by Tsutomu Shida, who is from what was then the town of Nirayama (now part of the city of Izunokuni), Shizuoka Prefecture. Shida is the founder of Shidax Corp., a company operating restaurants and other facilities. Visits to Napa Valley, an area that produces high-end wines in California, prompted him to come up with the idea of producing wines in the Izu region. Grappa, a distilled alcoholic beverage made using the skin of grapes after the juice has been pressed for red wine, is also produced at Nakaizu Winery Chateau T.S.
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