It is no secret that I love wine.  I discovered the awesomeness of wine about five years ago, when James and I visited the Chatteau Morrisette winery in Southwest Virginia with a group of friends.  It was our first wine tour, and I was hooked.  At about the same time, I met a great friend whose family grew grapes and who now have their own winery.  (If you are ever in Southwest Virginia, Stanburn Winery is a must stop! Check them out!) She helped my love for wine grow into what it is today!  Soon after meeting Tab, I began taking wine trips with my girlfriends, and wine became a part of my life.  Since then, I have visited 40 or 50 wineries across the country, so we decided it was finally time to visit a winery in Japan.  I kept my expectations low because I didn’t want to be disappointed.  We set off for L’Orient Winery in Yamanashi prefecture, part of Japan’s wine country.

Japanese Vinyards a video by WanderingHokies on Flickr.

The vineyards spanned as far as the eye could see, but the fields looked very different than western grapes, as the vines grow into a kind of ceiling instead of in straight lines.  I was intrigued.  Some of the vines were grown above driveways and houses!  The Japanese definitely know how to use space efficiently, that’s for sure. It was amazing watching these tiny women on huge ladders tend the vines far above their heads.  It was a beautiful drive to say the least.

We were greeted at the winery by a very excited tour guide who had dedicated much of his life to Japanese wine.  To begin the tour, we walked over to a diagram of the wine making process.

Our guide began an in depth discussion on the wine process using a picture.  For a long time, I thought this was going to be our tour.  Ha! But, thankfully, it wasn’t, and we did actually get a brief tour of the facility.  Much of the tour discussed the wineries use of the Koshu grape, a distinctively Japanese grape.  It’s supposed to have a very fruity flavor and aroma, and pairs well with Japanese seafood.  I didn’t much like it, but maybe it’s an acquired taste.  After the tour, we went to my favorite part….the tasting room!

Unlike most wineries in America, we didn’t taste with wine glasses.  (Very much to my disappointment…) Instead, we tasted with small plastic cups.  And rather than tasting at a bar, you walked around and poured your own tastes.  While this helps with large crowds, you miss the great interaction with the workers at the winery as they explain the wines to you, and you also don’t really learn anything at all about the wines.  There were some interesting wines, including the Sakura wine (a Koshu wine) and the cherry wine (another Koshu wine).  I liked these two because they had actual cherry blossoms and cherries inside the wine bottle.  The taste was okay, but the uniqueness of the Japanese flavors encouraged us to purchase a few bottles.  There is no doubt that the Sakura wine is beautiful!  Though I’m not sure one should buy wine based on how pretty it looks inside the bottle.  It was a very unique experience, and while I didn’t like their wines, I am very happy we made the trip.