Domaine Nakajima, Nagano

Yutaka Nakajima epitomizes the quintessential Japanese winemaker persona—unassuming, modest, and astute. A devoted artisan with an appreciation for uncomplicated beauty, he crafts elusive wines in a quaint mountain dwelling. The vineyard, situated 850 meters above sea level in Tomi, Nagano, lies at the heart of Japan, nestled among more than a dozen boutique producers in the Chikumagawa Wine Valley region.

Embracing a climate cooler and drier than the rest of Japan, akin to Europe, Domaine Nakajima thrives in cultivating a diverse array of predominantly French grape varieties amid the mountainous terrain. Since 2011, Yutaka Nakajima has meticulously tended to his small slope, nurturing Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Chenin Blanc, allowing tall wild grass and herbs to flourish between the rows. In 2019, he expanded his viticultural repertoire, planting a second vineyard at a higher altitude with Jura-inspired varieties like Savagnin and Pinot Noir.

Despite the challenging terrain, Nakajima's hands-off approach to cultivation, combined with hands-on craftsmanship in the winery using self-made and hand-cranked wooden tools, yields only a limited production of a few thousand bottles each year. To complement this, a delightful pet nat, collaboratively crafted with local farmers, emerges from the hybrid grape Kyoho—a tradition deeply rooted in Tomi.

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