Nagano wine region, Japan (7) - Villa d'Est Garden Farm and Winery

Toyoo Tamamura

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery is the project of Toyoo Tamamura, who is an artist and a writer. He moved here in 1992 and initially just planted a small vineyard so he could make wines for his own consumption. It’s a beautiful spot, high up in the hills at 850 metres altitude, and the project has since grown so that he has 7 hectares of vines (this is big for Nagano), with another vineyard lower down on the opposite side of the river (just 1 hectare). The vineyards have clay-based soils. He built the winery in 2003.

The original vineyard, with the Japan alps in the background

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Primavera Chardonnay 2016
All barrel-fermented, no new oak, aged for seven months. Some grapes are brought in for this wine. Juicy and focused with nice citrus and pear fruit. Clean and supple with a nice fine-grained structure and hints of spice. Midweight and fruit driven, showing good purity. 87/100

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Vignerons Reserve Chardonnay 2016
Vine age over 10 years, with sorting of grapes. 25% new oak. Lovely concentration here with some spicy oak complementing the tangerine and lemon fruit. This is lively with good acidity, and nice complexity. Not heavy, and maybe could do with a tiny bit more palate weight (the vintage?), but this is delicious. 90/100

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Pinot Noir 2015
Pale cherry red in colour. Sweetly aromatic with some cherry and strawberry, as well as some sweet herbs. Lovely supple palate with soft, smooth texture, some strawberry and cherry, and a hint of minty herbiness, too. Has a fresh savoury edge. 90/100

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Pinot Noir 2016
From 2016 they have been doing 10% whole bunch, with the remainder destemmed but not crushed. Pale cherry red in colour with a hint of bricking. Supple and bright, with sweet red cherries, good acidity and some fine undergrowth notes. Berryish and easy, with a lightness to it. This is a pale, fresh, juicy Pinot that has a nice delicacy and it’s easy to drink. 88/100

Villa d’Est Garden Farm and Winery Tazawa Merlot 2014
Organically grown, fermented with wild yeast. 0.7 hectare vineyard with gravelly top soils, further down the hill. Sweetly fruited with a bit of grunt, showing a spicy, tarry edge to the sweet, supple berry fruits, as well as well integrated green flavours. Juicy and grippy with some nice structure and acidity, as well as concentrated fruit flavours. Very attractive. 89/100

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