At the Mongaku Valley Winery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, we do the whole process of winemaking, from growing wine grapes in the estate vineyards to producing and selling wines. Our winery looks like it is from a story book - beautiful lines of vines, a semi self-built house and estate winery, rich bio-diverse forests, a hill with a view of the mountains and sea. It would be our pleasure to help you discover our winery, like turning the pages of our "winery story".
At the Mongaku Valley Winery, we grow seven different wine grapes, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, in natural ways as much as possible. We initially struggled with low yields, but have gradually improved our ways of growing and the yields while aiming to grow wine grapes safely and responsibly.
Wine grapes harvested in the estate vineyards are co-fermented with wild yeasts and produced with traditional methods.
Our wine grapes are 100% coming from our estate vineyards. A variety of wine grapes are fermented at the same time with wild yeasts that naturally live on the grape skins. Wine made with co-fermentation is very delicate, and increases the complexity and richness when it is matured in the right environment.
Wine is made by fermenting grape juice with yeast. During fermentation, we aim to develop a complex taste and flavour using wild yeasts that have much more various effects on wine than industrially cultured yeasts.
We make wine with great respect for the natural resources that we are blessed with. We aim to make wine in a way that considers the environment . In the estate winery, we have implemented the "gravity flow system" where grapes and wines are transported using the gravity. It is not only environmentally friendly, but also helps develop a delicate character in our wine through reducing stimuli to pressed grape juice.
We had a dream to build a winery made of tuff called Sapporo soft stones ever since we decided to create a winery here. We wanted to preserve natural materials that have been loved by the generations of people in Hokkaido. We also wanted to build a semi-basement winery that would bring out the best of the insulation property of the materials. We finally found a traditional warehouse that was used by the generations of kimono merchants and built nearly 100 years ago with Sapporo soft stones. The warehouse was carefully relocated, and has been transformed into our "estate winery" that has started the new chapter of its life.
Our family is now making wine at the Mongaku Valley Winery, but used to live in big cities. Since we had our first child, we had a growing desire to live in a community where people have face-to-face relationships, and to re-think our relationships with food and our way of living. This eventually led us to move to Yoichi. We grow wine grapes and make wine. Our children run around the fields and hills, play with insects and animals, and harvest wine grapes as a family event. The Kihara family loves the nature more than anything.
When we arrived here for the first time, the Mongaku Valley was left completely uncultivated for many years. We walked the unbeaten path to get to the top of the hill. Once we reached there, we faintly
saw the sea beyond a dense and lush forest. We could feel a gentle breeze on our faces. When we looked around, we suddenly realised we were surrounded by the magnificent mountains. The view was simply breathtaking. That was the moment when we fell in love with this beautiful land. We cut the trees by ourselves and built irrigation channels. It took a long time, but we have finally developed this land into the vineyards with the sea view. The region is ideal for winemaking as there is a difference in temperature from the highest to the lowest during the day even in summer and autumn. This promotes the right balance between ripe sugars and crisp acidity. It brings out the best of the grapes in the region with the cool climate and makes the wine produced here tasty.
We want you to enjoy our wine more. We have an on-going plan for the future that enables you to discover Yoichi's beautiful scenery and nature, and to experience our winery by yourself.
Mongaku Valley Winery Q & A
What is wild yeast?
Wild yeast is a naturally occurring yeast living in places such as grape skins. It influences on the quality of wine such as flavour and taste.
What is co-fermentation?
Co-fermentation is the practice in winemaking of fermenting two or more grape varieties at the same time. This differs from blending where each grape variety is fermented separately and then mixed together after fermentation.
What does "Mongaku" mean?
"Mongaku" is the name of the area where the winery is located. It originates from Ainu language that is a language spoken by the Ainu, an indigenous people of Hokkaido. It means "a place where people cut the grass". It is written as 問学 in Chinese characters.
What inspires the design of the Mongaku Valley's wine label?
The original design comes from our daughter's painting that was inspired by the worldview of the Japanese picture book called The Tree of Courage. We have decided to use it as the worldview fits in well with our image of "co-fermentation".
When is the best time to drink?
We would recommend to leave the wine at least for a year before you open the bottle. The longer it is matured, it increases the complexity of the wine and tastes softer and gentler.
Do you sell only one range of wine?
We plan to increase the range of our wine from one to three in the future. When we release a new range of wine, we will announce it in our website.