Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wasabi Farm in Nagano

When Hiroko visited Miyasaka Brewery in Nagano, she made a side trip to Daio Wasabi Farm in Azumino, Nagano.  Wasabi is grown in the very clean water of mountain streams and many of us in the US have not seen real wasabi.  Most of us only know the wasabi that comes in a green tube that you buy from a grocery store (which is in fact,  not real wasabi).

Daio Wasabi Farm is a family-oriented working farm, where you can watch the processing of wasabi, walk around to enjoy the beautiful scenic views, and eat soba or wasabi themed food including ice cream.  Opened in 1917, the farm is one of the largest wasabi farms in Japan. The farm is fed by constantly running underground water throughout that is kept at a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12-14 degrees Celsius). The wasabi is planted in sand and pebble trenches which act like soil.  After allowing the plant two years of initial growth, it is ready for harvesting (removing one of the roots of the plant) year around.

It's hard to resist trying their wasabi ice cream. As Hiroko watched, a man at the service stand grated fresh wasabi and sprinkled it on wasabi soft serve ice cream.  The ice cream has a hint of wasabi flavor, and with the fresh wasabi it was a perfect combination of spicy and sweet! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Koshu Wine

Recent media exposure for Japanese wine made Hiroko curious about the taste of koshu wine.  The only Japanese wine she had tasted previously was sweet and mediocre at best.  Since she wanted to try koshu wine which had recently received some good reviews in the U.S., she took advantage of the opportunity when she was in Japan in late January to visit the Grace Wine winery which is located on the way to the sake brewery,  Miyasaka Shuzo in Suwa, Nagano.    

Misawa Winery is located in a hilltop of Akeno with a beautiful view of the nearby mountain range visible on a clear winter afternoon.  Winemaker Masaichi Sodeyama met us at their shop/tasting room and gave us a tour of winery. 

The vineyard was started in 2002 by Shigekazu Misawa, the managing director of Grace Wine, to expand and create a world class quality wine.  He has planted French varietals including Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, along with the indigenous Koshu. 
The Koshu grape, which came from Central Asia via China, was first cultivated in Japan about 1,300 years ago.  We tasted Koshu wine from Triibira vineyard.  It had a light and crisp taste with a lingering tartness and a very refreshing quality that Hiroko was surprised to discover. Mr. Sodeyama told us that their wine pairs well with lighter style Japanese food, and it seemed that sashimi and vegetable dishes might be a good match.  We tasted a variety of white and red wine, and were surprised to find that they were very good.  However, when considering the price, it may be a little too expensive for the simple wine that it is.