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Takahata: The land of wine and all things fine

Takahata: The land of wine and all things fine

The Tohoku Region (東北地方 Tōhoku-chihō) of Japan is known for many things—Gyutan (牛タン beef tongue), hanabi (花火 fireworks), and some of the most beautiful and scenic views of all Japan.  

 

Located in the south-eastern part of Fruit Kingdom Yamagata Prefecture (山形県 Yamagata-ken), Takahata Town (高畠町 Takahata-cho) has largely flown under the radar of most international tourists. On the surface, Takahata looks like any other Japanese town—quaint, and a bit cold. But underneath this facade, Takahata is more than just any other Japanese town—especially in the wine scene. So join me as we explore Takahata to find out why this town deserves a spot in your itinerary!

 

Some onsen upon arrival 

(Image credit: Takahata Tourism Organization)

 

Takahata is connected to the rest of Tohoku by the Yamagata Shinkansen (山形新幹線), being roughly 40 minutes away from Fukushima Station (福島駅 Fukushima-eki) and Yamagata Station (山形駅 Yamagata-eki). Arriving at the station, one can take a short break by visiting the first attraction in Takahata you might come across—Takahata Town Taiyokan (高畠町太陽館), which is an onsen (温泉) within the station’s premises. Get refreshed, for the journey has only just begun! 

 

Takahata Town Taiyokan (高畠町太陽館)
Address: 200-1 Yamazaki, Higashiokitama-gun, Yamagata 999-2173
Nearest station: JR Takahata Station (JR高畠駅) 
Opening hours: 07:00–22:00
Admission: ~¥500
Tel: +81-238-57-4177

 

The finer things in life 

Vineyards in Takahata provide not just good soil, but a good view. (Image credit: Takahata Town)

 

Takahata sits atop of a large concentration of tuff—a kind of volcanic rock formed by the consolidation of volcanic ash. This keeps the soil around the town well-drained and provides it with an abundance of minerals, making Takahata ideal for fruit production. 

 

Challenge yourself with 果物狩り (fruit picking), where you can eat as many fruits as you can pick in the fruit orchards in Takahata. (Image credit: Takahata Town)

 

Produce consists of apples, cherries, La France pear, and grapes—specifically, the Chardonnay variety, which Takahata boasts the largest shipment across Japan. Wine connoisseurs will be well acquainted with this variety, most commonly used in the production of white wine. This brings us to our next attraction!

 

The winery

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Being a short distance away from JR Takahata Station (高畠駅 Takahata-eki), Takahata Winery (高畠ワイナリー) is the largest winery in Tohoku. Opened in 1990, the winery is a popular local tourist attraction, seeing large numbers of tourists from all across Japan annually. 

 

Up to 80 different varieties of wine can be found in this winery, using homegrown ingredients. (Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Arriving at the winery, the wide variety of wine took me by surprise! What’s more impressive is that the wines are all locally produced. Yes, you read that right, this winery brews its own Japanese vintages, from the celebrated “Chardonnay Sparkling Brut” to the local’s favourite Japanese sake (日本酒 nihonshu).

 

A culmination of effort and passion. (Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Wine-lovers, this is the place for you—you may freely sample the wide variety of wines available. Go on and check with the staff for their recommendations—you can always discern the quality of a brewery’s wine by the staff’s enthusiasm and passion! Be it sweet, spicy, or  a balanced medium, there is surely a profile that suits your palate. 

 

Takahata Winery (高畠ワイナリー)
Address: 2700-1 Nukanome, Higashiokitama District, Yamagata 999-2176
Nearest station: JR Takahata Station (JR高畠駅) 
Opening hours: 10:00–16:30
Tel: +81-238-40-1840

 

The wine

(Image credit: Yonetsuru Shuzo Co., Ltd.)

 

After sampling many of the wines available, I was ready to answer the question: “What is one drink you would recommend out of all that you have tried?”. Without hesitation, it would be this one pictured above: the Yonetsuru Sparkling (米鶴スパークリング). Not only because it’s delicious, but also because of how novel this wine really is! 

 

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Conceived by the desire to create a wine that is as delicious as champagne while maintaining its Japanese heritage, the Yonetsuru Sparkling combines the carbonated element of sparkling wine and the complexity of flavours of a traditional Japanese sake into a single bottle. 

 

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Made entirely of rice and rice malt (米麹 kōji) without the addition of any additives, I was intrigued when the staff recommended this to me. Its minimalistic packaging design was very appealing to me aesthetically. It was like love at first sight, and I knew I had to give it a taste. 

 

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

And its taste did not disappoint. The wine is rich, smooth with a balanced level of sweetness, making it easy to drink. The fizziness of the gas gives the sake an additional kick without  overpowering the flavours, which I appreciate. It’s no wonder that this won the Gold medal under the “Sparkling Wine” category of the Japan Wine Competition in 2013.

 

(Image credit: Yonetsuru Shuzo Co., Ltd.)

 

While you are at it, do give its sibling, the Yonetsuru Sparkling Rose (米鶴スパークリングローゼ) a try too.  

 

Marked by a heart with rice plants (稲 ine) on its packaging—a testament to the time and attention given to the main ingredient used, the Yonetsuru Sparkling Rose is a must-try if you ever find yourself in Takahata. If you can’t wait to get a taste, you can purchase them over at this link

 

Chardonnay at night 

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

In addition to the winery and wines, Takahata features some very interesting events year-round. 

 

In October, Takahata Winery will play host to the Chardonnay Night Harvest (ナイトハーベスト). Night harvesting has been embraced as the best way to harvest Chardonnay, since keeping the grapes cold would protect the integrity and flavours of the fruit. The winery opens up for a good three hours from around 2:30am in the morning, allowing visitors the chance to experience harvesting Chardonnay for themselves! 

 

Closing

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply looking for a new destination to include in your itinerary, Takahata is truly a hidden gem that deserves to be visited by more people. 

 

With exceptional locally produced wines rivaling that of its Western counterparts, some of the juiciest fruits one can ever try while in Japan, coupled with a beautiful setting that is the Tohoku Region, exploring Takahata has been a real joy. 

 

Indeed, fruits and wine make for a fine experience. 

 

Bonus

Here’s your chance to sample wine from Takahata, right here in Singapore! Shop online and choose from a variety of Takahata Winery products readily available at Supafresh Japan, or fill out this short questionnaire to stand a chance to win a mini wine set from Takahata Winery.

(Image credit: Takahata Winery Co., Ltd)

 

Date: 1–28 Feb 2021
Deadline: 28 Feb, 21:00 SGT
Prize: 5x Mini-Bottle Wine Set — Takahata Winery "YOSHI" Sparkling Wine Chardonnay & Orange Muscat
Link: https://forms.gle/mYjWNN9nBH8jDHJT6

 

Note: Participants below 18 years old will be excluded from the Lucky Draw as the prize contains alcohol. Terms and conditions apply. 

 

This article is written in collaboration with Takahata Town.

Header image credit: Takahata Town

 

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