In Nagano, Japan: Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie

Yoshiharu Kounishi is from Hiroshima, which is famous for its Sake. After he finished university he joined Epson, where he worked as a watch engineer at Seiko, which is a subsidiary of Epson. He moved to Shioji which is famous for its wine, and that’s where he became interested in this, the most fascinating of fermented beverages.

A decade ago Shioji prepared a guide for wine tourism, and Kounishi applied for the job. After a year of study he became a wine guide. Now he’s 62, and five years ago he decided to quit the day job to make wine.

He says his career has had three segments. (1) As a student; (2) working for Epson; and (3) the fresh challenge of making wine.

His vines are now 4 years old. He rented land from one of his friends, and has 0.5 hectares planted. He’s working under a special permit that allows small wineries to make up to 2300 litres.

Because of the difficulty in getting planting material, he’s had to plant in stages. He’s expecting 3 tons of grapes this next vintage.

Elevation here is 750 m, which is one of the reasons he’s planted: it is an insurance against climate change. It’s a west-facing site looking out to the alps. It’s always windy here.

The first vintage at this winery was in 2019.


Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Chardonnay 2018
Custom crushed, just 200 bottles. This is fresh and bright with a stony edge to the citrus fruit. It’s tight with high acidity, and a little on the austere side. Nice fruit purity. 85/100

Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Chardonnay 2019 (tank sample)
1000 bottles. Bright and primary with some pear drop, a bit of apple and nice lemony focus. Shows high acidity and nice fruit purity. Stony and linear with a zesty edge to the fruit. Bracing, but very nice. 88/100

Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Cabernet Franc 2018
170 bottles. A little bit volatile. On the palate there’s a savoury, earthy quality: it’s prematurely developed and has some green, ashy, herbal notes. Unusual. 79/100

Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
At the end of September the brix was 20, but it didn’t rise any further because in October it becomes very cold here. 300 bottles. Quite light and elegant in style with juicy cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Cabernet at its lightest and leanest, but there’s some nice fruit here with subtle hints of cedar and coffee in the background. Shows real elegance. 88/100

Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Merlot 2018
Overtly green nose with some plum and berry fruit. There’s some appley oxidation showing on the palate with fresh, fleshy berry fruits. Unfortunately, the oxidative characters dominate: appley acetaldehyde notes. 79/100

Sur la Colline Kounishi Vinerie Merlot 2019 (tank sample)
800 bottles will be made. Fresh and juicy with nice vibrant berry and cherry fruit. Good fruit purity here: this is a lighter style of Merlot and it’s very appealing, showing good acidity and juicy red fruits. 87/100

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