It was a bright but chilly early March day when we visited Hayashi Noen (also referred to as Hayashi Winery, and using the brand name Goichi), which is one of Nagano’s leading and largest producers. We were hosted by winemaker Takashi Kikuchi, and we began in the vineyards. This was my second visit to this producer. They own 45 hectares of vines (very large by Japanese standards) and contract a further 30. They were founded back in 1911.
The climate has changed here, he explains. 15 years ago it was -10 C for 40 days a year here. Now it’s only around 10 days that the temperature gets that low, and this year there has only been one day below this.
Takahashi thinks the region near Chikuma River has more potential for whites – it’s a newer region in Nagano. He’s tried many varieties for whites, but so far Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have the most potential in his opinion.
The disease pressure is quite high here, so farmers aren’t keen to grow Chardonnay. So if winemakers want Chardonnay, they usually have to grow it themselves.
Merlot is the most widely planted red variety in Nagano, but Takahashi thinks that Syrah is the next candidate after Merlot. He’s expanded the surface area of it since he first planted it in 2000. At the beginning he struggled to grow it. He finds it has low disease resistance, but with climate change Syrah has more potential for this area than Merlot. Until 2016 the Syrah didn’t give pepper notes, but suddenly they started appearing in the wines. Nothing has changed, so this is a mystery.
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Nagano, Japan
Crushed and then pressed. Bright and juicy with nice crisp citrus fruit, a bit of smoky complexity, and vivid acidity. There’s a delicacy to this wine. Subtle green hints and also a bit of passionfruit prettiness. 87/100
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Chardonnay 2018 Nagano, Japan
A pure unoaked style (actually, it’s barrel fermented in old oak) with nice crisp fruit and a good acid line. Shows some grapefruit alongside lemon and green apple. Has nice precision and a slight salinity on the palate. 88/100
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Chardonnay Kakizawa 2017 Nagano, Japan
A new vineyard at 820 metres, planted in 2011. This is taut and nicely compact with appealing lemon and pineapple fruit, as well as a touch of cedar and some wood spice. There’s good acidity here, and the oak will integrate given time. 89/100
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Syrah 2016 Nagano, Japan
Pergola grown. Vivid, peppery and lively with supple red and black cherry fruit. Midweight and expressive with good acidity and a delightful peppery edge to the supple berry and cherry fruit, and hints of clove and spice. A juicy cool-climate style. Midweight and very drinkable. 90/100
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Syrah 2018 (cask sample)
Fresh, supple, light and peppery with nice sweet cherry and plum fruit with a touch of raspberry fruit. Light, peppery and delicious with a fine spicy undercurrent to the palate, showing good purity and real elegance. Such a lovely wine. 92/100
Initially when they planted the Kakizawa vineyard they were worried it might be too cold for vinifera, but it hasn’t proved to be the case.
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Merlot Kakizawa 2016 Nagano, Japan
Bright and fresh, but also with some savoury, gravelly depth. This is tightwound and restrained, with black cherry and blackberry fruit matched by firm structure and tarry, gravelly, savoury notes. Very stylish and a little backward, this could evolve nicely. Midweight and structural, but also showing nice mature fruit. 92/100
Hayashi Winery Estate Goichi Merlot Kakizawa 2013 Nagano, Japan
The first vintage of this wine. This is appealing, juicy and berryish with fresh black cherry and plum fruit, with good acidity adding a zesty citrus edge, as well as some notes of tar and gravel. Very appealing, with nice brightness. 90/100
Hayashi Winery Kikyougahara Merlot 2018 (barrel sample)
There’s a slight chocolate and coffee woody edge to the fruit, but also stylish, concentrated blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, offering some richness and a smooth mid-palate, together with a grippy, gravelly edge. Very stylish, and the oak should integrate in time. 92/100
Hayashi Winery Kikyougahara Merlot 2016 Nagano, Japan
Fresh and supple with sweet cherry and blackcurrant fruit with some green hints and good structure. Nice brightness and harmony to this wine, which has a brisk, slightly edgy finish showing off high acidity and grippy tannins. 91/100
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