Overall review: Yamabe Winery is a winery located on a small hill in Matsumoto City, Nagano. It is around 12 minutes away from Matsumoto Station by taxi, but if weather permits and your body conditions allow, would strongly recommend to visit the winery by bicycle. Matsumoto is a city that promotes riding bicycles for environmental reasons, thus many of the accommodations in the city (including the hotel we stayed at) provide free bicycle rental service. By bicycle, it was a 25 minute trip to the winery. Note the last part was slightly tiring giving it was an uphill to the winery, but on the way back, it was an incredibly pleasant and rewarding 15 minute 'cruise' downhill to the station. Along the way you will pass by beautiful parks and local neighborhoods, you will really get a sense of what it's like to be living in Matsumoto. Note at the bottom of the article, we rated the wine tasting experience to be on the lower end of the scale, but that is partially due to the current covid pandemic situation that led to Yamabe Winery temporarily suspending their usual wine tasting at the shop. Under normal circumstances, apparently you can do tasting on all of their wines for free at the wine shop, whereas now you can only drink at the restaurant by the glass (90ml). Only non vintages are readily-available for tasting, while for vintage wines, you will have to enquire to check if they are available for tasting.
This is the overall look of the winery, nothing too fancy, but with a strong local vibe. You can also see the very traditional Japanese Koinobori (carp streamers), which are windsocks that are flown as a custom to celebrate the growth of children.
To the right, there is a 'farmer's garden', where local farmers come to sell their freshest vegetables to the community. Again, Yamabe Winery doesn't feel like your typical winery, it is more local, more down to earth.
Entrance to the wine shop.
Inside the wine shop, you will find a wide range of wines from Yamabe Winery.
Similar to many other wineries in Nagano, you will find most of the varieties to be either European or American. This is different from wineries in Yamanashi where the Japanese native varietals like Koshu or Muscat Bailey A are the most dominant.
Yamabe Winery is most known for American varietals.
Looking at their top sellers, Niagara and Concord are their most popular wines.
You will also find on the wall the specific bottles that have won awards at wine competitions.
Including the latest winners from competitions from this year.
Here's a shot of the wine barrels from inside the shop.
Due to the current pandemic, Yamabe Winery has suspended their free tasting at the wine shop, instead only offers tasting by the glass at their restaurant.
So after checking out the shop, we went ahead to their restaurant for wine tasting. Given Yamabe Winery is on a hill, you have a nice view of the Matsumoto city.
The first wine I tried was their non-vintage Pinot Noir, 600 yen / glass ($ USD USD), unfortunately it was quite disappointing. Color of the wine was close to a pale garnet, wine was light bodied, with flavors of red berries.
Their American varietals were decent however, we tried a sweet non-vintage Delaware and also their highest rated 2019 Niagara.
Overall it was a good visit to the winery. Like mentioned earlier, would strongly suggest to visit by bicycle so you can couple your winery visit with a tour of the local Matsumoto neighborhood.